Unshorn, Unrepentant

img_5807My legs are healing. Itching and irritation are mostly gone. Leathery patches are fading back to healthy pink skin. Swelling and scabs from scratching are also mostly gone. No more stinging. No more strawberries.

It still shocks me when I look down to see them unshaven for more than a week now. It’s still blonde but again, not invisible. I’d guestimate the length at between an eighth to a quarter of an inch and amazingly soft. So soft I can’t stop touching it. It’s fair to say that it has been much easier to adjust to the way my legs feel as opposed to the way they look.

I still don’t believe anyone has noticed. If they have noticed they haven’t mentioned it. My gym partner looked hard this morning and swore she still couldn’t see it while standing right beside me. So other than happier skin and a softer fuzz there is no change.

I haven’t been laughed out of town, booed, shamed, or taunted. None of the things that I’ve read about unshaven abuse have happened to me, such as strangers photographing my body against my will and posting the image on social media with hateful criticism. Or women being openly harassed about leg hair on the subway or standing in line at Starbucks. But something else hasn’t happened that seems to happen to every other woman who goes au naturel with body hair. I haven’t felt the need to post hairy leg selfies with body-positive messages and self-love sentiments either, and this seems to be abnormal.

Apparently one is expected to become an activist if one embraces a hairier lifestyle. You are expected to become an advocate — vocal, visible, and vehement. I haven’t. The bandwagon passes by and I don’t flag it down for a ride. While I am not at all ashamed, this experience hasn’t inspired feelings sufficiently passionate for outreach. In the past I have been easily tempted by exhibitionism for a good cause, but this time I’m not feeling the same verve.

I tried to experiment with the concept this week to see if I would feel differently about it after trying some photos. The hair failed to show up on amateur digital. Direct sunlight turns it gold, so it doesn’t look like hair in a photo. It looks like gold speckles. Glints. Hints of hair without a legitimate mane. Even indoors the bug bites from hiking glow like constellations but the hair becomes chameleon. If I brought the lens close enough to get a good hard shaft at which to gawk, I couldn’t be clearly identified in the photo, so the effect of confronting my own image was lost. It just didn’t work.

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I had more fun playing with the angle of the window-sun on my hands and feet so I said the hell with the gratuitous hairy leg propaganda and just did my usual thing.

Which I suppose is a defining metaphor for this experience thus far; nothing has really changed. I’m just doing my usual things, only with blonde hair on my legs.

The one image that did appeal to me happened by accident. I liked the light from the candle reflected in my bath so I tried to capture it. In doing so I noticed the way it bronzed the water clinging to my skin, which was ever so clingier with the addition of blonde velcro to hold it close. My calf appeared gilded or peppered with the gold leaf powder that flew all over Salma Hayek during the bus crash in the Frida movie.

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It’s the image at the top of this post; still not that far fetched from my usual offerings.

My instincts are telling me this will probably be my last update on the topic unless there is a remarkable new event worth reporting.

If the hair fails to stop growing and becomes unreasonably long it might become noteworthy, but judging from the hair on my arms I doubt that will happen. If someone responds badly or pulls one of those mean stunts I’ve read about in other hairy leg blog posts I might make mention of it. Other than that, it’s hard to imagine this is going to be the big fat hairy deal I thought it would be. But of course, I never would have believed it without forcing myself to do this.

My dark beauty friends tell me this would all be different if I wasn’t blonde. I get that. I have spent a lot of time looking at the above-mentioned leg and bikini selfies of the brunette variety. I can’t deny that the difference is significant and the social consequences would be likewise significant. However, I pretty much despise the notion that I’m supposed to incriminate myself for my alleged privilege, such as being born white, or in this case, being a natural blonde. I don’t agree that is appropriate for me to disclaim the positive aspects of my life circumstances because the recessive genetic dice fell on seven when my parents rolled them. Designating my appearance a privilege implies that any appearance which doesn’t match mine is a curse, a bane, or an affliction.

Instead of banishing this bullshit from our collective social construct, I’m supposed to reverse the curse by bearing the burden of matching a profile which brands me as privileged. I’m supposed to be socially conscious of my responsibility as privileged and commit acts of contrition thereto. “Mindful of my privilege.” As if I chose this and need to be sorry for it. Or alternatively, need to issue perpetual disclaimers before I’m allowed to live the charmed life I was unfairly gifted. Nope. I’m not jumping on this bandwagon either. I did nothing wrong by being born. I certainly did nothing wrong by being born the wrong color to earn me certain social clearance or the right color to earn me other social allowances. My appearance is not an achievement. It is also not a misdeed.

As to benefits (separate from the privilege argument), the obvious winner is the healing of my skin. Otherwise I can really only count the savings of time. Shaving 50% of a body is time-consuming. I’ve gotten all of that time back, plus all the time spent treating my legs in the aftermath. Today is the summer solstice, so I can’t claim additional warmth. I don’t seem to be any more or less attractive than before. My magic powers seem to register about the same as before. Sleep, appetite, mood, energy, income; all relatively unchanged. Absent any further relevance, I’m moving on to other aspects of my wellness practice. With humdrum everyday hairy legs.

— Mercy

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