I just took a shower. I saw it again. It’s still on the ledge in the bathroom, at eye level, within reach. A pink plastic razor. I don’t know why I haven’t thrown it away yet. I look at it. Nah, not today. There’s no compelling enough reason. There were plenty of times in the past tho, when- hearing from a lover that they were coming over after all- I’d race into the bathroom to shave hurriedly before they arrived. Cuz you know, body hair is for men alone; taboo and not sexy for women.
I remember the first time I saw my mother shaving her legs. I don’t recall exactly how old I was, but I remember feeling the bristles afterwards and being really confused. “It was nice and soft before; why did you shave it??” She just smiled and said I’d understand when I got older. Nair was like a rite of passage. I was never too much of a girly girl, or one who cared too much about what people thought, but I still religiously shaved my legs and armpits (and sometimes even my pubes). I questioned many things, came out to myself, stood up to the religious, sexist, and homophobic bigots, but I still shaved. You don’t have to be a hairy, man-hater to be a feminist, right? Surely, I could manage this one little thing even if I didn’t do the whole makeup and heels bit, right?
I kept on shaving, even when my legs broke out in rashes and ingrown hair. I’m just doing the basics, I’d tell myself. I’m not like those other women- all obsessive- waxing and electrolyzing. But when someone pointed out the hair on my upper lip, I started getting it ‘threaded’. This is what they do in India right, so in a way, I was getting more in touch with my roots. Uh huhhhh. Nevermind that I feel zero emotional connection to ‘Mother India’ (my love for curry aside). And nevermind that no lover has ever expressed repulsion by my hairy upper lip while kissing me.
There’s something called cognitive dissonance- which is basically a disconnect between the things you know to be real and true and the things you do. I finally stopped shaving 4 months ago. At first, it was mostly sheer laziness. I’d stopped shaving for periods of time before after all. But this time is different. I’m done with the bullshit. I’m 38 years old- near the midpoint of my life, if I think positively- and I’ll be damned if I waste any more of my precious time doing things that don’t add any value to anything. Now I stare down the pink razor every time I step into my shower. It’s an ongoing battle though.
I still put on long pants instead of the shorts I wanted to wear the other day, even though it was night time and I was going to be among friends. I know now how my trans friends feel when their 5 o clock shadow shows through their makeup. Funnily, I’m more ok with showing the armpit hair for some reason, even though I know that’s actually less common than leg hair. The conditioning is deep and the fucked-up ness too real. Change takes time. Self-love, like other-love, takes work. But I’m in it, til death do us part, and I have to say, it feels damn good to just be. Stare if you wanna, talk shit if you wanna; I’m not going to take you on. Like it or lump it- I’m all good.
Not so the larger society though, unfortunately. There, hate rules. There are doctors and people in the health sector of Guyana who, for decades, refused to provide legally permitted abortions to women and girls who wanted/needed them, because they refuse to let go of their patriarchal, misogynistic, oppressive religious beliefs that women must bear children, regardless of their circumstances or personal desires. There are many in the judicial and other public service posts who routinely refuse services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans individuals because they disapprove of their “lifestyle”. Differently abled, mentally ill, ‘junkies’, homeless people, and all others who fall outside the societal norms are still treated like aliens instead of fellow human beings worthy of dignity, love, and respect. Boys are still beaten for crying and guards still enforce dress codes at bastions of knowledge like the National Library. And oh, beauty pageants still get touted as a way of “empowering” young girls.
When I stare down the pink razor and step outside with my hairy legs and armpits, I feel like I’m wielding a (hairy) sword at the foundations of all this ignorance and hate. Some days, just existing, in my truth, is all I’m able to do. So I have to make it count. When my hand strays too close to the razor, I think of my friend L. L is short and chubby with unselfconsciously hairy legs and a bevy of male suitors to choose from. Some want her to go overseas and live with them; others want to build homes and give land to her here in Guyana. They like the way I talk to them, she confides in me. Short, chubby L with the hairy legs. My shero. There’s also M, who also doesn’t give a hoot about shaving or not shaving. She’s too busy worrying about where to find money for food, her daughter’s school fees, medicine for her sick mother, etc. You see, there are more important things to care about/work on than shaving. But it’s ALL CONNECTED. Love thyself. Love thy neighbor as thyself.