From the time I entered my teens I knew quite definitely that beautiful girls had no visible body hair. I had watched my mother get her legs waxed—though she drew the line at threading her brows—and at 14 I found myself furtively pinching my brother’s razor to shave my legs. I made a bloody mess, nicks and all, but I had never felt so beautiful and confident in my shorts.
Next in line were my eyebrows. I bought a fidgety, sharp edged tweezer at the neighbourhood chemist and proceeded to yank out almost all of my brows, leaving a thin, squirrelly streak of hair on my forehead, nestled amidst pinched, bruised skin. Luckily for me, I didn’t have much facial hair otherwise my chin and upper lip would have suffered a similar fate. Meanwhile, my peers (with vainer moms than mine) made routine trips to the local parlor (laser hair removal wasn’t around then) for regular hair pruning sessions for their pretty progenies.
I’m calling it. We lived (and continue to live) in an era that abhorred body hair, especially on women. Laser hair removal ads abound, with mouth-watering “full body hair removal deals”. Countless colleagues with silky smooth arms and legs throw laser jargon effortlessly in conversations over lunch; Alexandrite, Diode, nd:Yag, Pulsed Light. Then there are smooth chested men everywhere, flaunting their six packs, nary a hair in sight.
One day it struck me, this primal need to stay hairless has meant decades of ripping out hair follicles, dealing with razor burn and spilled wax, poking at ingrown hair, never ever questioning, WHY? I realized I had never looked at hairy legs or arm pits without revulsion out of fear of being considered gross or ugly. And then, I saw photos of the bearded model, Harnaam Kaur, the 25-year-old from Slough who has polycystic ovary syndrome that causes excess facial hair. She made her catwalk debut in 2016 opening the Marianna Harutunian Royal Fashion Day and hasn’t looked back (or shaved) since.
If you look around, you realize that finally, body hair is everywhere. In beauty campaigns, on the red carpet, and on social media. Women have stopped caring whether their pits were groomed, or their legs were prickly. I have to admit celebrities have played a huge role in this hairy resurgence. Miley Cyrus showed us that body hair is beautiful, and you can have fun with it, as her Instagram snaps of her multi-colored pit hair would suggest. Lady Gaga’s been spotted on stage numerous times with beautiful pit hair, often dyed to match her hairdo. Meanwhile, Mayim Bialik, the Big Bang star admits she’s never shaved in her life. “I remain the tomboy/feminist who has never in her life shaved her legs or armpits. Ever.” Then there is Amber Rose and Ashley Graham, both of whom have both talked about loving their full bushes. If that's not motivation enough to let your pubes grow out, I don't know what is. One quote or tweet from them can make all the difference, especially if you’re feeling awful about your stubble. After all, if Rihanna can flaunt unshaved legs at the Billboard Music Awards, then so can you.
Actually, the whole issue of body hair goes much deeper. It’s not just about saying no to waxing, its more about being able to stand up to societal norms that dictate a woman can be feminine and attractive only if she looks like a plucked chicken. Even today there are many women whose body/hair positive stance has seen a stream of obscenities flooding their Instagram accounts. In the end though, you—and only you—can decide what’s right for you, not those hairless, photoshopped commercials of perfect bikini lines and smooth limbs. Stay smooth or go au natural? Here’s why you should stay hairy and happy (if you choose to go that route).
Don’t let sly comments hurt. Soon enough, your body hair issues will be forgotten as your tormentors with latch on to new targets, or better still, grapple with their own hairy problems. In fact, people closest to you don’t really care about your body hair. It’s not like your boyfriend will break it off if you don’t shave your legs for a date. Remember, everyone has body hair, and all that matters is body positivity. Your hair—or lack of it—doesn’t determine your efficiency at work, your social skills or even your love life. Don’t get guiled into shopping the latest epilator or razor because being smooth or hairy has little to do with the rest of your accomplishments or life. Be body positive.
Marvel at all that your body can accomplish each day. There’s nothing more beautiful than a woman being unapologetically herself, comfortable in her perfect imperfection.