This feat took quite a bit of cognitive therapy skillage to accomplish, as in, "psychologist, heal thyself" of fear of social disapproval.
I am proud to be a feminist. To believe that gender should not determine opportunity, access, pay level, intelligence, nurturing ability, or who controls the TV remote.
I wish I put my money where my leg hair grows. You know, where I believe gender also need not determine one's routine razor blade habits.
I see women with long, dark,
cactus beast ape hairy legs and I gasp. Silently. I try not to stare. I admire their bravery while wondering if they have any idea the impact their hairy legs have on members of the opposite sex. On members of the same sex. On tried and true feminists, for goddess sake. I hate myself for my hypocrisy.
I married a man who thinks women with hairy legs, hairy armpits, and hairy snatches are sexy. Aren't I the lucky one? I feel that much more confident baring all to him during the turtleneck and jeans season. I even manage to feel sexy. With my armpit hair. Underarm hair can feel daring and renegade. Not so leg hair. Nuh-uh. I feel no kind of confidence baring the snarly leg growth to him. Less so to strangers in public.
While researching my thesis in graduate school, I read Femininity, by Susan Brownmiller. It was an amazing read. One of those books that I have thought about thousands of times as I engaged in traditional feminine rituals of self care that go contrary to my feminist ideals. I talked about one of those times, here.
As I changed out of my workout clothes and into my bathing suit, as I strode in front of the hawty hawt hawt lifeguard with the long surfer boy haircut (half my age and then some, dammit) (half my body weight too, now that I think about it. Shit! Why did he have to be on duty this day?!) I thought about Brownmiller. I took comfort in her admission that despite being the author of several feminist tomes, she had a few stereotypical feminine trappings she could not give up. Wearing lipstick, no matter where she went, was one.
So, I remind myself, I'm in good company. I'm not the only fraud on the planet.
Years ago, while driving to work, I listened to several local morning radio jocks talk about a certain formerly Catholic schoolgirl, turned material girl, turned star of her own sex book, turned Kabbalah, turned twice-divorcee. There was a brief mention of material girl's infamous nude photo with hairy armpits and how "gross" and "nasty" and "dirty" they found it when women didn't shave their underarms.
So it occurred to me. My avoidance of showing unshaved leg hair had to do with a hygiene issue: my fear that others would assume I was not clean. That I didn't bathe regularly. And I really really don't want people to think I'm dirty. Dirty mind? Doesn't bother me. Dirty body? Very much.
That insight and a cup of shaving cream will get some of us nowhere, for about 15 years.
So on this day, I pulled out my cognitive toolbelt instead of my electric shaver:
1. I cannot control what others think of me. Deep breath.
2. It is unimportant what others think of me. Full exhale. It is important that I please myself. And it would please me greatly to skip the leg shave.
3. It is likely people will be far enough away that they won't see the hair on my legs.
4. If they do get close enough, refer to #1 and #2.
5. I am 40-something years old, for crissakes. I am married. I am going for a swim, not to a Mrs. America pageant, and not to attract a young and dumb man who doesn't appreciate the hawtness of lush, untamed hair on a cellulite-ridden, matronly thigh.
6. I deserve the luxury of unshaved legs.
7. The kids are in the car and I will never hear the end of it if I keep them waiting long enough to destroy this rainforest.
Ok, so score one for self preservation and maternal appeasement.
But yeah. Score one for feminism, too.
Is there a traditionally feminine, or masculine, depending on your gender, habit you struggle to let go of?