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Hair anxiety - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
j4
j4
Hair anxiety
I have a kind of ongoing conversation with myself about shaving my legs. (Yes, that's the kind of boring thing I talk about, even when I'm talking to myself.) It's hard to transcribe the voices in my head because observing them tends to change them, but I've eavesdropped on this one often enough that I reckon I can capture at least some of it faithfully:

"Those legs are getting pretty hairy."
"So? That's fine."
"Well it doesn't look too good."
"IT LOOKS FINE."
"Actually you know what I really don't like the way it looks."
"Oh well then you're a slave to the beauty myth. Call yourself a feminist etc etc."
"OK so I'm not allowed to prefer smooth legs?"
"Well in theory you're allowed to, in an ideal world you'd be allowed to, but as things stand you can't have that thought without it being caused by oppressive heteronormative gender stereotyping."
"Right, so I'm not allowed to like what the patriarchy likes? Isn't that just a different sort of lack of freedom of choice?"
"Um... no! It's different. Because you get to choose the better option, not the one that makes women do painful stuff in the name of beauty."
"But shaving my legs isn't painful."
"No but that's not the point. It's mutilating your body just for the sake of -"
"It isn't 'mutilating' anything, any more than cutting my fingernails is. It grows back, you know."
"- and anyway by not shaving your legs you're supporting other women."
"How?"
"It shows women that they're allowed to have hairy legs."
"So I have to do things I don't like to show other women that they're allowed to resist doing things they don't like?"
"Yeah! ... No, wait, no! Gah, the point is you're not supposed to like smooth legs. Hair is natural, yada yada."
"OK shitting in the woods is natural but you know what I really prefer using an actual toilet and not having to use leaves to wipe and so do you, you hypocrite."
"That's different."
"Is not."
"Is too."
"Is not. PROVE THAT I LIE."
"Ahahaha I see what you did there. Bet nobody else will pick up on it though."
"This is getting a bit meta, isn't it?"
"Always a risk when talking to oneself."
[pause]
"Was that the fourth wall?"
"I wasn't counting."
[pause]
"OK, so ... back to the conversation. Hairy legs look scruffy at work. Shaving your legs when you're going to be showing them off at work is just like wearing a tie or something. Hairy legs look scruffy on men too, but men don't tend to wear shorts when they're trying to look smart."
"You're trying to change the subject."
"You're trying to evade my point."
"Ah but anyway you shouldn't be trying to conform by wearing skirts. Especially not short skirts. What are you trying to cash in on your 'erotic capital' or some such bullshit?"
"No, it's just, you know, it's AUGUST."
"Even in August, you shouldn't be focusing on trying to conform. If you were really serious about staying cool you'd wear like a kaftan or something but I don't see you trying that."
"OK, so maybe I'm conforming, but look, I have to conform to some social norms to be taken seriously in my job."
"Which means you're PART OF THE PROBLEM! You shouldn't cave in to that sort of pressure!"
"But I like my job and I like being able to help pay the mortgage and feed my family. Also I actually think it's totally reasonable to expect people to look tidy at work: it's about avoiding foregrounding the clothes so you can get on with concentrating on the important stuff."
"That's unreasonable! People should be able to see past all that surface stuff to the real person underneath."
"Yeah well people should be able to see past fonts and pictures to basic functionality when looking at prototype websites but actually they generally can't. So we work with what we've got and what they can do."
"You mean you're an enabler for being wrong and stupid?"
"No! I mean I'm conservative in what I generate & liberal in what I accept."
"Oh hark at you. Anyway your job should be the same. If it won't accept you with scruffy clothes and hairy legs, then it's a bad job and it's CRUSHING YOUR SOUL."
"I don't have a soul. Aren't you supposed to be an atheist too?"
"Figure of speech. Anyway. BAD JOB. Crushing your something-or-other-that-atheists-have. Get a better one."
"But I like this job. And I don't mind having to wear normal clothes and look like a normal person."
"Well you should! You are SELLING OUT and facilitating oppression!"
"Also I want to wear skirts occasionally. OK usually when all my nice trousers are in the wash, but still. Some skirts are nice."
"You don't really want to wear skirts, you're just - "
"Hang on, you can't play 'false consciousness' twice in the same argument. Penalty card."
"But that's the patriarchy."
"YES BUT -"
"No buts. Anyway it's not only work, I like to look smarter for parties and things as well."
"THAT IS ALSO THE PATRIARCHY! You are trying to conform to what men will like!"
"I am totally not. Firstly nobody has ever turned me down for being too hairy (and nor have I turned anybody else down for being too hairy even though all other things being equal I prefer non-hairy to hairy, but all other things never are equal). Secondly - "
"Are you nearly done?"
"- No. Secondly: I am married, so I already succeeded in attracting someone if that was what I was trying to do, and anyway I am currently too exhausted to be interested in trying to attract anybody, and besides if I was thinking about trying to attract people I'd be thinking about what women would like too - "
"Which is the same, because blah blah male gaze - "
"- shush. Anyway, I am not doing what you say I am doing."
"Look anyway if you must wear a skirt then just wear it with hairy legs."
"But it looks scruffy. I don't like the way it looks."
"Nobody will notice!"
"I'll notice. They're my legs. I am closer to them than anybody else."
"But you shouldn't care if - "
"I hope you're not trying to do that again."
"No! No."
"I will feel scruffy. And then I will feel less confident in what I'm doing. Maybe that's stupid but there it is. Think of it as a placebo."
"[silent eye-roll]"
"So anyway I am totally going to shave my legs because I am a free person."
"[outraged expression]"
"But... not right now. Right now I will just cover them up with these trousers that probably should have gone in the wash yesterday. Because that's what I feel like wearing. Not because I now feel even more guilty and conflicted about shaving my legs."
"Right on, sister!"
"[sigh]"

