"Oh my God! I saw your picture on Facebook – you are so brave." An older girl from my high school who I had never talked to before approached me at the mall. I was bewildered, flattered, and proud. I just returned from a four-month backpacking trip in Central America, and this girl must have seen my recent album upload on Facebook.
"I would never post a picture like that. I couldn't believe it. Go you!" she continued.
I hesitated. What picture was she referring to? The one of me wading through the waist-deep, crocodile-infested water? Or maybe the one of me crossing a sketchy-looking bridge above a raging river?
"How long did you grow it out for? I don't think my pit hair has ever been that long!" she exclaimed, rather loudly.
My heart dropped. Oh. She was referring to the picture of my friend and me lifting up our arms to expose our two-month growth of armpit hair. Getting a compliment for simply letting my hair grow out was not something I'd wanted nor expected, and I failed to hide my disappointment. Believe it or not, shaving wasn't our biggest priority during our expedition, and we just considered a razor unnecessary weight in our pack. So, out of all my pictures – the giant tarantula, the lush green rainforest, the venomous pit viper coiled around a tree – my underarmhair was what astounded her. I didn't want to give her a heart attack, so I refrained from telling her that not shaving for long periods of time is something I'm not new to, nor something that I consider a big deal. And neither should other people. Shaving is an expensive, time-consuming, and oftentimes painful practice that shouldn't be automatically expected of females. I'm not saying that women should never shave –that's completely up to them – but rather that they shouldn't be made to feel like a leper if they don't.
It's occurred to me recently that some men don't realize nor appreciate how long it actually takes for us to remove most of the hair from our bodies. It can turn a five-minute shower into a twenty-five minute shower, no problem. Plus, the more you shave, the faster and thicker the hair grows back, and when you reach a point in your life when you have to shave every other day, serious scheduling conflicts can arise. We don't always have time for that, and we shouldn't feel pressured to make time. If we didn't get a chance to shave the other night, so what? On more than one occasion I've been with friends who refuse to go swimming or hot tubing with our guy friends because they haven't shaved. Even more often, I've heard stories of girls refusing to get intimate with a partner because they felt that they're hairier than they should be, and they're embarrassed to show him. Simply put, it shouldn't be like this. Let us do with our body hair – and our time – as we please, please.
A couple of years ago, Madonna made news headlines for posting a picture of her armpit hair on Instagram. There are a few things wrong with this. First off, for her to make headlines, period, is questionable considering what's going on in the rest of the world. Second, if she were going to make headlines, I'd really hope it's not for something as trivial as failing to run a blade down her pits. Shaving, or the lack thereof, should not be such a big deal. It certainly shouldn't be in the news, and it certainly shouldn't be what Americans are shocked to hear about.
I will acknowledge that there are alternatives to shaving, but these alternatives are extremely painful and extremely expensive. Let's start with the obvious: waxing. Just typing the word gives me the chills. Putting hot wax on your body and tearing it off is pretty much as painful as it sounds. There's also laser-hair removal, which is even more painful than waxing. I mean, it's a laser. It's ridiculous that girls feel they need to go to such extremes to avoid the hassle of shaving. In addition, these practices aren't cheap. For example, getting your leg-hair lasered costs an average of $2,000 dollars total per leg, while waxing, something that has to be done once per month, costs an average of $75 per leg. It's needless to say that this is money not well spent.
In contrast, we can look at Spain, a country just as developed as the United States, and appreciate that their culture doesn't call for all women to be hairless. Although some women do choose to shave, it's a social norm to have underarm and leg hair. This gives them one less thing to be self-conscious about. As women, there's already enough in the world to make us feel shitty about ourselves without the additional pressure to look like a naked mole rat. It'll be a beautiful day when a Victoria's Secret model forgets to shave her legs for the annual fashion show. A man can have a hairy chest and back like it's no big deal, but a woman shows up to the beach unshaved and people are so shocking it's as if the world is ending. Now let me please clarify: I don't think all men should be as hairless as Michael Phelps. I just don't think that girls should have to be, either.It's not a gift of God nor nature that women are hairless, despite the fact that razor commercials show a girl running a razor up her already-hairless leg. I haven't shaved in a week. I probably won't for a couple more. I'll shave when I have time to shave, and when I want to shave. Women have body hair. It's there – accept it.