Monday, September 17, 2007

A Too Much Information Post: On Legs, Shaving, Make-Up, Etc.

Writing from a Dayquil induced haze in Saint Petersburg, Russia . . . A place I’m probably not girly enough to be hanging out in.

It’s now been just over a year since I last shaved my legs. No, I didn’t mark a calendar or anything like that, I just happen to know that the last time I had smooth, ‘feminine’ legs, I was creating a scandal in a knee-length, halter top dress at my mother’s second wedding. But you know, I didn’t see any other dresses I liked (and Crystal and I did the shop until you want to drop dead thing), and – according to my standards – it wasn’t an immodest number, and tell you what, next time I wear it, it’ll probably be with opaque tights. Everybody happy now? Good.

Back to my legs. They are gloriously furry. I will not subject you to photos. Know that I thought about it and tremble. Mwahaha!

So here’s the grand revelation – I quit shaving my legs because I decided that it was a silly behavior for me. I was not getting anything out of the practice except: razor burn, occasional cuts, being twitchy because I missed a spot and I’m mildly OCD, and backaches from twisting about in the shower. Probably a few other unpleasantries.

It was a very pointless practice. My legs are only slightly less hairy than those of my little brother. We both have copies of my dad’s body hair gene. My dad had to shave his face twice a day to keep the stubble down. So if I shaved the legs in the morning, by the time evening comes around they’re at that really horrible sandpaper stage. And I hate the feel of stubbly skin. I’ve actually tried a couple of ways to potentially get around this. Nair – at which my coarse leg hair laughed. At home waxing – at which my thick leg hair laughed.

Adding to the feeling of pointlessness – my usual uniform is blue jeans. Maybe dress pants. On occasion, a long ankle-length skirt. Under normal circumstances, no one sees my legs except for me (and, perhaps, my long-suffering roomie). So, not only was I not getting anything out of shaving my legs, but no one else was getting anything out of me shaving my legs.

So why was I shaving my legs? At some point, I was taught that women shave their legs. I do remember shaving as being a sort of rite of passage between being a little girl and being a young woman that I initially embraced.

But the thing is, I hadn’t been shaving my legs for myself in a number of years. I didn’t enjoy the process at all or the result for more than fifteen minutes. Part of this is that conforming to the aesthetic norms of society just isn’t that important for my psyche. When I look pretty, I don’t feel pretty – I feel awkward, and ridiculous, and like I’m wearing a mask that someone will tear off at any second. If I need to be confident and assertive (say for a presentation) – the worst possible thing I can do is femme it up. Better to break out dress pants, an oxford shirt, and a blazer – maybe a scarf in place of the tie I really want to wear. I get angry when I feel like I have to put on make-up in addition to being neat. I understand the need to be neat and tidy in appearance; I don’t comprehend the need to be pretty. The last important interview that I had, I wore make-up to, and I really think that I felt less confident because I was wearing make-up. I felt obliged to wear make-up – a point that was backed up by one friend conflating wearing make-up with being presentable. Society expects that I will attempt to be pretty. I get that other people feel more confident when they are meeting social expectations, but my brain doesn’t work that way.

(Oddly enough, I enjoy wearing make-up or feminine clothing as a part of an act or a costume. It amuses me – as long as I’m intending to be someone other than my normal self.)

And I can understand how a person can wear make-up or shave they legs entirely for their own benefit. I sometimes choose to wear eyeliner or shadow because I feel like emphasizing my eyes. I like for my clothes to coordinate in terms of color and pattern. And I’d be lying if I tried to claim that I didn’t choose my clothes to project a certain image – for me, it just appears to be more boyish, academic, flat-out grunge, or just strange. I use clothes to reinforce my sense of myself. I think it’s a problem for a person to use clothing and make-up to create a sense of self. But clothing, and make-up, and the act of shaving one’s legs (or other body parts) are neutral in and of themselves. I’m simply not a believer in doing things for reasons other than one’s own.

So, shaving my legs was a charade for me. It didn’t express anything about me, or reinforce any sense I had of myself. It was just a bother, a source of frustration, and literally, a pain. So I quit shaving my legs.


Dw3t-Hthr said...

A.J. Luxton wrote about, among other things, leg-shaving over here, in a really neat post.

As I commented there, I tried it a couple of times in high school, and once I stopped the bleeding I said, "Well, that was silly" and never picked it up again.

I am fond of telling one of my ex's stories; he and his wife were out to dinner with his brother and brother's girlfriend, and it came up that ex's wife does not shave her legs. Girlfriend turns to him, horrified, and says, "And you don't mind?"

My ex, dear soul, said, after a moment, "Well, I don't shave mine either."

Poon said...

Hehe, I guess it's another one of those societal things in which women believe that they must do things order to fit in or be normal.

Who's to say that shaving your legs is normal? If it doesn't feel pleasing to you and brings you pain, then you shouldn't be looked down upon for not doing it (especially if you don't normally wear clothing that emphasizes your legs).

My girlfriend shaves her legs, but then again I don't believe that she grows leg hair that quickly. Also, she likes to wear skirts, so it looks nice :) and I guess I'm just a product of American society.

Kudos for not shaving your legs hehe, interesting.

fearlessvk said...

when i was a child & teenager, i was a competitive gymnast, and the codes of appearance for that sport are obviously very rigid. i was basically forced to start shaving my legs at a ridiculously young age by my coach, got used to having smooth legs, and now can't stand the feeling of hairy legs.... but it's sheer force of habit at this point. intellectually, i recognize it's a silly social norm that results in a lot of pointless wasted time (and, yes, twisted back muscles!) in the shower.

that said, makeup and i have absolutely never gotten along. i just turned 30 and i still can't figure out wtf to do with mascara. my eyelashes wage an angry revolt any time mascara gets anywhere near them. i think i look silly in lipstick, eyeliner aggravates the circles under my eyes, and i literally have absolutely no earthly idea what i'm even supposed to do with 90% of other makeup products....besides stare suspiciously at them.

one never entirely gets over a tomboy youth, i suppose...

Zan said...

I only shave my legs a few times a year -- whenever they start to bug me. My hair is fair and pretty sparce and well, I don't really care if anyone is bugged by my hairy legs. I do shave them before going to a doctor's appointment, but that's because I see a specialist who has to do an exam of my pressure points. Otherwise? Nah.

I wear makeup sometimes, when I feel like it. And it's basic stuff -- a matte powder/base, mascara and lipgloss. And that's about it. I have eyeshadow, which I use when I feel like it, but eh. It's so NOT an everyday thing for me.

Same thing with my hair. I wash it and let it dry. And I get more compliments on my hair when I do that than when I spend a looong time fixing it and spraying it. So, it seems to me that I just look better in my natural state. Which is fine with me, far less work and I can sleep later in the morning ;)