Saturday, November 07, 2009


Today, once again, I put strangers' opinions of me ahead of my own comfort.

It was hot here today. Hot in the house, hot outside. It got up to 32 degrees, and it's still 25 now, at 10.59pm.

I'm wearing jeans. Not by choice, not because I don't feel the heat (By God, do I feel the heat!), but because I am afraid of the judgement, and the scorn, and the comments and the assumptions of people I do not know, and more than anything, from those I do.

I should backtrack. I have eczema, and the attendant dry skin that goes with it. Year-round, but worse at time when the temperatures change suddenly (Like now) no amount of moisturising will stop my lower legs from cracking and peeling, and my skin is tender, sore and red in places. It's manageable, but annoying.

As a result, during these flare-ups I can't shave my legs, and I can't wax. Depilatory creams are out at all times- my skin is just too sensitive for that. Those rotaty things that pluck the hair out? Also take off skin that is peeling, and did I mention the pain? Not keen on adding to it.

These times can last for a week, a month or six months. A Flare-up can materialise overnight - or during the night - and disappear just as quickly. There are things I can do to help, and one of them is avoiding peeling layers of already-cracking skin off with a razor, and not applying hot-wax to an area that's already causing me pain and discomfort.

But what do I do when it's hot? When it's summer? When I cannot shave, or remove the hair in another way?

When I have the choice between comfort and embarrassment? Between wearing shorts or a skirt or a dress and being cooler but enduring the looks, the sneers, the questions and comments? Between saying "Stuff it. I'm hot" and meekly accepting that Women Should Not Have Hair Where Men Do Not Want Them To Have Hair Even Though We Grow Hair There So Clearly We're Supposed To Have Hair There And It's Annoying Removing That Hair But For Some Reason It's Okay For Men To Have Hair There, and hide my shame behind pants and jeans?

Every time, EVERY time, I make the choice to put another person and their opinion in front of my comfort. I will don the Jeans of Wussiness. I will stand here, watching other women walk around in dresses, or skirts or shorts wishing I had made a different choice, but I cannot bring myself (and the sensible, progressive woman in my head is SCREAMING at me right now) to leave the house with the fact that I have not been able to shave my legs for a month on display.

Even though when I see it on another woman, I applaud their choice and celebrate that she has the guts to do so, I cannot do it myself. Even when I get as far as questioning myself as to WHY another womans choice is any of my damn business, I baulk. Every time. I am distinctly uncomfortable with the idea of going out in public in anything that displays my legs when I have been unable to do any hair-removal. And if I could get past that barrier? You can bet your bottom dollar that if challenged on it I would probably explain WHY I have not been able to toe the hair-free line instead of asking that person who the hell they think they are to question my body and my choices in relation to it.

I wish I could say this year will be different. I wish I could say that I'm taking lessons from something and drawing up my strength and biting the bullet and girding my loins and ditching the fucking pants and being a bit more bloody comfortable, but I don't see a change this year. Today I did what I do every year, and put the pants on and tomorrow I will doubtless do the same. I talked to a girl at the party tonight about the dilemma and her suggestion was Maxi dresses. Something that still hides the hair but will make me slightly more comfortable.

As long as I don't cross my legs. Or examine myself too closely to ask myself why I'm bowing to societal pressures when I don't want to and why I preface every one of these discussions with "But! I have a good reason not to!" bleating. And why this has taken me an hour to write, and why I'm still hesitant to hit Publish.

And that's my admission. I am a coward, and I am uncomfortable, and I am will make myself uncomfortable so you will not baulk at my hairy legs. And I don't know if that's ever going to change.

**Edit. Spelled "Baulk" as "Balk" throughout. Four years practically living in pool halls will do that to a girl.


Private 'Baldrick' Tom said...

I hereby nominate this post as the 3rd* greatest piece of literature in recorded human history. Would it be possible to wear a long dress, like a sarong?

*'America-the book' and 'I am America!' take the first two spots.

Keri said...

I wussed out completely and bought a long dress today, Tom.

Keri said...

Oh,and thanks!

Captain Suburbia said...

Wussed out? Nah I think a veil of crazy was lifted. If I were a woman (oh wow, I don't think I've ever started a sentence like that before) I'd be totally in on the long skirts.

Lindy said...

About 10 years ago, about the time when I realised I was never going to read even half the books I was looking forward to, many extraneous activities were ditched, simply to save time. Shaving body hair was one of those activities.
The first time I went for a swim with giant furry legs, excruciatingly embarrassed, I waited to be laughed off the beach, for small boys to start throwing spitballs at me and finally to be burnt alive as a witch.
Didn't happen. Every other bastard was much too busy with their lovers, dogs or small children to be bothered gazing at my offensive legs. Now I don't even think about it anymore.
My advice to you is to take courage, put on your shortest shorts and enjoy the sun. The first time will be horrific, but my bet is you'll realise quite quickly that leg shaving is one of the advertising industries Great Cons and who gives a shit.
The eczema will benefit from the fresh air, and you'll have a few more hours a week to do something really important.
Sorry about the diatribe, but hairy legs can be so liberating.
I always enjoy your blog.

Jayne said...

I often forget to log the old growth forests on my legs and inflict my hirsuteness upon the general public.
No one has yet lodged a formal written complaint (in 25 words or less) so I figure "stuff 'em".
Good on you for writing this, that takes real guts :)

Liv said...

I lived in Brazil for some time when I was younger. Ironically, many Brazillian women don't shave their legs or under their arms. So neither did I. And after a while, the hair on my legs actually went kind of golden and downy from the sun, and looked fine. It is not so bad, really. When I came back to Australia and rocked up to Uni with hairy legs, people didn't actually notice.

Miss Politics said...

Hey Keri

I don't shave my legs or my underarms simply because I don't want to. Don't worry .. its actually quite liberating to not have to do so. Body hair is very natural and beautiful. Don't let others make you feel yuck.