Now, I know what you’re all thinking— burning, yearning, to see: my unwanted body hair. Settle down folks, first, a story….
This one starts in the year 2000. But more specifically? When Survivor hit our TVs— yes, the reality TV show, and yes, it was a very big deal. I, like the collective whole of the universe who tuned into that show week after week, quickly began to dream and obsess about my very own Survivor moment: Getting on the show; getting into spearfishing; getting a solid six pack; getting super tribey; and of course, getting a million bucks in ma pockets!
That, I believe was the American dream in the early 21st century. No?
History books aside, what I also remember from those early seasons of obsessive island envy, was a very minor detail about the Survivor rule book. One you may have never even heard of yourself. Or you had. And if you had, like me, you would’ve given it a lot of thought. Because it was an interesting rule that required serious—serious, seriously— reflection.
The rule? That selected contestants were allowed to bring one luxury item from civilisation. Just one.
Naturally, that got me thinking about what my one luxury item would be. I’d spend nights strategising, arguing to myself that it’d have to be something terribly practical— nothing silly, like some family picture or a love letter from my grade school crush. Far as I was concerned, I’d be leaving them all far behind in my Survivor glory anyways (love you, sister).
So, after much debate I came to settle on my one object: the tweezer.
A pair of tweezers.
Let’s talk about tweezers…
Tweezers are functional contraptions. For instance, they can help get nasty sea urchins out from under your feet; they are also the perfect tool for removing unwanted eggshells from the pan; and for removing unwanted body hair… on your body. Especially between the brows. But if needed, also along the bikini line, or the sneaky patch, or if you’re going topless—which is not really a stretch on Survivor—tweezers can also get at those surprise and most definitely unwanted hairs around your nips.
Basically, they can tackle any kind of hair you’re not supposed to see, especially on us girls. And unlike a razor, they can do so with tact and grace from your pits to your… kits. For those reasons, the tweezer is most probably, most definitely a household necessity for all… Especially in paradise where film cameras are broadcasting your face, your body across the whole fucking universe.
So as you may have already guessed, back in 2000 body hairs were one of my things. And by ‘things’, I mean, mounting insecurities. It may have to do with that one time at the tender age of 13 that my French Canadian aunt told me, quite too frankly, that I had quite a lot of hair for a young girl. Or, perhaps it was just a case of all the regular social pressures telling us girls that flawless meant hairless. Or both. Whose parsing? Either or, I was very aware of all of these hairs on my body that most definitely should not be there. And I was very adamant that the rest of the world not uncover my ape-like roots. Especially not on national TV.
So with this backdrop of near anxious fear of social ridicule for the wee-est hairs on my body, you can imagine that what I’m about to divulge to you is something akin to my version of Brave.
Truth is, that I have not have shaved (or plucked or waxed) a single body hair in over 60 days. 60 days. Is that long, or short? Well, without having to get too literal about it and pull out the measuring tape, think about it this way: my wee body hairs have never, ever been allowed to get so free before.
This is officially the longest I have ever gone since I was 13 years of age without grooming myself in some way. The bush on my body, here and here and there and elsewhere, is not one I am accustomed to. And the hot shame that I have had to get over just to be able to wear tank tops in public has been, astonishingly tough.
So yes, for me brave is absolutely being this hairy, bushy, unkempt woman.
Which is fucking bullshit, because women have been parading bushes—on their legs, their pits, their kits—for as long as we have been descendants of apes. It’s just that in my socialising, since as long as I can remember, we’ve been conditioned to groom ourselves distinctly in opposition to our roots. That has meant a constant and diligent attack on any hair growing in unwanted zones. “Unwanted” zones have changed by definition, sure. Still change.
The modern mantra? Goes something like this…: Everything brow up, bushy as fuck; anything below there, keep it bare. And to this dictum, I too did adhere. For 16 years. For 16 years I have plucked and shaved and tweezed and waxed believing I was keeping the worst of myself at bay. Believing that I could only make it through Survivor with a pair of tweezers.
That was, until just recently, when an unfortunate rash brought the whole operation to a halt.
Too much information, you say?
I say, not enough. Give me more. I had a rash on my pits. Deodorant woes. And suddenly became too sensitive to shave. And as the wee hairs grew, at first just a little, then a lot, I had to learn to live with them. At first, this meant wearing only long sleeved shirts. But then, with time I started forgetting and wearing t-shirts and tank tops. And quickly I began to notice the most interesting looks on people’s faces as they would register hair where they did not believe it should grow. Surprised no doubt, that a girl should be so free.
But I wasn’t free. Not on the inside. Trust me, I was hot shame, and itching to shave it all bare.
So one day, I took stock of these inside feelings, and decided to build up the courage to do something even crazier than just being me. I decided to voluntarily share my story about my unwanted body hair to a group of mostly strangers. It’s an odd test of self, you might think. I might agree. But the truth is, it takes damn courage to feel truly free.
A wise mentor once told me that it took as much courage to get up on stage and perform as it did for a firefighter to enter a burning building. Well, I wonder how much courage it takes exactly when we’re talking about performing on stage with hairy pits. I don’t think it’s life-saving. But I am hoping this puts it into perspective: How relative bravery is, oh and also, how shitty cis gender normative beauty norms are. But we already knew that.
So let’s face it, this is like my anti-survivor moment. I’m not vying for a million bucks, not even the attention of a whole world. I’m just a girl, standing up, exposing her pits. And yet, this was enough to make me want to hurl.