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Comments
ewx From: ewx Date: August 16th, 2013 04:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
I hope it's safe to assume that you've already thought of compromising between the two viewpoints and shaving exactly one leg?
tigerfort From: tigerfort Date: August 17th, 2013 12:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Or part of each leg; say the outer side of each calf.

Actually, how about shaving patterns into the hair? Start a new fashion!
j4 From: j4 Date: August 19th, 2013 11:49 am (UTC) (Link)
I do generally only bother shaving as far as the knees (including the knees, not that I have particularly hairy knees), but I'm not sure that counts.

I don't think patterns would show up enough to make it worth doing, sadly, otherwise I would have to go for badger-stripes. :-)
(Deleted comment)
jinty From: jinty Date: August 16th, 2013 07:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
I specially look out for and treasure skirts with pockets and have managed to amass, ooh, three of them so far out of my whole wardrobe? Hmm.
j4 From: j4 Date: August 19th, 2013 11:52 am (UTC) (Link)
I only buy skirts with pockets now, which does limit my choice, but that's fine by me. I have to have pockets because my workplaces always have card/fob access to various doors within them, and I don't want to carry a handbag (ugh!) to meetings, the coffee machine, etc. Dresses with pockets seems to be harder to manage, but definitely possible.

I'm not sure if I shave my legs well or not -- I don't have much basis for comparison! -- but I often miss bits on the ankles. But even for occasions where I want to shave my legs, I am really not worried about missing small patches, because I honestly don't think anybody notices or cares. (This is probably true of all-over hairiness in a lot of cases, mind you.)
timscience From: timscience Date: August 16th, 2013 06:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
JUST SHAVE YOUR DAMN LEGS ALREADY
although you shouldn't take my advice because y'know patriarchy
j4 From: j4 Date: August 19th, 2013 11:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, most of the time I can't be bothered, because it's tedious & needs re-doing after a couple of days if I actually want to keep my legs non-stubbly. But yeah, if I want to, I do -- it's just that there's always this kind of background argument in my head...
jinty From: jinty Date: August 16th, 2013 07:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

I did actually properly laugh out loud to this!

Or perhaps more of a chuckle, but definitely out loud.

I ... don't have quite this same dialogue with myself, but I do think that I don't really want to try to have bare hairy legs at work because it's, well, unprofessional. I have however now got to the advanced stage of hirsuiteness whereby I am happy to have hairy bare legs in a social or casual context (though whether I'd do that in a social context that involved my workmates I'm not so sure!).

In fact I took my socks off this afternoon cos I saw your sandals and short-ish haired legs and thought "solidarity sister!". And because of the warmth too, to be fair.

