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.
1 day ago