Jerrika, Wallflower

Dark as Night

I’m as much of a western European mutt as one could possibly be, but the features which have manifested most prominently in my appearance seem to be Norwegian and Italian–I’m tall, super sturdy, and have barely olive skin and generally dark hair.

In most ways, this works for me; you can always tell I have eyebrows and my eyelashes are relatively excellent, if I may say so myself.

#nomakeup #nofilter

However, I occasionally envy my fairer female friends and family with their freakish ~*~blonde leg hair~*~. Apparently my cousin hasn’t shaved in over a year and you can’t even tell unless you’re really looking for it. Conversely, I was referred to as the “Pokey Monster” in my eighth grade gym class because I usually showered at night and always had stubble by the next morning. The one morning I did shower and shave in the morning so I could proudly show off my legs sans hair, I managed to miss an entire stripe of it up my leg. The Pokey Monster moniker remained.

I was ten the first time I shaved my legs: I made the cheerleading squad, so I was thoughtfully granted the privilege of smooth legs for the uniform. I don’t remember if I was particularly worked up about shaving my legs before that–I’m inclined to think not, since I was a child, and hardly wore anything that showed my legs because I’ve always been edgy and different and that had manifested itself the prior school year by me proudly wearing nothing shorter than capris, except a skort ONCE–but I do remember being a little surprised that I suddenly had this new opportunity to alter my appearance.

I remained edgy, cool, and married to jeans for most of the next eleven years. I’d shave once or twice a week, but it was because hairy lady legs were gross and I like how smooth legs feel, not because anyone was likely to see them. When I was 21 I finally learned to appreciate tights, and thus an Era of Skirts began that didn’t really impact my shaving schedule, but did allow for me to explore alternative silhouettes without fighting the Pokey Monster. This era overlapped with a semester abroad when I lived with four other girls, one of whom commented casually that she hadn’t shaved in weeks. She frequently wore tights, and evoked my curiosity. I experimented with not shaving my underarms for a month “to see what color it actually was (dark as night),” but got bored with it and returned to my regular shaving schedule.

Unbeknownst to me, this brief introduction to my adult body’s natural hair growth was apparently enough to foster what became a desperate interest in what my “real” legs look like, which brings us to now. I decided to make the opportunity to ignore my razor, and haven’t shaved my legs since Halloween.

How Things have Changed
Oh, how things have changed, Jem

When you grow your leg hair out for the first time in over a decade, you notice a few things:

  • As radical as your personal growth project might seem to you, no one will actually be very impressed.
    The truth is that people see legs exactly as hairy as mine all the time–they’re just on dudes, and dude legs don’t look particularly different from lady legs. The shock factor for which I vaguely hoped has not materialized when I’ve revealed my shins to anyone. The closest has been my mom occasionally saying they look like a “rain forest” in what I think is a confused attempt at support influenced by benign disgust.
  • The hair doesn’t grow in the same way on your calf, which might puzzle and distress you.
    It looks like I’ve been shaving just my calves every couple of weeks, and I have not. I’ve discussed this phenomenon with a few of my guy friends, who, thankfully, confirmed that this is normal. One of those friends told me his brother was also unaware of this for years, and accused my friend of shaving his calves in his sleep as a prank once he finally noticed that they are markedly barer than the rest of his legs. That story especially made me feel better.
  • There is a world of sensations about which you didn’t know before.
    Most notably, I can feel the air moving through the hair on my exposed legs when I walk. This is easily my favorite part of having fuzzy legs. It makes me feel like a woodland creature who can detect things about their environment through their fur, even though the only thing I actually detect about my environment this way is that I am using my legs to move through it.Other sensations include the foreign surrealness of seeing hairs plastered down on my legs in the shower, and the inescapable pain of hairs getting caught in the fabric of literally anything I put over them–blankets, pants,anything.
  • You will not always have a clear idea of what “success” looks like here.
    Some people in my life can go for longer than I have without shaving and will still have dainty, smooth-looking legs while mine, after mere months, rival the hair density of men I know.As someone who often wants to be perceptibly feminine, this feels like a monumental failure: in my natural state, I am significantly manlier than some women and men from the perspective that more body hair = more masculine. As someone who also often measures their self-worth by whether or not they can keep up with or beat the boys, this feels like I am winning hard: in my natural state, I look like I won’t wilt in difficult external conditions, and like I could possibly wield a heavy weapon or maybe be a miner.These are obviously highly subjective and opposite standards of judgement that exacerbate conflict with my self-image, so I try to convince myself that my true goals for all of this are the comparatively more solid accomplishments of “self-awareness” and “acceptance.”

I can’t say I like my legs better this way. I honestly do prefer how they look hairless on me. The hair-getting-caught-in-everything thing is incredibly annoying, especially when trying to sleep. I’m also not comfortable showing them bare because I’m not necessarily trying to make a public statement with this and it still is weird here to see girls with such hairy legs, so my clothing options are frequently more inconvenient than they would be otherwise.

That being the case, I’ve wrestled with whether or not I should include a picture of my unshaven legs with this post. For all my gained self-awareness and acceptance, I’ve only shown them to a select few because I’m self-conscious about the fluff, and this is the internet. A part of me feels like going to the trouble of growing the hair and writing this just to not take the full hit to my pride is a little cowardly and anticlimactic, but I think I’m going to keep the visuals of this exploit to myself for now. I’m sorry if I got your hopes up. For a similar viewing experience, I encourage you to go look at a dude’s legs.

I haven’t decided when I’ll end this hair-removal hiatus, because, despite not preferring it, I appreciate many things about my legs au naturel. Obviously, I get to take shorter showers and save money on shaving products. There is something amusingly soothing in “petting” myself, and it’s an easy way for me to experiment with my appearance and explore different beauty standards without drawing much unwanted attention to myself. I feel more connected to my furrier forebears, with a superficial sense of satisfaction in my “bravery” to acknowledge this inherited reality of a genetically powerful Mediterranean ancestor.

Perhaps my favorite thing about all of this, though, is that it has helped me get over some of my judgements against body hair on women. I can (sort of) see hairy legs on women as genuinely cute and girly when I couldn’t before. If someone wants hairy legs then I’m excited for them to do it, and I’m glad I gave that alternative a chance for myself.

I know anyone likely to look at this is someone with whom I’ve maybe already talked about all this, but if you have any thoughts you’d like to add, I’d love to read them in the comments 🙂 Thanks for reading.