Hair

11 04 2010

Shocking confession of a normal behavior:

Every once in a while, I shave my legs.

If I had it easy, I’d get all the hair on my body removed – except maybe my eyebrows. But that’s costly – and it sounds painful. A needless indulgence. And seriously – the act of removing my hair is followed by a rush of feeling clean and renewed – I couldn’t trade that in for less hassle.

In particular, the process of shaving my head makes for one of the best feelings ever.

I did it earlier this week and it never fails. Bad day at work? Sluggish clouds hanging low? Shave the head.

I step out fuckin’ freshed and feel like myself all over again. It’s as if the hair growing ever so slowly on top of my head is an army of lazy, heavy, depression trying to keep my spirit down.

Sidebar: I lived in New Orleans for a little bit a few years ago and in that city, the public space is a social space. Me being basically shy and essentially content with solitude – it was a change for sure. To be approached on the street – but not by catcallers (though yeah – of course that happens everywhere) but by people seeking meaningful connections – was a revelation. I connected with so many people – we were all so diverse – it blew my mind and when I moved away to my current abode, it was what I missed the most about that city.

Here, it really is just the catcallers. Here, my shaved head stops people in a way that makes me try to act like I didn’t notice. In New Orleans and other places I’ve traveled, I find that the most frequent commenters on my lack-of-hair-style are older women. They express the desire to do the same and all I can say is ‘go for it’.

There’s something about being 25 and connecting to an older woman, a stranger on the street. I’m like – where do we have these invisible bridges of understanding? Like I really want to know, where do we connect without even knowing it? Because by all appearances, we seem so different but somehow here we are having a temporary conversation. Sometimes I can’t wait to be older myself. Maybe I’ll have hair, maybe I won’t.

For now, I buzz it off with my old friend Lola. I consider its pinkness to be a statement. In fact Lola was my first ever pink purchase – I saw it in a corner store in New Orleans and paid good money for it with the intent of buzzing off all the hair on my head.

For me, it was a statement on many levels. I was ridding myself of the old image I had lived with for 20-some years. The girl who never gave up on a family that long ago deserved deserting was turning into the young person whose burgeoning independence was the fuel for her new life. I shaved my head in protest of the expectations to assimilate. I shaved my head with a pink razor named Lola to say that this right here? This color doesn’t mean what you want it to mean. And I will use this tool to dismantle your beliefs about what I should be as your daughter, as a female in America.

It’s true. I shave my head and I shave my legs. I lather them up and swipe off all that hair just about once a month (ish).

The legs started when I was in 5th grade, back when I used to read Seventeen magazine. (??!!!?) – anyway. A babysitter twice my age prompted me and I followed her cues. As a girl, it totally made sense that I’d be shaving my legs – I even tried to feel romantic about it – all that lather and glamour.

I eventually learned all the rules (i.e. never shave sideways) and instated the act as a full-blown habit, if not addiction (necessary for social survival right?). All these years later, here I am, living my own life and still shaving my legs. Does it fit? I can’t help but feel like it’s a little childish.

We all have a complicated relationship with hair – some more than others. The pressure to be ‘normal’ is clear. The incentives to fit into beauty standards are obvious. But whose standards are these? And seriously – who controls us? I encourage all folks to shave what they want to shave and grow what they want to grow. Gals and guys. Go for what feels good, that’s what I do.

One life to live, right?

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2 responses

12 04 2010
grimeden

I think I need context to understand this–maybe a previous post?–because the mentions of your hair, family, identity, and rebellion aren’t easily comprehensible for me.

I understand the significance of female hair, but this doesn’t seem about the male gaze. This doesn’t ring with the same tone as that of a rebellion against systematic patriarchy. It feels closer.

Add to that that shaving your legs seems like a mistaken tangent. Yes, it’s a norm worthy of some targeting, but it’s not like you’re positioning yourself to chastise the legitimacy of the act, the ubiquitous acceptance, and the oppression of male desire. It’s used as a contrast to your hairless hair style. But the juxtaposition feels wrong.

To put it as best I can, the leg shaving seems to be a habit maintained to feel attractive, while the head shaving seems an act of rebellion. I might be missing something. But I don’t think they’re relatable in spite of being acts of body hair removal.

Something was about to be said about “feeling clean and renewed” , about your hair being “lazy, heavy”, and then it wasn’t. There’s a story missing: about familial pressures, about how not having hair makes you more gregarious, about changing your identity and “living your own life”.

And it’s not served by “go for what feels good”.

Of course, who cares what some stranger thinks? Especially one who’s putting quotes inside end punctuation. But I was interested and so I commented.

*from feministe*

12 04 2010
pfray

Thanks for the feedback – good catch.

I had actually taken out a statement about how my male partner doesn’t shave his legs – thinking about how we all have choices. I meant to express that shaving my legs was something I was taught as a kid and that it was expected of me but that shaving my head was all my own – the ‘go for what feels good’ was me riding on the shaved head wave, perhaps on a tangent, but saying if we all have choices, I guess I’m reexamining shaving my legs and maybe we should all examine why we do what we do. And then go for what we want despite the expectations.

Still, seriously not surprised that I dropped the ball. I could write many posts about my hairless head and maybe I will, it hasn’t been something that I usually talk about but I’m interested in trying that out (obviously – right?).

The connections between legs and head could very well be minimal and purely literal – the whole idea of writing about this came to me as I performed the hair removal ritual earlier this week and thought – this is the hair that I remove from my body – how I do I feel about it really?

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