August 16th, 2013


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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"Was that the fourth wall?"
"I wasn't counting."
"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."
"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!"