My body sprouted fur before anyone else's in my fourth grade class. When I unwillingly shared this information with close friends, their faces were full of horror.
Up until this point, I had very little exposure to the culture of shaving. However, I quickly learned that shaving was one of the most important rules to follow as a young woman. I remember when another girl's body began growing body hair, her mother would not let her shave until she reached the next grade level. My heart ached for her when I heard both boys and girls whispering and giggling about her dark brown leg hair in science class.
While I never experienced direct bullying for my body hair, I was subject to a lot of peer pressure, and felt extremely self-conscious about it until my sophomore year of college. The hair growing from my scalp is "dirty blonde," but both my armpit and pubic hair is thick, curly and dark brown. I did not wear sleeveless tops often because of my embarrassment of the inevitable shadows in my armpits. I was mortified in bathing suits, not because of my body shape or size, but because of the rash and dry skin visible at my bikini line as a result of shaving.
For over twenty years I believed my body hair was an abnormal affliction that made me unsightly. I truly believed myself to be unfeminine for not being able to shave correctly.
It wasn't until my twenty-first summer... I completely shaved my pubic area the evening before going on a backpacking trip in extremely hot and humid weather. Just a few hours into the woods, I discovered that I had both yeast and urinary tract infections! IT WAS TERRIBLE! I was miles from the trailhead and nowhere near a doctor who accepted my insurance. I had to endure a long drive and plane ride back to my home state where a doctor finally wrote the proper prescriptions.
I had dealt with these infections before, but never thought they could be related to shaving. While I occasionally trim my pubic area, never again have I shaved, and I have yet to deal with yeast or urinary tract infections since then. I now understand that the pubic hair I cursed for so long is there to protect my genitalia from bacteria and provide the proper airflow to prevent imbalances.
Another huge insecurity I dealt with as a young woman was sweaty armpits. I remember feeling so self-conscious about sweat stains in long-sleeved shirts, and wondering why my body was so stinky and gross.
Around the time I quit shaving my pubic hair, I decided to try letting my armpit hair max out. I was curious to see what kind of benefits this hair might have. Turns out, I sweat much less the fluffier my underarm fuzz became! As long as I cleaned it with a little vinegar or citrus juice, I had no B.O. It was WILD! For the first time in my adult life I allowed my body hair to perform the function it was developed for.
About a year had passed with my pubic and armpit hair before I decided to let my leg hair go. I honestly never experienced any real insecurity about shaving my legs, other than dry skin. I was pleasantly surprised when I became infatuated with my lustrous leg locks! In the summertime it sparkled in the sunshine and saved me from sunburn. I felt when nasty ticks crawled up my legs, and could flick them off before they bit in! In the wintertime it grew longer and became so soft, providing me with an extra layer against the elements! What a handy adaptation!
It has been over five years since I came to appreciate my body hair instead of resenting it. In the media, I see more and more women showing off their grown-out body hair in selfies. It would seem that the culture is beginning to let go of a century-old obsession with razors, creams, and waxes. (Yes! Women in the U.S. have only been shaving for 100 years!)
By and large the beauty industry is NOT invested in the wellbeing of humans, but rather in our continuing reliance on their products. Personally, dwelling on this makes me feel pretty wretched. Therefore, my hope is that women will neglect the razor as an exercise in self-love and acceptance rather than as a statement against the institution of shaving.
I say, "Stop shaving because you love your body and all it does for you!" Revel in your primeval fur!
Common Concerns About Not Shaving
My hair is too coarse and itchy to stop shaving.
Your hair will be prickly when you first let your hair grow out because of the sharp edge the razor made. It will soften with time and feel less coarse.
My body hair is ugly.
The uglier you believe your body hair to be, the more important it is for you to embrace it! Even if you do not plan on letting your body hair grow out forever, it is an exercise in unconditional self-love that will probably improve your body image. I am currently challenging myself to let my eyebrows take their natural shape. Remember this bit from The Princess Diaries? Ouch, grandma.
What will my friends, family, and partner think?
Whatever they have been taught. Accept this and move on. Maybe they will come around and maybe they won't. If you are fully embracing your body hair, some small part of them will recognize this, and while they may not admit it, their perspective has changed.
Isn't it unsanitary?
Just no. :)
About the Author
Brooke Sycamore lives in Paoli, Indiana, where she enjoys going on long walks with her dog Homer, and her cat Nadine. She and her partner Sam grow vegetables for market. Evenings and weekends, you'll find her practicing yoga and meditation outdoors, or else geeking out over '70s sci-fi.