Friday, October 20, 2006

Hair Apparent

Yes, this is the Flashback Friday: Feminist Edition but I couldn't resist using that title. I am hesitant to post this, because who wants to read about puberty and body hair? But then I think about how many commercials are on tv involving various forms of hair removal and wonder if maybe my hesitation is just a hangover from puberty and a reluctance to revisit that horrible awkwardness and insecurity. So here it is, and please let me know if I've overshared.

Puberty was a painful time for me; I believe it's when I began to perfect my skills in denial. When I saw hairs appear under my arm, I thought if I ignored them, no one would notice. This strategy worked until the first time I went swimming, when my friend noticed immediately. I'd actually managed to forget about them until she pointed them out. So I decided to trim them with scissors; I didn't want to use a razor because the thought scared me, it would be admitting that I had hair to shave, and because everyone knew that as soon as you started shaving you'd develop thick black stubble, no matter what colour the original hair was. I can't remember when I actually started shaving my armpits, but I remember the first time I shaved my legs.

In grade 8, we all wore cut-off jean shorts for gym class, and all the girls tried to avoid getting sweaty. Darlene Gillan, who was Popular (yes with a capital P) and had a fantastic upswish of bangs that I was totally jealous of (my hair was frizzy and never went in any direction I wanted it to); well actually half of her bangs were curled up and half came down over her forehead in the way that all the Popular girls did their hair in 1989. Anyways, for some reason she had started to speak to me occasionally. Maybe it was because I had a special way of pissing off our teacher, Mr. Smith, that would make him turn red and bellow for me to go out in the hall with just a twitch of one eyebrow. So one day I was sitting next to her in gym class and somehow the conversation turned to shaving legs. She looked at my hairy limbs in shock, and was all like, “You mean, you don't shave your legs?!?” And I was all like, “Well, I thought maybe it wasn't a big deal since the hairs are blonde but whatever...”

That day I went home and shaved my legs, with a razor and everything. There was about an hour between when I got home and when my mom got home so I did it then. For some reason I really didn't want my mom to know. Unfortunately I cut myself on that rough bit of skin above the heel, the place around the same level as your ankle. And my mom, who was a friggin' detective and had eyes like a hawk, noticed the cut and asked what it was from. And I was all like, “Oh, you know, the cat scratched it.” Trying to be nonchalant but failing misrably. And she was all like, “Really. That's funny because it doesn't look like a cat scratch.” Busted. I went into a long and involved story about how I was stepping over the cat when he scratched me, blah blah blah, but she wasn't buying it. The bottom line is I was mortified to be singled out for something as gauche as not shaving my legs and then doubly mortified to have my mom discover that I was *shudder* becoming a woman.


Each week, I will tell a story that has something to do with being or becoming a woman or feminist. This series will continue until I run out of stories. Guest bloggers are welcome if you have a story you want to tell; or feel free to link to your own story in the comments. Next week, I'm hoping Mad Hatter will share a story... Mad Hatter: will you please?


jen said...

what a great post..and what a great idea - hmmm....brings up all kinds of thought for me.

bubandpie said...

Oh, the bad memories this brings up for me. The grade six last-day-of-school pool party for instance... arghh.

Em said...

Oh yes, puberty and hair ... too painful to dwell on (I had a similar mortifying shaving episode with my mother).

crazymumma said...

eeeewwww...puberty sucks.

mad_hatter said...

Yep, you betcha I will. I'll put my thinkin' cap on now.

As for shaving legs, I tried to do it at 11 while visiting my sister. I managed to scrape off about 4 inches of skin on the bone right along the front of my calf. I bled like crazy and tried to hide it from my sister. Eventually she made me open the bathroom door b/c I had locked myself in so long. She needed to make a tourniquet out of bed sheets and nearly ended up taking me to emergency.

My mom never shaved her legs and I haven't since I was 23. I do have fair hair, though. I do shave my arm pits.