I’ll never forget the pure joy of squeezing Skintimate shave gel into my palms for the very first time. As the pink goo morphed into a fluffy lather between my fingers, I was temporarily whisked away from the task at hand of being a preteen girl with newfound responsibilities. On top of making sure my pits had deodorant on them, my makeup was picture perfect, and my clothing mimicked all the styles that the cool kids were wearing, I also took it upon myself to learn how to remove all of the hair on my legs, underarms, and bikini area.
I didn’t exactly understand why I needed to shave. I just knew that I was supposed to. All the girls I hung out with did it. The commercials made it feel all my dreams would come true if I just bought a Gilette and went to town. So, as a royally insecure and nervous thirteen year old, I didn’t want to stray too far away from the herd.
I cringe when I think back to those horrifying days when I randomly forgot to shave my legs and the sheer embarrassment I’d feel walking into school with shorts on that exposed me in all my furry glory. Would anyone notice? Would I get made fun of for looking like a hairy ass little kid and not a mature young woman? It was tough to know how my peers would react, since my seventh grade besties and I were already toiling over group hair removal sessions during casual weekend sleepovers together. I legit feared the loss of friendships at this time, so anything that might compromise my place in the group felt like social treason I didn’t want to commit.
In addition to the religious amount of shaving I did as a teen, I also expertly hid an eating disorder from my BFFs, was an extreme perfectionist with a penchant for people-pleasing, obsessed over getting good grades, dressed in ways that felt inauthentic but acceptable, and kept my hair long enough to be considered feminine. Deep down, I was so fucking tired of conforming. But I wouldn’t actually set myself free until I entered motherhood.
As it happens with all of us, becoming a mom tore down a shit ton of my walls. The suckerpunch that was sleepless nights, nursing round the clock, and struggling to embrace a starkly new normal left me feeling broken down and bottomed out. There was no room left inside of me to care about minor things like the peach fuzz on my legs or whether I had makeup on when I left my house. I was in survival mode, and basic hygiene had become my beauty routine.
I also gained a bunch of weight with my two pregnancies and unexpectedly fell in love with my larger figure. After years of fearing fat and keeping myself skinny at any cost, I became what I had previously been so damn afraid of. And it surprisingly didn’t scare me at all. I saw what my body went through to create and birth my kids, and the remnants of that left externally on me felt like beautiful battle scars I had rightfully earned. Not to mention, it led to a complete mental overhaul as I uncovered the deeply entrenched fatphobia I’d had towards other human beings in bodies that now looked like mine.
After coming to terms with the physical changes I experienced in motherhood, I wondered to myself: What else was I capable of letting go of?
Last year, I crossed off another bucket list item and finally came out as queer and bisexual. As a thirty-six year old mom, this felt like one hell of a radical act. I’ve also spent the past two years neck-deep in trauma recovery therapy after a complex PTSD diagnosis shook my foundation. As the walls continue to come tumbling down, I’ve done shit like cut my hair super short, gone daily without the makeup I used to wear like armor, and I also completely stopped shaving. The day I chose to let my body hair start flying free was a quiet moment of reckoning. I had run out of razors one day and just decided not to buy a new one. I remember laughing with my husband as I told him about my choice. He just smiled, shrugged, and said it was my body and my decision to make. It’s not lost on me that I married a good one.
These days, my body is fat and hairy as fuck. And I’ve never felt so totally okay with myself in my entire life. I certainly don’t miss the countless showers spent kneeling over each leg, worried that I’d miss a spot and wincing as blood trickles down my ankle from shaving too hard. I like knowing I can save money and unnecessary plastic by opting out of the hair removal game. It’s also so fucking empowering to live on my own terms, really stand by my individual choices, and put my own stamp of approval first on something like this.
I’ve got to be honest here — the amount of pressure women face to hit the mark on aesthetic beauty ideals really makes me want to barf. I didn’t realize how much of a cog I was in the societal machine until I totally stepped out of it. It’s so fucking awesome to finally take care of myself in ways that feel good, and letting my body hair do its thing is a huge part of that.
In case you may be wondering if I’m trying to rope you into tossing out your razors, I want you to know that I’m not secretly hoping you’ll join my unofficial no-shaving club. Far from it. As women, I think the best thing we can offer one another is a collective judgment-free zone for us each to take up space as we see fit. I didn’t expect to find this much freedom in throwing my last razor away and never looking back, but I did. If there’s a little part of you that wonders how you’d fair with all of your hair, I give you permission to be your fucking badass self and find that shit out. And if you’re totally comfy keeping those Gilettes, you do you boo.
As for whether I’ve stopped shaving because I’m a full-blown feminist now, I have no fucking clue. I definitely think that choosing for myself how much or little hair I want on my body is a powerful thing. Since we live in a culture that still doesn’t champion the complete body autonomy of women, I think it’s so damn important to recognize the moments when we can take our power back. And sometimes, it starts with something as simple as choosing not to partake in something just because others may be uncomfortable around us if we don’t.
It should also be noted that I feel so damn sexy with my hairy body at the moment. I think a part of it stems from the authenticity I’m leaning into every time I ask myself what I actually want and need and kicking the “shoulds” out the door. I may currently possess — or lack — physical qualities today that make me appear traditionally less feminine according to society, but I’ve honestly never felt more like a woman than I do right now.
I don’t know if I’ll ever shave again, and I don’t really care to worry about it too much. I’m happy right here with my furry ass legs, thank you very much.