Women Fight Back Against Body Hair Removal

We know you’ve thought about it (because we have!). Decades into the daily fight with face fuzz, leg prickles and sneaky little tendrils peeking out where they shouldn’t, what if we made peace with our body hair and just let it all hang out? Five daring women accepted our challenge. Here’s what happens when you stop mowing the lawn

by Holly Crawford, Andrea Atkins, Amanda Robb, Paula Derrow and Amy Zavatto
Photograph: Phillip Toledano

“I know,” I replied ruefully. “But what do you think about my armpits? Do you hate them?”

My husband turned off the light, ending the discussion with a kiss. When we came up for air, he said, “Darlin’, as long as the hair doesn’t get long enough to braid, I’m fine with it.”

I took a blade to my underarms the very next day. Gratified as I was by my husband’s reaction, I felt more feminine minus the curly brown tendrils. Then I put the pink plastic razor down. Would I shave again tomorrow? Maybe not. Maybe next week. After all, I was decades past the catty meanness of 11-year-old girls. I had friends now, and a husband who loved me, hairy or not.

Paula Derrow is a freelance writer and editor of the anthology Behind the Bedroom Door. She divides her time between New York City and Connecticut.

Pubic School
by Amy Zavatto

When it comes to feminine practices, my habits lie somewhere between mildly old-fashioned and ritualistic. I still wear slips, even with a jean skirt; I don’t leave my house without lipstick; and I always, always shave: underarms, legs, bikini line. Even in the dead of this past unforgiving winter, I maintained the holy trinity of personal care. I do this the way I brush my teeth twice a day or condition my hair; it’s just part and parcel of standard grooming, the way I present myself to the world. It’s like wearing nice underwear in case you get in an accident: You never know when you’ll need to make a good impression.

The notion of leaving my nether regions untended for this More story was particularly chilling because, three weeks into the experiment, I would be headed to Florida to visit my father. When I told my sister about my assignment, she said, “Oh my God, that’s horrible! I could never.”

On my first day in Key West, I pulled on my suit (a one-piece with a plunging neckline) and stood in front of a mirror. Spiky dashes of black hair were visible high up on my inner thighs. SOS! What was I thinking! Too late to back out now. Throwing on a cover-up, I grabbed a towel and thwack-thwacked my way to the pool area at the condo complex where I was staying, trying to quell the rising panic. Four men at the tail end of middle age glanced languidly in my direction as I pushed through the gate. I took a deep breath and whipped off my robe. Was that a stare? Maybe. Suddenly, I felt incredibly alone, and oddly suspect. What did I think an untended bikini line said about me, exactly? That I’m careless? Dirty? Lazy? Unattractive? All these words pricked my consciousness as needles do skin. And the answer was yes, actually, it made me feel all those things. Uncool. Clueless. Of questionable hygiene. But another voice piped up valiantly: Stop being ridiculous. Who cares? It’s hair; everyone has it!

Day two it rained, and day three was overcast: Sweet relief! I had an excuse to stay covered. But the sun came out again on day four. Back at the pool, I spread my towel next to a group of women. One—petite, blonde and golden—wore an eensy gray-and-white striped bikini and was groomed to show off its minuscule allure. Normally, I’d have coveted her sleek abs and tiny hips, but this time my envy zeroed in on the dainty V at the top of her thighs: a perfect, tanned, hair-free bikini line. I walked around, said hello, fussed with my chair’s position, on high alert for any signs of judgment. But there were none—nothing overt, at least. Still, I had the sensation of being that unrelentingly dorky kid at recess who doesn’t realize she’s accidentally tucked her skirt into her tights after going to the bathroom.

First published in the June 2014 issue

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