BY JOANNA C. VALENTE
Editor's note: This piece was originally published at The Berry.
I remember being in my Catholic school uniform, Doc Martens, and goth choker, feeling completely lost among most of my peers. I was trying to find ways to fit in as much as possible, to make my childhood a bit more bearable. But then, I began questioning all of it. I question everything these days, too — like shaving. I used to shave every other day. It’s just what I did — just like I tried to fit in. But about two years ago, I experimented and stopped shaving all the various regions and curves of my body (like my vag, legs and arms).
Here are the 7 reasons why I stopped.
1. Because I’m curious/because I want to.
Change is good. Having usually always shaved every inch of my body, it’s good to know why you groom yourself the way you do. Mostly, it’s healthy to challenge yourself and do things for you, and not feel pressured to fit into a mold.
2. I’m trying to get rid of useless gender norms that don’t mean anything to me.
I’m the first person to say I’m femme. I’ve always been pretty femme, but being femme doesn’t mean I don’t question gender norms and body norms. I am femme because I choose to wear dress or makeup. But some days, I also wear bow-ties and don’t wear makeup. It depends what I want.
3. Because I’m lazy. End story.
There’s not really a good reason for this, except maybe I felt it was more important to write an article or see my friends or cook dinner or watch Netflix than shave my legs in the shower for 45 min.
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4. Because I want to know what I look like without it.
For the longest time, I didn’t know what I looked like with leg or arm hair — because I had been shaving it since high school. That’s kind of a scary thing to think about. I had been doing this routine every few days, because my mom told me to–because the kids in my school told me to.
It’s not that I felt as if I would be less attractive or ‘feminine’ if I had body hair. Ideas of masculinity and femininity are merely societal expectations and structures to begin with, I know this. It’s just that I became comfortable with my appearance, but in a way where I just never questioned it the way I was supposed to. Or I felt if I did let my leg hair grow, for instance, I would be heckled. That’s not a good reason.
5. I felt self-conscious, so I wanted to make myself uncomfortable.
It was clear that I was more self-conscious about body hair than I wanted to admit—hairy armpits were one thing, but for some reason, revealing my hair legs were another. As a queer feminist and non-binary person and former teacher, I realized this insecurity was simply that, and I needed to combat it.
6. My 1975 bush makes me happy. And feel empowered.
And screw anyone who thinks otherwise. If you are lucky enough to make it down to my nether regions, you bow. I had a brief stint where I shaved it, mostly out of curiosity, and discovered I didn’t like it. For me, I like the way it looks, it makes me feel sexy and real–and it’s easier and more comfortable.
Razor burn is awful, and I don’t feel comfortable getting it waxed–nor do I have the money to. I used to figure model, and I was told I was the first woman someone saw with an unshaved bush. I took this as a compliment–but it also made me sad that a lot of women feel obligated to shave, because it seems “weird,” “outdated,” or unattractive if they don’t. Or that somehow, it makes oral sex more annoying (and it doesn’t).
7. More awesome — less itchy, less annoying, less time consuming and less expensive.
Seriously, don’t underestimate the fact that you’ll save time, money, and discomfort. This is definitely why I don’t shave my arms or bush anymore, and why that won’t ever change. While I have started to shave my legs again, it’s because I want to, not because I feel obligated to. And once winter comes, who knows?
Ultimately, I think humans, whether men, women, or genderqueer, should do what they want. Why do people, especially women, feel the need to be hairless? Why do we set these practices and standards of beauty for ourselves?
I don’t care what anyone does, but it’s time we make ourselves question our routines and practices. It’s time we make sure we are choosing what we want to do, rather than just following the norms, because it’s easier. That’s why so many people feel unfulfilled at teh end of the day, and I refuse to live that way.
We are more than our bodies.
Joanna C. Valente is a ghost who lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Marys of the Sea (The Operating System, 2017), Xenos (Agape Editions, 2016), and Sexting Ghosts (Unknown Press, 2018). They are the editor of A Shadow Map: An Anthology by Survivors of Sexual Assault (CCM, 2017), and received a MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Joanna is also the founder of Yes, Poetry, a managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine and CCM, as well as an instructor at Brooklyn Poets. Some of their writing has appeared in Brooklyn Magazine, BUST, Them, Prelude, Apogee, Spork, The Feminist Wire, and elsewhere.