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So…No Bikini Wax Then?

By Amalah

Hi Amy,
I actually have a question that I think you might not be able to help me with since I imagine that you have no experience with it. But! I hope that you will be able to help through your keen insight, razor wit, and network of intelligent ladies.
On to the issue at hand. When I was younger, I didn’t shave my underarms or my legs. I didn’t pluck my eyebrows. For a while (two years!), I didn’t even wear a bra. (I’m a d-cup!) I will pause while you collect yourself from your hiding place under your chair…
Now that I am getting older, I do want to start looking more professional and ladylike and put together, but I am torn. As you can guess, I was a motivated little activist who believed that beauty was invented to hold women down and make us subservient and inferior to men. How can we be strong women and business leaders when it takes us three hours just to get out the door in the morning?! Honestly, I still kind of feel that way.
And that is the problem.
I can’t seem to reconcile the fact that I think it’s ridiculous for women to have to shave their legs while men run around like hairy apes, just because women “aren’t supposed to be hairy,” (Yes, we are! Otherwise, the hair wouldn’t grow! Just like it does on a man!) with the fact that I do enjoy getting dressed up and looking nice. I like wearing fabulous shoes (Working at a shoe retailer was a bad move!) and cute outfits. I like my hair to look great, even if I have no idea how to make that happen. But the young, idealistic woman inside me is disgusted. Disgusted! That I would sell out to follow artificially constructed beauty norms just because I can’t handle having my own ideals anymore.
I don’t know what to do because it’s making me really unhappy. I feel like it’s a lose-lose situation, so I need to see some sort of silver lining, somewhere! I really hope you can help me; I’m at a loss. Oh, and I still haven’t been able to bring myself to shave my legs, if that inspires you to help me!
Also, here is a picture of my toy poodle in a Halloween costume because he is very cute and it may make my email less painful for you! And yes, my dog is wearing his devil’s cape as a skirt because my husband does not understand how costumes work! I can’t wait until we have kids for him to dress! Oh, did I mention that I have a husband? He never would have married me if I were the no-bra-wearing, non-armpit-shaving woman that I was 10 years ago. (In fairness, I would never have married him if he were still a smoker. Timing is everything!) He does wish I would shave my legs, but he never mentions it. I think having him around makes it even harder for me because I feel even more like I’m changing for the wrong reasons, namely that a MAN (ew! ick! evil!) wants me to.
Thank you in advance! And I’m sorry this is so long, geez!

Lothar.bmpWell! Isn’t this a nice change of pace? This question stumps me a little, honestly. Half of my brain is wondering why in the world you would want MY advice, when I have so clearly accepted the Gospel of Artificially Constructed Beauty Norms, and the other half of my brain has left the building. I think it’s cowering somewhere in the backyard. It does not like being stumped.
Let me start off with a story. Jason bought me an all-day spa package this past Valentine’s Day. All day! Massages and a facial and mani and pedi and just a glorious, delightful day of girlish pampering. While I was getting my nails done, a lesbian couple arrived and asked for pedicures. One woman looked oh. so. uncomfortable. She visibly recoiled when the technician told her to pick out a nail color and she stammered that she’d “just like some clear polish, please.”
Her partner looked oh. so. happy. She picked out her color and smiled from ear to ear as they settled into side-by-side chairs and soaked their feet in the jacuzzi. She thanked her girlfriend several times for agreeing to come. Her girlfriend — though it was obvious that this was her own personal hell on earth — just smiled back and held her hand, clearly happy because she’d made her love happy. It was the sweetest, most heartwarming thing ever.
Look, I shave my legs. (Most of the time, anyway. I mean, girlplease.) I like them shaved. My husband likes them shaved. I also like my husband’s face shaved and his back waxed before we go to the beach. (Oh, baby, I’m sorry.) (Also, whatever, you never read this column.) But he does these things because he wants to, not just because I like it. But I do like it. And ’round and ’round I go with this squishy circular logic that doesn’t really make much of a point other than to maybe suggest that sometimes we do things for other people AND ourselves and sometimes shaving is just shaving.
Your hair follicles are not the beginning and end of all that you once held dear. Sure, unshaven legs make a Statement, but you know what makes even more of a statement? The stuff you really DO. Going to work, following your dreams, working honorably and ethically, giving to charity, taking advantage of the opportunities our feminist sisters fought for, and just all around kicking ass and taking names. Mentor a teenage girl, volunteer at a women’s shelter, smash through that glass ceiling with your brilliant awesomeness –THAT’S fighting the good fight and holding true to your feminist ideals, and all of it can be done regardless of the state of your legs.
463px-Rosie_the_Riveter.jpgBut honestly, I don’t care if you decide to never ever shave your legs. It’s not like a weirded-out glance from a catty bitch like me should hold any weight in your world. But I also don’t care if you DO shave your legs. I wouldn’t think any less of you, because it just isn’t that big a deal. I know it is for you, right now, but…it just isn’t. It’s not a boob job or Botox. It’s just shaving your legs. Once more, with feeling: Your hair follicles are not the beginning and end of all that you once held dear. Dial back on the symbolism a little, and re-focus your sense of self and your belief system on those honest-to-goodness chay-yay-ange the world actions.
Give shaving a try, maybe. It won’t take three hours to get out the door, I promise. Most of us do the whole girly shebang in under an hour. I can get out the door in 15 minutes if I oversleep, and that still includes a swipe of the razor to my armpits. Maybe you’ll like shaving. Maybe your husband will like it. (And that’s OKAY! Doesn’t he ever do things just to make you happy? Don’t look at him as a representation of MEN, but just in the context of your own private give-and-take relationship. With the giving and the taking. That we all do.)
And if you don’t like it, well…it will totally grow back. Quickly.

Published April 11, 2007. Last updated April 11, 2007.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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