I’m thinking out loud here, trying to puzzle out my feelings on a somewhat complex subject for me, so bear with me please.
As some of you may know, last year I participated in No Shave November for the first time. Most women can do this rather innocuously – after all, it’s rare to wear sleeveless tops or shorts in November, so who’s to see your hairy armpits or legs? For me there’s a bit more risk involved. Not shaving turns me into the bearded lady. It was a difficult month, to say the least, but in some ways also very rewarding, helping me to become a little more comfortable in my own skin. Something I haven’t really been since I was nine years old, when puberty was well underway.
So when November rolled around this year, I decided to participate in No Shave November again, this time with a bit more self confidence in NY ability to navigate its challenges, with the support of those nearest and dearest to me. And it went well. Despite the election preliminary results proclaiming a president-elect Trump and the victory of his platform of fearmongering and hate. Despite the niggling voices in the back of my head, from my childhood and popular culture and media, shaming me for my body being made differently – more hairy than socially acceptable. It went well. Until just over a week ago.
Out shopping with close friends, I didn’t think much of it when an older, rotund, man sporting a red “Make America Great Again” gave me a nasty look. I just smiled politely and kept going. But then I ran into him again. And again. Each time his scowl at me being more disapproving and disgusted. I kept running into him during the hour or more in this store, until it seemed I couldn’t turn around without running into him. I was so uncomfortable, self-conscious and even started to feel unsafe – that I found myself responding in ways I haven’t since high school. If I saw him approaching I turned and went the other way to avoid him, or even hid behind those I was with. Not just because he obviously didn’t like or approve of my natural unshaven appearance…but because in this frightening political climate – his disapproval made me feel like my very safety was at stake…
I didn’t tell my friends why I was acting so strangely, they just thought I was feeling a touch claustrophobic from the crowds.
The next few days saw unbidden returns of memories of prior shamings. And I tried hard to shake off the memories and their accompanying emotions. I didn’t always succeed – like when I was trying to dodge having my picture taken over thanksgiving, even though celebrating with friends and loved ones.
Tomorrow is the end of November. By Thursday, I could shave again. And I find myself of two minds about it. On the one hand, part of me is desperate to shave again, to “pass” as acceptable again out in public. On the other hand….On the other hand it’s been 30 years of hating myself for something I can’t help.
I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted from hating myself. From feeling ashamed of myself for how I naturally exist. From worrying if I’ve shaved before I go out or people come over. From the expense of razors, pills, waxing, sugaring, electrolysis- all things I have tried and still the hair persists. I’m tired of it all – and that part of me says screw it, just let it be. Especially when, on the moments that I can look in the mirror without all the weight of societal dictates about how a woman should look, I can even begin to see where my facial hair even complements my features – that it looks good on me. Something I never thought I’d be able to see. Even with the quasi compliment from a young child calling me Justin Timberlake!
It would be so nice to simply exist. To not give a crap. Will I shave it all off December 1st? I don’t know. Will I shave it off December 1st to grow it out again after the holidays are passed, to not feel self conscious when people want to take pics? Will I say screw it and keep it, and just keep it trimmed nicely? Honestly, I don’t know.
I don’t like feeling like a coward, hiding from other people, but neither do I like feeling unsafe for existing. Although, with this new political climate, I already do for plenty of other reasons: I’m female, I’m in an interracial relationship, I’m part of the LGBTQIA community. I’m already hated simply for existing, what’s one more reason?
Will I, or won’t I? Even I don’t know for certain.