FWIW I think that prolonged non-shaving can have a brainwashing sort of effect whereby if you then shave your legs after a while of not doing it, you look down and think "eek! bald legs! yerk!" and you more or less rewire your brain a bit. Which you may or may not want to do, but it is what I've done over the years to at least some extent.
j4 From: j4 Date: August 19th, 2013 11:59 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: I did actually properly laugh out loud to this!

"solidarity sister!"

Yay! Solidarity! :-)

I confess I didn't even notice the hairiness or otherwise of your legs, which probably proves at least one of our points...? :-}

if you then shave your legs after a while of not doing it, you look down and think "eek! bald legs! yerk!"

Ha, if I shave my legs after a while of not doing it, it's more like "ARGH ITCHY LEGS SCRATCH SCRATCH remind me not to do this again". Whereas the hair is only annoying when I wear tights & it gets stuck & pulls the hairs ow ow ow.
boxofdelights From: boxofdelights Date: August 17th, 2013 02:32 am (UTC) (Link)
I think the voices switched sides somewhere near "THAT IS ALSO THE PATRIARCHY!"

I remember when I had a small child I was too tired to do anything about the hair on my legs, but not quite too tired to care.
tigerfort From: tigerfort Date: August 17th, 2013 12:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is one of the problems with internal voices, in my experience. All too often, even they don't actually know which side they're on.
j4 From: j4 Date: August 19th, 2013 09:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ha! Following this excellent point I will now claim that I did it deliberately. ;-)
(Deleted comment)
jinty From: jinty Date: August 17th, 2013 07:21 am (UTC) (Link)
I can see there could be a marginal effect for swimming streamlining, especially if you're doing a lot of it at speed. but cooler? Really, noticeably so? I've never found hairy legs to be sweatier than bare legs, I must say.
(Deleted comment)
jinty From: jinty Date: August 17th, 2013 07:40 am (UTC) (Link)
My leg hair is the same sort of length and colour and I'd have said it was pretty dense but maybe it's not. Anyway clearly we have different experiences on the warmth-trapping front!
jinty From: jinty Date: August 17th, 2013 07:43 am (UTC) (Link)
(Though I would acknowledge that you feel the breeze a lot more on baldicated legs.)
j4 From: j4 Date: August 19th, 2013 09:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
I guess YMMV -- I've never noticed hairiness making any difference to my temperature (though I feel more itchy/sweaty with shaved legs, and feel hotter and stickier and sweatier with bare legs whether hairless or not -- light trousers much cooler than skirts for me in really hot weather!).

As for the swimming, I'm not Olympic standard or anything!! I really can't believe being more "streamlined" makes a discernable difference to my plodding breaststroke lengths, & if it did, then frankly my big arse is probably more of an issue there than a few little hairs. :-}
livredor From: livredor Date: August 17th, 2013 11:27 am (UTC) (Link)
It sounds like your inner feminist is kind of judgy and self-righteous! I had one like that for a while, but I also was much less patient than you with the attitude that I should stop doing things I like and presenting myself the way I want to because THE PATRIARCHY also values those things. I didn't have inner dialogues like this, because I'd get about three sentences in and tell my feminist-self, screw you, if feminism is going to make ridiculous restrictions on my behaviour and self-expression and accuse me of false consciousness, I'll stick with sexism, thanks very much.

I did know that feminism is actually important, so in the end what I did was I imagined a new inner feminist for myself, modelled on feminists I like and admire (both public figures and my personal friends). That allowed me to have conversations with myself in which the defensive part, the wanting to look pretty and normal and have the life benefits that go with looking pretty and normal, felt supported and encouraged rather than attacked by the feminist part, the pointing out that it's really unfair that women have to look a certain way in order to get those benefits. And eventually my inner feminist voice kind of integrated into my outer self, so that I now call myself a feminist and go around stating overtly feminist opinions outside my own head.
j4 From: j4 Date: August 19th, 2013 09:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
It sounds like your inner feminist is kind of judgy and self-righteous!

Oh, that's not my inner feminist, that's an internalisation of all the self-declared feminists I've had tell me stuff like that (the ones who made me refuse to define myself as a feminist for years), so yeah, judgey and self-righteous is what that voice does best.

