When I was 11 or so, my older sister’s irritating best friend, Rachel, gave me a new nickname: “The Fuzz.” She called me this because she said I had “crazy hairy” legs (please note: 11 years old, blonde leg hair), and told me that boys “didn’t like” body hair on girls, so I’d better shave it.
I had never really paid attention to my leg hair before, seeing as I was 11, but that nickname was enough to send me into 1.5 decades of obsessively shaving off every stray hair on my body—leg, arm, armpit, and pubic—with a pink plastic razor and giant frothy handfuls of shaving cream that smelled like chemical fruit. I may have been young, but I understood that it was ”important” to get boys to like you. And it was clearly obvious to everyone that I was a hairy, gross beast. All through my teens and into my twenties, I shaved every day. It was a losing battle, however. My legs were inevitably stubbly by 3 p.m. every day, and my underarm skin was always getting red, bumpy, and super irritated.
And then one day in my early twenties, I saw something that changed everything: a girl on the bus, on the way home from work one summer evening, wearing shorts. And she had leg hair. Full-on leg hair, the kind so fully grown-out that it looks like it’s never been shaved. And I was shocked. Shocked! I couldn’t stop looking at her legs. She was so casually in public with unbelievably hairy legs...and she looked great. Really natural, really normal. Then I started thinking about how weird it was that full leg hair on a woman was shocking to me. I started getting pissed about it, and then I made a decision: I was going to see what it was like to stop shaving.
So I stopped. I stopped shaving everything. I grew out my leg hair, my armpit hair, my pubes. Besides saving untold amounts of time in the shower, I also discovered something important: no one cared. NOBODY cared about what I chose to do with my body hair. This totally normal thing that I’d been subtly ashamed about (OMG I’m human and grow body hair! The horror!) was something that no one else cared about at all, and if they did care, they didn’t say anything about it—unless it was to compliment it. My boyfriends admitted they didn’t mind the leg hair and they loved the armpit/pubic hair. My girlfriends liked it all. Some of my friends would shyly pull me aside and tell me they liked the armpit hair. “THE FUZZ” FOUND ACCEPTANCE AT LAST!
In the end, this is the routine I’ve settled on, based on my own preferences: I shave my legs when I feel like it, and neaten everything else up as needed. And I’ve been happy ever since.
It’s been eight or so years since I made the leap, and now I’ve been noticing a lot more people doing the same thing! Where I used to be the only girl in a tank top on the train with armpit hair, I’m noticing more and more unshaven women, more women with natural leg hair, and more young women in the gym locker room with big ol’ bushes. All of a sudden it seems like body hair’s getting...trendy?
It’s certainly in the news a lot lately—some of it showing that the same old attitudes and stereotypes persist. Did y’all hear about Petra Collins, the professional photographer who, in 2013, got her Instagram account suspended when she posted a picture of her (fully covered) bikini bottoms that had visible pubic hair poking out? In an essay published on Oyster magazine, Collins wrote, “What I did have was an image of MY body that didn’t meet society’s standard of ‘femininity.’ The image I posted was from the waist down wearing a bathing suit bottom in front of a sparkly backdrop. Unlike the 5,883,628 (this is how many images are tagged #bikini) bathing suit images on Instagram, mine depicted my own unaltered state—an unshaven bikini line.”
But there’s body-hair-positive news out there, too. American Apparel recently got into the body-hair game, putting visible pubic hair on mannequins in a store window in New York City. Madonna posted a shot of her unshorn pit on Instagram, which at the time of this writing, has garnered more than 48K likes since it went up six days ago. I’m starting to wonder if all this is a natural backlash against the extreme grooming trend of the last few decades—you know, the $70 Brazilian waxes, laser-hair removal, the constant commercials for really expensive razors, all the sugaring and waxing boutiques that have popped up everywhere. Could it be that people are getting tired of shelling out tons of money for silky-smooth legs and pits and pelvic regions that itch to high hell when they start growing back? Is body hair acceptance a growing trend in the mainstream? Or is it still a lonely idea, adhered to by only a few? Time will tell, but we say: do what you want with your body hair. Your grooming habits should fit your lifestyle and your own aesthetic preferences. Obviously.