I asked my mom if I could shave my legs the summer before sixth grade. I was convinced smooth shin bones would catapult me into adulthood, despite the innumerable indications I was still a playground-dwelling child. When she gave me a tentative yes, I donned my favorite daisy-pattered tankini and hopped up on the bathroom counter. I lathered on shaving cream and, under her camera-wielding supervision, ran a blue disposable razor up the lower half of my legs in careful, meditative strokes. The comically serious expression I wore is immortalized in our family photo album.
I’m not sure how pre-teens approach it today, but back then, leg-shaving was a sort of unchecked rite of passage. I didn’t know anyone who forwent it. It seems like there are more options these days. We’re waxing, lasering, sugaring, lazily shaving or just letting it grow. Hair removal is a tradition with undoubted misogynistic roots, but it’s also become its own beast, not unlike makeup, capable of either empowering or disempowering.
Remember when photographer Petra Collins shot to fame for posting a photo that showed her pubes in 2013? I doubt it would make such a splash now — body hair on women is a much more common sight on Instagram these days — but it’s still considered shocking in the mainstream to go hairy. When Miley Cyrus and Jemima Kirke wore hairy armpits on red carpets in 2015, they made loads of headlines. Maybe I’m in a bubble, but hair-removal approaches seem less uniform among women than they’ve ever been.
I shave, but very lazily. I’ve tried quitting cold-turkey, but couldn’t stick with it for more than a year. My relationship with my body hair remains complicated, but I still resent if and when people — particularly men — inject their opinions into the mix. Do you remove your body hair? If no, why? If yes, why and how do you do it? Shave, wax, sugar, laser, something else?