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.