When I was a senior in high school, our band trip was to Orlando, Florida. My friends and I amused ourselves by acting like we were German tourists while we made our way through Disney World. By “acting like we were German tourists,” I just mean speaking our broken high school German to one another. We did it just to be silly at first, but when we discovered just how easily our fellow Americans were to trick, we couldn’t resist a few good-natured ruses.
My favorite was when my two friends—a young man and another young woman—and I spoke German to one another throughout a ride, acting like we couldn’t understand the two teenagers who sat across from us.
“Where do you think they’re from?” one said.
“I don’t know,” said the other. “Probably Europe. Did you see the girls’ legs?” He didn’t even try to quiet his voice, so confident was he that we didn’t understand English.
My friends and I had to try very hard not to laugh as we repeated to one another what they’d said about unsere Beine. It hadn’t occurred to any of us that our hairy legs—or at least the women’s hairy legs—would enhance our ability to pass as non-Americans, or that someone would comment on them right in front of us.
As the ride stopped, we thanked the boys in English for being such good ride neighbors, and laughed together at their expressions as they realized we’d understood everything they’d said.
That was a fun trip. I got to embarrass strangers, imagine that I was bilingual (even though I would have been terrified to speak German to an actual German), and be a freak with hairy legs alongside a friend who also had hairy legs.
I’ve known very few women who leave their legs unshaven, at least during shorts season, and even fewer who don’t shave their armpits. I’ve had to be a hairy freak mostly on my own for the past twenty years.
My primary reason for not shaving has always been laziness combined with sensitive skin. Sure, my legs might be hairless, but they were covered in a red, stinging rash until the stubble came in, and then I had to do it all over again. My armpits were even worse, and I really like to put my arms down sometimes.
I have a lot of other reasons not to shave: It takes too long. I don’t feel like spending the money. What’s the point?
The most compelling reason for me is that women naturally grow hair on their bodies. It’s one of the things that happens during puberty and that signals our entry into adulthood. Why would I want to remove physical proof that I’m an adult woman rather than a pre-pubescent girl? It seems especially odd to shave now that the crow’s feet and general world-weariness of my countenance have erased all chance of my being mistaken for a mere girl. With hairless legs road-mapped with varicosities, who would I be kidding?
Even with such compelling reasons, I’ve never proselytized. What other people do with their own legs is their own business.
Plus, I can empathize with other women who might not feel ready to toss their razors because even though I have no desire to jump back into the depilation market, I don’t exactly flaunt my hairiness. I almost never wear a skirt without opaque tights underneath to hide my leg hair, and I went for years without wearing a tank top, not because I was modest (I actually love showing off my upper arms), but because I was self-conscious about my armpit hair.
But I’ve had enough of hiding.
This Sunday at church I wore a sleeveless knee-length dress without tights. At one point during choir practice, I even stretched my arms over my head.
Just one small step in my personal revolution.
I’m excited about my new-found lack of care about my personal appearance, but I’m also a little anxious. I would feel a lot better if I saw more female hairiness around. Sure, if I moved to Berkeley or Portland, I’d probably have an easier time of it, but I want to see my hirsute sisters everywhere! At summer street fairs and swimming pools across the United States, on the East Coast and in the Midwest, down South and out West. I don’t want to see amber waves of grain; I want to see leg hairs waving in the breeze!
Come on hairy ladies! I know I can’t be the only one. Where are you? And if you shave, why don’t you join us? Let your freak flag fly!