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Mortified: Reflections on body hair

It is May. I am lounging by the pool in our apartment complex. Out in front of me, my long legs outstretch with a slight bend in my knee as I rest the third book in the series “A Court of Thorns and Roses” on my thighs. While lowering my gaze, I silently observe my neighboring pool goers.


There is music blaring in three of the four corners of the gated pool area: the bbq area positioned at my left side about 30 meters from the pool, which is currently inhabited by a group of plump men roasting an all American dinner; and the two corners of the pool each complete with dueling speakers offering an eclectic set of tunes handpicked by the groups competing for the "good" side of the pool. A musical stalemate.


Frank, my fiancé, jumps into the pool as if leaving the earth was his mission.


Twist and flip.


He emerges from the water shaking out his beautiful italian curls, looks and me and grins.


He returns to me a few seconds later and kneels on my chaise. His eyes first meet the inside of my legs, then wander up to my chest up and finish at my eyes.


As his hungry eyes glare into mine, he lets out a low groan as he whispers, “someone's letting it all hang out."


A crinkle forms in my eyebrows giving him a confused look. He responds with a smile as he nudges his chin towards the hairs poking out of the tiny, string bikini between my legs.


You naughty little minx,” he says and proceeds to give me a wink.


Mortified. I would have been mortified had this happened when I was a kid. A teen. Heck, half my adult life would have been mortified at this statement.


Until this moment, I hadn’t realized my relationship to my body hair. And how much it had grown.


I looked down at the rogue hairs jutting out of my swim suit. The lawn beginning to form down my legs.


The shame and embarrassment these natural fibers had brought my being. The rage I felt towards myself when I forgot to do my best job plucking, nicking, and slaving over my long, long legs that made up half of my vertical body; the trail that while the name mentions happy, is not in fact one that provides any happiness; the unruly mess under my arms that makes no sense to me; and the long, ever growing (it seemed), mutant fibers that seemed to metastasize like cancer under my chin.


"Shaved, is the expression?" I hear Nadia's words echo through my mind.


A flashback appears in my mind's eye exhibiting the "ideal" female form popularized by the 1999 American coming-of-age movie, American Pie. In the movie, Jim, a dorky teenage boy seeks to lose his v-card by prom night. When he successfully coaxes Nadia, a gorgoeus foreign exchange student, to study with him at home, she proceeds to take off her clothes in a seemingly male-idealized porno-esque scene revealing her foreign pubic hair style to not only Jim, but the entire school (and a monkey). Thank you webcams. Since the movie has become mainstream in American culture, shaved seems to be the most popular expression of pubic hair.


I begin to ponder the new style I’ve been weilding lately: one of rage, rebellion, resilience and cunning (might I add) retort to society’s expectations of the female form.


To help you understand my maintenance routine, I will use food as a comparison because who doesn't love a good meal.


In my senior year of high school I decided to become a vegetarian after watching a documentary about factory farming and the cruel treatment of farm animals. My mother, who didn't enjoy the fact that she now had to make two separate meals, convinced me back to omnivory whenever she could. Similar to some Modern Orthodox Jews who decide to free themselves from the shackles of a kosher diet when they eat out, my mother compelled me to eat my favorite peking duck and sesame chicken whenever we went out for Chinese. When the guilt from my mom outweighed the guilt of the already-dead animals on my plate, I did, in fact, waiver.


Over the next 4 years, I began to notice how my college diet of frozen and processed vegeterian meals wasn't serving me. Not only that, but the remorse that followed from eating meat on guilted occassions spurred me into a self-rightous spiral. My vitamin content was low, my energy not as alert as usual. But I had to make a difference. I had to save those farm animals from torture.


Over time I learned that my consumption alone can't save the world, and while I can certainly try, my efforts are not the ones driving change. Instead of martyring myself in the name of animal cruely, I decided to nourish my body and fight the battle from another angle.


My current diet is flexitarianism. I eat what I want, when I want it. Vegetarian, vegan, carnivore. I do it all. This means I abide by a (mostly) mindful awareness of what I'm consuming, opting for pasture-rasied and cage-free when I can afford it (or convince others to).


So when it comes to my hair removal routine, I can now consider myself a flexitarian there too. Shave. Wax. Let it grow. I do it all. And I do it as I please.


My flexible shaving habit. (And for clarity and candor, one that runs parallel with my current self-confidence.)


I remember the first time I felt shame over my hair. I don’t know what brought it on, I had never heard anything nefarious about body hair that I was conscious about, but something innately in me knew that I was now different for growing it on my body.


When I first saw fibers growing on the soft patch above my beaver, I flinched. “Growing up. I’m growing up” I repeated, trying to convince myself it will be okay.


I knew it already then. Life is so much easier before 10.


One time I told my best friend Carly that I had hairs growing “down there”. Carly thought it was fascinating and wanted to show off my new pubes to everyone. “Guys! Look at Sydney’s pubes!” she yelled to our camp friends. Everyone came over to see.


Mortified. I was mortified. But also gleaming with glory. Attention does that.


Around the time I started growing hair, I also started feeling self conscious of my body. I remember shielding myself with a towel when I changed in the locker room after swim practice. When I went to sleep-a-way camp, I macgyvered a tent in my closet to hide my changing body from my peers.


Mortified.


For most of my life, I have been mortified and ashamed of the hairs and other growing bits on my body. The feeling of difference, separation growing larger in me year after year. Even as my peers' changing bodies occured simultaneous and adjacent to my own.


We shared this experience, yet I felt alone.


To be continued...

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