Editor's Letter: The Hirsute of Happiness

Lesley Jane Seymour on the pressure to keep up with body hair removal

by Lesley Jane Seymour
Photograph: Ari Michelson

One day on playground in fifth grade, a classmate pointed at my forearm with a look of distaste on his face. “What’s all that?” he asked, staring at the dark hairs he saw there. “Are you a gorilla girl?” It didn’t help that he said this while I was standing alone on the edge of the playground feeling all but abandoned by my girlfriends. I had come back from the summer the same old me, but over those few months they had mysteriously metamorphosed from goofball buddies willing to fart and snort milk out of their noses into giggling butterflies who flitted around the boys. I sensed a growing chasm, one that seemed to be about all things physical. For example: Still flat as a board, I was wearing a kid’s undershirt and spanky pants while my buddies swanned around the locker room in new matching bikini-and-bra sets. So that boy’s observation was as wounding as a poison dart.

I ran home and shaved every hair on my body!

Hair, of course, was not the problem. Hormones were. I was just a late bloomer. But the message was clear—shave or be considered unfeminine—and 17,155 days later, I am exhausted. Though I switched for several decades to waxing my arms (5 o’clock arm stubble felt gross when I had to wear sleeveless evening gowns to events as beauty director at Glamour), the razor made me feel hyper clean. Another razor advantage: I could shave whenever I wanted, whereas hair needs time to regrow before the wax can once again grip-and-rip. Though innumerable aestheticians with Russian names tried to lure me onto their tables for the ne plus ultra of hair removal—the bikini wax extraordinaire known as the Brazilian—I decided early on that waxing my arms was painful enough. I couldn’t even imagine how I’d howl if they ripped the wax off down there!

The good news is that, just as those waxing women promised, there is such a thing as “traction alopecia,” meaning that, thanks to years of waxing my arms regularly, I now need to do it only a few times a year. The bad news is that as my estrogen level declines, wild-card hairs have popped out on my face. So the battle continues. Which made me wonder: What if we all just put down our razors and tweezers? Would we be mocked in the streets for excessive hairiness? Far too chicken
to go on a shave strike myself, I paid five brave and hairy writers to do it. To find out what is gained when less hair is lost, read “Just Let It Grow,” in our June 2013 issue. And file this letter under TMI.

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First published in the June 2014 issue

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