Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Rachael Edwards
During the pandemic, there have been many beauty sacrifices I've had to make. I have not had my eyebrows done since March. (There is no brow gel in the world that can save me now.) Then, there's the hair on my head. Where I'm used to getting box braids or another protective style, like many others, I've been tasked with styling it myself. Things are getting unruly. I understand these are first world problems, but I mourn the times I could walk into a salon get done-up, pay, and go. Much of my beauty routine has been turned on its head, and while my wallet has always been a crafty reminder that I love to invest in pampering, doing these rituals myself offered me space to confront why I choose to give so much of myself to it, especially when it comes to shaving.
I have an interesting relationship with my body hair and razors. It all started in middle school and puberty had no grace on me. I grew hair in places I didn't know you could. My hair colour is also very dark against my skin colour, so you would not miss it if I skipped leg day. One man (annoyingly) reminded me of this and suggested I use lemon juice to lighten my body hair. To "fix" this, I looked at all the wrong places for answers — teen magazines that swore by hair removal creams, and all the hairless Barbie waxed legs I saw from my favourite beauty influencers. Even my friends during that time did not have as much body hair as me.
When I had body hair, I felt I wasn't as beautiful. As a kid, you feel doomed and helpless to what is completely natural. My insecurities distorted my perception of the process of puberty because of unhealthy standards of beauty I picked up. I could not fully control my breakouts, fine. If my hair decided to frizz up after gym class, fine. With shaving, it was as easy as clipping my nails. I could control how long I wanted the hair to grow on my legs or armpits and when I wanted to cut it off. It became obsessively ritualistic. It wasn't until the pandemic that I reflected on my shaving habits and where they stemmed from in the first place.
In not going out as much as I did pre-lockdown, it was easy to forget about beauty maintenance like shaving. On a hot summer day, my partner and I decided to go to the pool for a refreshing swim. We have to walk a little ways to reach it. I had on shorts and a top but when I noticed my legs were not shaved, I immediately grabbed longer pants to wear. My partner (who sees my hairy legs all the time) told me that I did not need to cover up. And for a moment, I considered it. Who would really notice that I haven't shaved in months? Who really cares? I have many friends that opt to not shave or do not mind visible body hair, so what is the issue with me? Ultimately I decided to cover up my legs, but the residue of that conversation stuck with me. It brought me back to that middle school girl who was incredibly self-conscious about every part of her body and anxious about how she was perceived.
I want to disassociate myself from feeling obligated to shave for the gaze of others.
Now in my twenties, I'm not waiting for some life-changing epiphany. Growing up, the reasons I chose to shave (rather obsessively) was simple and had roots in the unhealthy ways I viewed my body. Shaving is a personal choice that should not be determined by any other standards but my own. I am committed to unlearning these old standards, not by completely chucking shaving but by switching things up. I want to disassociate myself from feeling obligated to shave for the gaze of others. So, I've decided to indulge in the lax habit of not shaving as much and opt for other grooming practices like trimming, and even using armpit masks to keep funk at bay and detox. I've been maintaining this for a couple of months — feeling completely liberated — and honestly, the process while super experimental has been fun.
I'm learning that other people's opinions on my body hair should not skew how I view myself. Sheltering in place has pushed me to confront and challenge the insecurities that seep into my beauty routine and thoughts. What I do for maintenance should always centre my wants and nobody else's. While quarantine has been tough on all of us in a multitude of ways, I really love how it's allowed me to sit and think about how I navigate my everyday life, what affects it, and how I can improve myself for the better.