It’s Your Body and You Can Do What You Want To

Image by Arvida Bystrom via theardorous.com

My exploration of body hair began this past summer. Although I wish I could say that it was a choice made under the persuasion of my new-found feminism, I cannot. In actuality, it was a product of my becoming very depressed. Too depressed, in fact, to shower. For weeks. And thus began me embracing my hair.

Body hair was something I always used to hate about myself. Being of Italian descent, I’ve got hair in my genes. My mother would always tell me, “It doesn’t matter. Who cares?” Still, this did not keep me from coming home upset because of the constant ridicule I received from the “unsightly” state of my arms and legs. The kids at school began to refer to me as “Hairy Hannah.” Although this was not the most creative nickname, it still set my stomach in knots and a deep sense of inferiority in my veins. Why couldn’t I look as sweet and soft as the other girls? Why was the state of my body becoming a punch line for schoolyard jokes?

Finally, in fifth grade my mother gave me my first bottle of Nair. (For those of you who have been so lucky as to not have come in contact with this stuff: Congratulations! It is truly a wonder. Also: STAY AWAY from it. It’s awful.) I coated my legs in the thick, green, sulfuric-scented paste and waited until my skin began to burn. (My aunt had told me that you shouldn’t remove the Nair until it hurt, as this was how you knew it was working.) I then scrubbed it off with a washcloth. Voila! The hair was gone! As was the thin surface layer of my flesh! I strutted around my house with raw legs and I felt gorgeous.

I began to associate pain with beauty. For the next handful of years I rocked the “raw chicken” look on my legs. I shaved the wide plane of my stomach. I over-plucked my eyebrows until they were thin and terrifying. I bought “magic sandpaper” that was “guaranteed” to remove arm and upper lip hair “painlessly.” I then proceeded to rub myself down with said “magic sandpaper” nightly—just to rid myself of what was plaguing me: my naturally occurring body hair. In actuality I only rid myself of self-worth, self-confidence, and skin. I was basically a grape tomato with bad acne from ages eleven to fifteen.

Thankfully, as I got older, my beauty routine became less extreme. Still, I found it embarrassing to have hairier arms than the boys in my classes. I physically held myself in a way that showed my feelings; my shoulders hunched as I sunk inside my own body. Confidence is a multi-layered thing, but I would say that the basis of confidence is feeling good in your own skin. Simply put: if it makes you feel beautiful and happy, you should be allowed to do to your body what you will without judgment or prosecution. To put it even more simply: I still had not found anything that made me feel this way.

By the time my underarm hair became unruly I was able to pull myself out of the funk I was in. I found the thing that made me feel beautiful and powerful. The opinions of others suddenly meant nothing to me—I began to care more about how I felt about myself than how others did.

Luckily for me, I am praised more often than criticized for the state of my armpits. However this doesn’t mean that I do not receive criticism. I was recently informed by my mother that I would have to shave before visiting my Floridian family members for this upcoming Thanksgiving. When I protested, surprised that this could be the same women who encouraged me to love myself no matter what, she told me that my aunt and grandmother would both “have a heart attack” at the sight of me, and that I was lucky that she is so tolerant of the “state of filth” I chose to stay in. She asked me “Why are you doing this? What is the statement you are trying to make?” Upon careful thought I have decided on an answer. My statement is this:

This body is not yours.

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Hannah Magnuson About Hannah Magnuson

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