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Hairy Legs And All


When I was a kid, summer was simple. It was something to look forward to. School was out, there was nothing to worry about, and the weather was perfect for swimming. Most of these things ring true today as well. I still look forward to summer, although I admit it's more complicated than it used to be. For one thing, summer means shorts, and this causes a couple of problems for someone who has matured beyond the innocent boldness of childhood. First of all, I'm an extremely pale-skinned person, and my legs in shorts can be somewhat, er, blinding. But I am resigned to this situation; I will simply never be tanned. Even if I sat on the beach all summer and visited tanning beds all winter, I still wouldn't be able to burnish these sickly white legs, so I've learned to live with it.

The issue of shorts also calls to attention a matter that I'm able to table throughout the winter months: shaving my legs. I do shave them occasionally during the course of the winter but, I must be honest, I don't shave them very often. Even when I do shave my legs in winter, it's half-hearted shaving. Maybe I miss a patch here or a whole strip there, but who cares? I'm wearing pants and long skirts, so no one will notice my carelessness.

In the summer, these oversights become a concern. What's more, in order to wear shorts, I must keep up with the whole shaving thing on a regular basis. And the fact is that I hate shaving my legs. I resent every minute I spend in the bathroom dragging a razor over my blindingly white limbs. While shaving my legs, I usually contemplate every other activity I could be engaged in, and all of them sound more fun than the one I'm actually doing. I hate shaving cream because I get it all over the shower. I hate razors because I nick myself with them. I hate those little red bumps I get on my freshly shaved legs. (Don't tell me about aloe or sensitive skin cream or any of that other crap. I've tried it all. My legs don't like to be shaved any more than I like shaving them, and that's the way it is.)

Once when I was younger, I spent an entire summer without shaving my legs. My friends bet me that I couldn't do it, but they underestimated my hard-headedness by a long shot. I still wore shorts and short skirts anytime I felt like it and I grew to appreciate the sensation of a breeze ruffling my leg hair. It was a carefree summer.

But I wish in some ways that I had never done that. After all, it's only because of that summer that I know what I'm missing. No shaving, no razor burn, no untold minutes and hours of my life spent on a petty and useless concern. I once knew an exchange student from France who was fascinated with the idea that American women spend so much time shaving their legs.

"Why do you care so much?" she would ask.

"I don't know," I would reply. I remember seeing her hairy French legs and wishing that I were European.

I know that I give the impression that I care little what others think of me. But if I'm honest, I'll admit that I do care, at least to some extent. I don't want to be called a hippie or have people look at me as though I'm uncouth. So I shave my legs.

But I still hate it, and I completely resent the fact that men don't have to do it, too. Sure, men shave their faces, but they don't even have to do that -- it's a cosmetic choice. Plus, the rest of their bodies can be as hairy as they like, and they won't be expected to shave or wax or use yucky depilatory lotion that smells like medical waste (and probably consists of medical waste). If it comes down to a matter of square yardage, then men simply have less area that they must keep shaved, even if we include the face as a shaving necessity.

Why do we women shave our legs, anyway? I can't imagine what masochist came up with the idea. It's not like the hair on your legs is doing any harm. It's not tonsils or an appendix or cancer. It's just hair, growing on your legs and acting like hair. When did men suddenly decide that hairless legs were appropriate/sexy? I seriously doubt that colonial women were walking around shaving their legs. They had work to do: grinding up wheat, making bread, sewing clothes, raising children and all that other important stuff that grocery stores, malls and daycares do for us today.

But I, too, have work I want to do today. Even though I have this inane desire to conform to cultural norms, I can't help but despise what those norms require of me. I think that we women should boycott razors, wax and lotion. We should all decide that we're going to be hairy-legged together. If we all quit wasting all that time shaving our legs, we'd change the cultural norms to suit us. And when we consider all of the minutes we'd be saving by not having to shave, just think of what we'd be able to accomplish. Why, we'd be able to have it all: family, career, meaningful relationships with loved ones (primarily relationships not based on superficial things like leg shaving). Refusing to shave our legs could change our lives.

So, listen, all of you need to quit shaving your legs. Just let your legs hang out, all hairy and everything. Don't worry about it, wear shorts, skirts, whatever. Your husbands and boyfriends will get with the program quickly enough.

Don't worry, as soon as you've all rebelled and I see women walking around with unshaven legs, I'll start doing it, too. But y'all go ahead and get started without me. *

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