Growing up, my mom never sat me down and had the body hair conversation. As luck would have it, she has very little body hair; I know for a fact that she never shaves her legs and I can’t ever remember her shaving (or talking about shaving) her underarms. I am not so lucky. That’s not to imply that I am cursed with an unreasonable amount of body hair. I just definitely have to shave… often.
I actually first learned to use a razor at boarding school. My mom never made much of a fuss about body hair (probably because she has none), so it was actually quite surprising for me when one of my dormmates commented about my underarm hair. I don’t remember being particularly hurt by what she said, but I definitely remember being a million times more aware of my body hair from that point on.
Over the next 15 years, I started to enjoy summer less and less. Not because I hated the gorgeous sunny weather, but because I hated the pain I endured from constantly shaving my underarms. When it was cold and I knew my underarms would be covered, I was carefree. But come May, I knew I was in for months and months of discomfort because I’d need to keep my underarms hairless in order to wear anything without sleeves. That meant shaving every single day… and with that frequency of shaving came the inevitable nicks, razor burns, ingrown hairs, itchiness, etc. I was basically torturing myself, all so that no one would ever call me out about my body hair again.
And then I decided to stop. Well, actually I was guilted into stopping. My 7-year-old daughter was watching me cringe as I tried to free ingrown hairs under my arm and asked why I was hurting myself. I started to explain that I needed to keep my underarms bare when it occurred to me: so what if I developed a little stubble while the gash from my last shave healed? So what if I raised my arms at work or on the subway and what someone saw wasn’t the smoothest skin ever? If shaving a little less often meant I never had to tweeze a painfully ingrown hair out of the crevice of my underam again, wouldn’t that be more than worth it?
The answer is yes and so I told myself that I would only shave once a week instead of every day. Catch me on a Friday and there’s a good chance you’ll see me with a little hair under my arms. I’m still 100% self conscious about it, but the truth is, I’m learning to deal with that because I appreciate not having to suffer every day by putting a razor to my underarm.
Of course, the bigger lesson is that I was never shaving for myself, but because I was worried what other people would think. And wouldn’t we all be better served by giving less credence to other people’s opinions about us and choosing instead to do what feels best–literally–to us with regards to our bodies, our relationships, our careers and so much more. I know shaving every day may seem inconsequential to some, but I honestly feel liberated. I hope my small feat will inspire someone else to let go of something that has them hung up.