Dr. Shaveless or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Legs
It was ninth grade and I couldn’t wait to be a woman. My best friend Laura Simaitis was big and strong, loud and wonderful, and she had curves. I was small and gangly and so uncomfortable in my own body. I wanted to take bold steps like Laura did, swaying with the movement of her hips. But I was all knees and ankles, like a newborn colt. My legs sprouted long blonde hairs, difficult to spot while shaving. I really wasn’t into the ritual of shaving, but still I shaved — because that’s what women did on the other side of juvenile purgatory. And I wanted to become a woman. I wanted to pass this stage of my life. Anyway, I would have been mortified if I was caught with hairy legs.
Ten years later, my body was less important to me than my demeanor. I was sort of a woman, but I wasn’t good at it. I wasn’t demure, or alluring or elusive. My first role model of a strong woman, Laura, had died in a car crash at 23, her true womanhood deferred to the next life. Like her, I was brash, but that wasn’t ladylike. And a lady was a true woman, right? I was starting to get the notion that there were more important things about womanhood than prescribed femininity. But still I shaved, when I remembered. I’d be more responsible with it when I was seeing someone, but when I was on my own I’d go a week without. As long as I covered my legs up with pants or a long skirt, nobody knew about my failed femininity. And when I got around to it, I shaved, and every nick was a reminder of my resentment.
Ten years later, it’s spring and I’m well into my thirties.
The first time me and my now-partner hit it, I tell him: “I have a confession to make. I didn’t shave my legs.”
His reply: “I have a confession, too. I didn’t shave mine either.”
So, partly due to this suddenly easy sexuality, I’m starting to get real loose about the perceived constraints of womanhood. My body is well past the scrawny stage and into more comfortable territory. In the wintertime, I stop shaving because it doesn’t make sense to remove a layer of insulation and then complain that I’m cold. But when spring comes, I’ve gotta become a lady again.
So it’s spring and I’m about to wear shorts for the first time, so I get out the razor and prep my ritual regression into ladyhood. And I can’t. Instead I get lost in the pattern of the hairs on my legs, lying flat in formation like the vanes of a feather. I can’t take that away.
So I put down the razor, pull on my shorts, and begin the boldest kind of leg loving I’ve ever tried: letting em grow and showing em off.
My first openly fuzzy days are around strangers, which is terrifying. I prep myself for some public outburst of disgust at my failure to simply be decent. From men, from women, from society. But nobody says a word. I do get a few long looks — mostly from women decades older than me, who probably shaved their entire adult lives. Maybe there’s something dangerous in the juxtaposition between my hairy legs and my new wardrobe: pretty sundresses, cutoff shorts. They’d expect such an unladylike omission of good grooming from a crust punk or a hippie, but not me. I agree with them — I wouldn’t expect such freedom coming from myself.
On the other hand, there’s this completely unexpected by-product of hairy legs: acts of street harassment against me go way down in number and in severity. I’ve lived in New York City for eight years and I have spent seven and a half of them suffering kissy noises, catcalls and comments on my body, being followed at night, being stared at by a man jacking off on the train, being groped in crowds by hands that disappear. I can’t explain why, but with DGAF legs, I am suddenly a difficult target. I watch as men size me up and dismiss me. Maybe by failing the code of being attractive to men, I succeed in breaking the cycle.
In the meantime, these legs feel fucking great. I’m walking down the street and I can feel even the faintest breeze. I strut, letting my hips swing loose. The terror of being my natural self in public slowly mellows into a simple pride of inhabiting this body.
I throw away my razor. No guarantee of how long it’ll last, but I’m enjoying the early fall breeze. I’ve lost a lot of resentment and found a lot of self-love. I feel less like a lady and more like a woman.