Two months ago, I decided to stop shaving all my body hair, to put down the razor and go au naturelle. My armpits have been left to their own devices, as have my legs, pubes, and eyebrows. So far, I have found it very liberating.
To explain how I reached this decision, it seems prudent to go right back to the beginning of my hair-removal career. I was 11 years old when the first wispy hairs began to curl from the nooks of my pre-pubescent armpits. No sooner had they tentatively sprouted than I was eager to obliterate them. I pleaded with my mother to let me use her Veet. I was so desperate to rid myself of something I thought had no rightful place upon my body, failing to see it as a perfectly natural phenomenon.
All I could think about was avoiding the impending embarrassment – boys and girls would all change for PE together in the classroom. Seeing me on the verge of tears, my mother agreed (despite her concerns that I was far too young) and the hair was promptly eradicated.
My pubic hair was to escape unscathed for a few more years. At 16, preparing myself for intimacy with my first boyfriend, I remember gazing down at my hitherto untouched curls of pubic hair whilst thinking of the images of sexualised women I had encountered.
Invariably, they were hairless ‘down there’. With this in mind, I reached for the razor and shaved the whole lot off. When it was done I marvelled at the smoothness, feeling quite proud of myself, despite the 10 minutes I then had to spend extracting the hairs lodged in the metal bit over the plughole. After that inaugural sexual encounter, the boyfriend mentioned that he would’ve been disgusted by the presence of pubic hair.
There was nothing more off-putting, apparently, than a “hairy minge”. My naive 16 year old self sighed with relief; thank god I had taken the initiative and met his expectations! This boy claimed that, “Hairy vaginas look…angry.” I think, in his mind, a hairy vagina stood for an angry, hairy, raging feminist. At the time I mutely nodded, still pleased with myself. The smug glow was not to last.
The following day, I had a long-haul flight to New York. I woke up itching not with excitement, but with an urgent burning sensation around my pubic area. Puzzled, I pulled off my underwear and discovered to my dismay that the previous day’s smoothness had been replaced by dozens of angry red bumps, the skin red and inflamed. I looked diseased. I slathered on Sudocreme, and prepared for a singularly uncomfortable eight hour flight.
I wish I could say that this put me off shaving for good; but alas my urge to satisfy my boyfriend’s expectations outweighed the discomfort. It was only relatively recently that I decided to give up shaving my body altogether. It’s expensive, painful and pointless.Whilst I understand that this does not apply to everyone, for me it is an arbitrary societal expectation. The person I’m with now doesn’t care either way. But what’s really important is that it is my choice whether I shave or not.