Writing by Zadie McCracken // Illustration by Freya Bennett
I was walking down a lane near my house one night, when I received an unexpected call from a prospective girlfriend.
“Hey!” I said. “What’s up?”
“Do you shave?” she asked immediately.
“Do I shave?” I repeated, perplexed. I was fifteen years old, and had not encountered a question of this sort before.
“Yeah, like, do you shave… down there?”
“Oh,” I said, already embarrassed. “Um, no”.
“Okay,” she said, her voice light, unsure.
“Why?” I asked. “I mean, should I? Do you want me to shave?”
Memories of waxing my tiny moustache for the first time at age twelve swarmed through my head. Cutting my legs in the bathtub, comparing stomach hair to my male friends’ only to have one of them say, “Oh my god, you’re hairier than me”. The stubble over my lip and the embarrassment of throwing my arms into the air when I hadn’t shaved in a week.
For most of my life I’ve struggled with being ‘the hairy girl’. Later, when I came out, I became ‘the hairy feminist lesbian’, a stereotype I couldn’t bear, couldn’t hold, and couldn’t reclaim. In our golden age of body positivity, I’ve always felt generally confident about my body and appearance– but being hairy is one insecurity I’ve never gotten over. I remember being so torn up by the fact that none of the other girls in my year had hair above their lips, or under their arms, or on their toes. I remember the way some of my friends have teased; blondes who show their legs off in summer—with their fine, barely-there hair, the kind I’ve longed for ever since I turned ten. I remember my mother pressing giant, pink wax strips to her legs, ankle to thigh, the wince of her face from the pain, and her saying it was “just the fashion”. I remember visiting a friend’s house and getting a ‘makeover’: in which my eyebrows were waxed and hair removal cream was applied to my legs. I remember people complimenting my thick eyebrows, and thinking “You wouldn’t want these if you knew what else I have to put up with”.
Years of insecurity about my hair have left me exhausted. Earlier this year I decided to experiment: no shaving or waxing for two months. As I near the end of that duration, with all my hair grown out and free, I find myself unafraid and unapologetic of how my body looks when I haven’t done anything to it. I’ve learned to embrace my hairy legs, my underarms, even the moustache that left me so distraught for so long. I’ve discovered that I can live without waxing or shaving, that I can exist with all my hair intact, all my fluffiness, my snail trail and slight monobrow.
There are still days I wake up and feel so bad I want to rip out every hair on my body from its follicle. But that’s okay, because most of the time I feel just fine—and so, thankfully, does my hair.[share]