My inner feminist is roughly the same as my outer feminist, & (as far as possible given PATRIARCHY etc) doesn't really give a damn one way or the other about hairiness. Unfortunately she's not very good at shutting the other voices up, which probably means she's actually not a feminist but a doormat. :-/
lnr From: lnr Date: August 18th, 2013 04:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have almost identical conversations with my head sometimes, but I've come to a truce - I accept it's a side effect of the patriarchy and shave my legs and armpits when I feel like it, but not when I don't, and I refuse to shave my tummy any more - though oddly that's become less hairy si0n5ce .being pregnant.

(M0a1t0t2h4wq10.0 Matthew is helpin :)
j4 From: j4 Date: August 19th, 2013 09:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love Matthew's typing! :D

Lots of head-hair falls out post-pregnancy, so maybe that's what's going on with your tummy hair? (NB this is a total guess and not backed up by science or even checked with Dr Google.)

I don't think I've ever shaved my tummy but I do pull out the weird stray hairs that I get round my belly button, because they annoy me. For some reason I don't have any kind of inner dialogue about that, it's more like, I dunno, squeezing a spot or something. I guess because nobody sees it (not even me most of the time, I don't actually spend as much time navel-gazing as this post suggests ;-).
damiancugley From: damiancugley Date: August 18th, 2013 04:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have two thoughts to offer what what it’s worth:

1. Cyclists shave their legs. No-one quite knows why: the old idea that it makes you faster has been debunked. Maybe its to make road rash heal faster; maybe it helps during massage; maybe it’s a way cyclists distinguish themselves from people who aren’t really serious about cycling. Or perhaps they just like the look.

2. You’re a cyclist.
j4 From: j4 Date: August 19th, 2013 09:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd've assumed this was like streamlining as mentioned above re swimming, i.e. there's possibly a tiny effect if you're at the level of shaving microseconds off an Olympic record time, but not really much effect if you're just pottering to and from the Co-op. Er, not that I have ever swum to (or from) the Co-op. You know what I mean. :-}

Maybe the leg-shaving is because if you wear really tight thin lycra it has the same effect as tights, i.e. hairs occasionally get caught in & pulled by the weave of the fabric, which is bizarrely painful (but nobody else I know seems to get this so maybe it's just me and my weird hairs!).
atommickbrane From: atommickbrane Date: August 20th, 2013 04:45 pm (UTC) (Link)

drive by commenting

(I do too!)
htfb From: htfb Date: August 28th, 2013 10:59 am (UTC) (Link)
LJ cuts don't seem permissible in comments, so TMI follows.

I very rarely wear actual tights, but I get this with running leggings or rowers' lycra. Or even with proper trousers, especially when walking in cold weather, especially if I haven't done much walking lately, especially if I've been cycling everywhere or uniformly sofatuberous. An even red rash covering the thighs, and agonisingly itchy, it can be.

If I do enough exercise of the right type it pulls out all the hairs susceptible to getting caught and the problem ceases. I'll spare you the full detailed description of a rower's baby-smooth gracilis complementing his mighty bearlike quadriceps.

Obviating this by voluntary epilation would be the deed only of someone who took his cycling far too seriously: I'm not yet a Middle-Aged Man In Lycra. Rowers, even paunchy old ones with deluded ideas of their former athleticism, simply don't go in for it. Even though we form the patriarchy, we're just as constrained by cultural norms.

You and me baby, we ain't nothing but MAMILs
So let's do it in the strip of Team Discovery Channel.

sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: August 20th, 2013 06:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Feminist you is kind of uptight, isn't she? :)

If it helps, I also prefer my legs to be shaved and would probably do so if I wasn't so phenomenally lazy. If the patriarchy and/or the sisterhood have committed opinions on my leg hair they both need to get a life.

Edited at 2013-08-22 07:50 am (UTC)
j4 From: j4 Date: August 26th, 2013 08:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Feminist you is kind of uptight, isn't she? :)

As per comment to livredor above, that's not "feminist me", that's a Greek chorus of other self-declared feminists (mostly idiots on the internet) who have had a go at me over the years, which have taken root like a disease in the unhelpful bits of my brain.

I mean, I'm not sure I know which bits of me are "feminist me". As far as I can tell there's bits of me that want to do the things that make me happy and bits of me that shout at those bits of me.
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