For me personally, I have always been a shaved legs kind of girl. I like feeling how smooth my skin can be. I have dark body hair which grows into stubble very quickly. I would have to shave my legs at least every other day in order to always look smooth. Which, to put it mildly, is a huge pain. I suppose I could try waxing but ouch. But whatever I choose to do with the hair on my legs, any hair on my body for that matter, is my business. Mine. Not my (non-existent) significant other, not my family, not my friends, and certainly not some faceless guy on the internet who may read this someday. If you want to shave off every follicle of hair on your body, be my guest. If you want to let it grow, be my guest. But never, EVER, try to tell someone else what to do with their body.
With that in mind, I got into a disagreement with my dad a couple of weeks ago. He was telling me about a friend of his who didn’t shave her legs. He did not like this. I looked down at my own legs, which I hadn’t shaved in about a week. He hadn’t seemed to notice this. When I asked why it mattered, he said it was unprofessional and just wasn’t right. I asked if that meant he should shave his own leg hair.
“No, of course not. It’s different.”
“How is it different? You’re both humans, you both grow leg hair.”
“Well, Dad, she’s obviously not trying to attract you.”
He changed tactics.
“It’s just unhygienic.”
What? How is hair that grows from a woman’s legs less hygienic than that which grows from a man’s legs? I’m pretty sure I shower more than he does, wouldn’t that make his leg hair less hygienic than mine? So, spurred on by this, I made a decision. I would stop shaving my legs. For how long? I wasn’t sure. Maybe until he said something about it. Maybe never (probably not never.) Maybe after I accomplished something. I wasn’t sure, but I knew I was going to do it.
It’s been about 3 weeks since I last shaved my legs and nothing earth-shattering has happened. My friends high-fived me when I told them about it. My mom laughed and told me to do whatever I wanted. (She happens to be someone who has always been blessed with very little body hair.) But I haven’t gotten an unsolicited comments about it and I haven’t gotten any comments about it from my dad.
I’m not going to lie and say that I’m a newly liberated person. Don’t get me wrong, it was an incredibly freeing feeling when I first decided to do this. And I must say, the itchiness I expected has yet to come. If I don’t look down at my legs, I don’t think about it. But it hasn’t been perfect. There have been days where I opted to wear jeans when I may not have, were my legs smooth. And right now as I type this, I am lying in bed, looking at my legs and wondering if I can go through with wearing shorts today. I’m going to a public place today that will have lots of people I don’t know. As much as I don’t care and don’t want to care what random people have to say about me, society has made sure that there’s always a part of me that does. And I hate that.
I hate that society has programmed people to think that women’s bodies must look a certain way. That they must be groomed, primped and polished until they glow with pride. I hate that women are led to believe that there is a standard they must meet or else they’re worthless, despite all of their other wonderful qualities. I also hate the fact that I’ve been given a reason to talk this much about the hair that grows on my legs.
But you know what? It’s also a relief to not worry about wasting money buying new razors and shaving cream. It’s a relief to not feel like I’m doing something just because I’m “supposed to.” It’s a relief not caring (usually) what I wear on my legs. And every time I look down, I’m reminded that I am finally doing something for myself.
I ended up wearing shorts today. I’m going to stick this out. I’m still not sure when I’m going to shave—maybe next week or next month. It doesn’t actually matter, because whenever I do, that’s my choice and no one else’s.
Wendy Kalver is a recent college grad from the little state of Rhode Island who’s about to move to the big state of California. Wendy spends most of her time taking pictures of her dog, fangirling on her Tumblr, and writing. You can find her on Tumblr @vvendybird where she first published a version of this essay or on Twitter @VVendah.