"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Monday, June 04, 2012

the lies we tell little girls.

Now Playing: I Look To You by Miami Horror ft. Kimbra (see her world lit so bright, see her bird take flight, see her face wild and charged, see her quickened heart...)

I was all of eleven when I first started shaving my legs. For the other girls I grew up with, hair removal was a weird coming of age ritual - your mother would, at some point, buy you a razor or some wax strips, and it would be some kind of feminine bonding time.

Not for me.

I learned the mechanics of it at school, as you do. I remember sitting with a long line of girls in PE and realizing I was one of the very few girls who didn't shave their legs. Before then it never occurred to me that people had hair on their legs, much less people who actively got rid of it. This was just after I had chicken pox, too, and so I started having scars on my legs (which I still have, hence my penchant for tights and leggings), and unlike most of the white girls I grew up with, I have black hair. I'd never felt less attractive in my entire life, and I've been in a hospital bed covered in blood with cracked, white lips and purple shadows under my eyes.

One of my teachers, a very sophisticated lady who always dressed nicely and wore Chanel No.5, talked to the other girls about shaving, and I nodded as if I knew what they were talking about. I learned a lot that day; never dry shave (I did that once...ouch...), hair conditioner is obviously the best shaving cream and, my teacher gleefully said, when we were married we could steal our husband's shaving gel, which apparently feels wonderful.

That night, I put a razor to my legs, and I've been doing it ever since.

My mother didn't approve; she still doesn't approve, probably, but one of the beautiful things about my mother is that she accepts that now I'm all grown up and I have full responsibility over my body. I always laugh that a sign of my fundamental laziness is that now I buy razors with shaving cream built into them, because it's quicker and easier; and now I'm a dirty hippy who doesn't use hair conditioner anymore. Another sign of my incredible laziness/phobia of pain is that I don't actually have the courage to pluck my eyebrows; now I genuinely don't give a shit, because the only people who actually get close enough to me to see my eyebrows would have to be pretty...close...but back when it did bother me I had a little eyebrow trimmer, powered by a few tiny AAA batteries. The stupid thing died, and I don't understand where the hell the batteries must have gone in, so the eyebrows are probably going to stay fuzzy for now. 

I started shaving my legs for other people. I wanted to fit in, I wanted to be pretty. To be honest, it didn't really work, not back then. Now? In summer I can go days without shaving. Last year I went an entire winter without doing anything to my legs at all. It's just something I do when I feel like, to make myself feel good. I like the look of shaved legs just like I like the look of red Converses or distressed jeans or 50s retro pinup dresses. Shaved legs feel kind of amazing; kind of numb but really ticklish at the same time; sometimes I just do it for that. I know it's not exactly true when women say they do these things 'for themselves', but for me, for the most part, it's true.

Why do we teach little girls to obsess so much about physical appearance? Why are boys seemingly immune to that? I mean, I'm not the most petty or pedantic person in the world, but I know for a fact that boys get teased for being hairy just as much as girls do, and yet it's the girls who have to buckle to social pressure. I couldn't even get my date to shave his *face* for the ball!

 I was eleven. It's only now, now at sixteen, that I realize just how little I was - I was a child! Just a child! I'm sure in my twenties I'll bash my head against a wall, questioning why I was so stupid and naive at sixteen.

If there wasn't the social pressure, would I have shaved my legs? Probably not. If I were older than eleven, would I have had the strength to never shave my legs? Probably not. Am I going to stop shaving my legs? Probably not. But at least now, I have the strength to hold my head high. Everyone is beautiful in their own way. Including me.

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