Freedom Friday- every Friday I free myself from a burden, either an old embarrassing story, a secret phobia, a lie I told and got away with, a fear I can’t win, or something else to be determined. I want to free myself from secrets to end those nagging moments when I can’t sleep at night, or those random thoughts that pop in my head for no reason other than their need to get expelled from my psyche. We all need to free ourselves from self-recrimination, to open ourselves up and face our fears. Freedom Friday is my attempt to do that, and in turn take ownership of my guilt so it doesn’t eat me alive anymore.
Women are supposed to be hairless creatures, with smooth skin everywhere except their perfectly shaped eyebrows and well-groomed hair style. The amount of acceptable body hair for women seems to shrink annually, from the bush loving days of the eighties to the pre-pubescent hairlessness touted as fashion now. My hairiness goes far beyond comparison to anyone I have ever met in real life– my arms, fingers, toes, stomach, legs and face grow hair that would make a 12-year-old boy feel confident he was finally becoming a man.
Starting in grade 4 I was teased for this part of my outward appearance, but the level of sting intensified so much in grade 7 that I wanted to leave school. Two boys in particular used to make this weird gesture around me, finally telling me that they dangled their arms next to their heads to show me that they, too, had more hair their arms than on their head. I was petrified. I had a five-o-clock shadow on my legs by the end of the day as soon as I was old enough to shave them. I started refusing to wear shorts and t-shirts, pretending it was a fashion statement to always dress for winter.
In grade 8 I started needing to wax my face. I was kissing boys at this time (sorry, mom and dad, if you read this) and was terrified they would touch my face and run away screaming. The intensity of hairiness only got worse from there. Kids are cruel, and when I had a split with my friends in grade 9 they mailed a chewy granola bar to my house with a nasty message on it. This is my body image issue that brings me to my knees. By college I needed to wax two times a week, which is next to impossible when you are in a dorm with a communal bathroom. I was actually stopped on the street once, on my way to class, and told by a complete stranger that I could be so pretty if I just started getting threaded. Threading is an amazing hair removal technique; I just wish I would not have had to endure humiliation to learn about it.
Once I left the dorms and moved into apartments with girlfriends I still never admitted this part of myself. I would spend hours waxing, shaving and tweezing each week. I would schedule my work around their work so I could be home alone with my shameful secret. My husband and I only dated for 48 hours before we decided to get married; I even hid this secret from him. I remember trying to get up the nerve to tell him for the first time that I waxed my face all the time, and that I had a terrible phobia of people touching my face. When I finally told him he gave me the weirdest “so what” look I have ever seen. I still, after eight years, hide away in a bathroom for 30-45 minutes per day to take care of hair removal. When he touches my face I flinch, even though he is the love of my life.
I have had various benign tumors, cysts and a pituitary microadenoma diagnosed and treated, all impacting my endocrine system and my hormone levels. I am on a never-ending journey to either learn to love my hairy self or get to a doctor who can actually help me.
This problem greatly impacts my life. I won’t camp for more than 1 night because I fear not having access to hair removal tools. I have nightmares about going into a coma and turning into a bearded lady. I refused to take the classic wedding pictures of our hands intertwined because my arms are hairier than my husband’s arms. When I was younger I wanted to try out for Survivor or the Amazing Race but didn’t because I was afraid of showing the world what I look like before I groom. I know that this problem is bigger in my head than in reality, but it is still real enough to cause me great pain.
I know that there are plenty of virtually pain-free ways to permanently remove hair, but every time I save enough money to do something about this problem we have a huge medical bill, or our car needs a major repair or the kids want to learn a new sport. My life mantra is to love yourself as yourself, not as an adjusted version of reality– this makes it impossible for me to spend a large sum of money on my outward appearance unless there is absolutely nothing else anyone in my family is in need of at the moment.
I hope some day to post a happy ending paragraph here, a moment of clarity where I either learn to love my fur or make the move and get it taken care of. For now there is no neat bow in which to wrap this up or a funny one-liner to close on which highlights the personal growth. Instead there is me, a woman in her 30’s who has spent close to 20 years questioning the inverse relationship between beauty and hair.
Freedom Fridays are so cathartic, friends, you should try it. If you do, link up your blog in the comments so I can check it out and send you support and understanding.