Edit: I started shaving my legs again roughly 1 week after writing this post.
That’s right: I stopped shaving my legs. Go ahead, gasp at this unthinkable notion that is now my reality. It’s okay, I’m still a little surprised by it myself.
Have you ever thought about why you shave your legs? I never did, until a few weeks ago when it occurred to me that I had spent the last few months shaving only the bottom half of my shins because that’s what shows below my yoga crop pants. And I only shaved when I knew my legs were going to show. When I wasn’t in public with my gross hairy legs, I didn’t give a shit about hair being there.
That’s when it hit me: I’ve been shaving my legs all these years for other people. And not just for these other people, let me be clear, it was because of these other people. Because I didn’t want to be looked at weird or thought of differently. I didn’t want to be judged for showing the hair that naturally grows on my body. Somehow it never occurred to me how absolutely insane this is until a few weeks ago!
So I stopped shaving. The immediate sense of liberation I experienced is difficult to describe. I felt a freedom from arbitrary beauty standards in a way that giving up my daily make-up routine hadn’t even given me. Being bare-faced is one thing, but having hairy legs is considered disgusting by today’s standards. And I no longer cared. Freedom!
That is, until the hair got long enough to no longer be mistaken for a 3-day shadow. Once the dark, unruly hair got long enough to be seen, that feeling of freedom turned into anxiety. What would people think? What should my response be if someone dares to say something? What if I gross people out? I was regressing into the lifelong programming of the beauty industry, media, and Hollywood.
I came dangerously close to giving in and shaving my long leg hairs before a two day yoga intensive last weekend. Surely I would be caught, hairy-legged, and be embarrassed.
But I stood strong. I figured out that I was feeling embarrassed and scared to be seen with hairy legs because I’ve been told my entire life that women must shave their legs to be attractive. That we must shave in order to wear shorts or dresses. And like most women, I believed it, but why?
Why did women begin shaving their legs to begin with? We can trace it back a few thousand years, across several different cultures, to women using various methods to rid themselves of body hair. In the U.S., though, it wasn’t even a thing until the 1920’s or so. Before then, women were always covered from their necks to their ankles when in public. Women (and their husbands) didn’t care about the leg hair. It wasn’t until short skirts became fashionable and women’s bodies were to be beautified, looked at, and showed off in public, that leg shaving became standard. Ad campaigns assured women they must shave in order to wear the latest fashion and to be beautiful like the latest starlets.
As it turns out, I don’t care about the latest fashions anymore, I don’t hold myself to Hollywoods unrealistic standard of beauty either. So why am I still wasting my time, money, and energy doing a chore that doesn’t even matter to me?
And that’s it. I’m done shaving my legs. I love it. I love the way it feels to have one less thing to worry about. I kind of enjoy touching my legs too! They’re no longer in a state of perpetual prickliness, and it reminds me of touching my husbands hairy chest.
I’m still feeling embarrassed when I’m in public though, but dealing with it day by day. I’m proud of who I am and the decisions I make, but that doesn’t mean I’m not sensitive to the way I might be perceived.
Now if only I could let go of shaving my arm pits. That would be true liberation, but something tells me I’ll never get the nerve to do it!