When a man I rather liked called last week to see if I fancied a drink, my first thought was that it sounded great and I’d love to see him. This thought was immediately followed by one about body hair and how I was going to get rid of it. After I came off the phone, I spent half an hour thinking about when would be the best time to pluck the hair round my nipples. If I did it right that minute like I wanted to, it might have grown back by the time Saturday arrived, but the area round any ingrown hairs I’d made red would have healed.
On the other hand, if I left it till the day before there would be no hair but there might be some slightly reddened spots. In the time spent thinking about whether to pluck or not to pluck I could have done all manner of things: sorted my accounts so I could be the same smug cow I was last year when I filed my tax return the day it was due; sent off emails to MPs I’m hoping will support a ban on Page 3, a significant step in the fight against the exploitation of women’s bodies for profit; cleared out my wardrobe and filled a bag with clothes for the charity shop round the corner; cleaned the grillpan.
At a push, I might well have secured world peace. But no, I thought about nipple hair instead. Of course, once I’d started thinking about my breasts, I started wondering about my legs, upper lip, chin and, the subject of many anxious dreams, my bikini line. I decided I’d better take a pass at my legs with the electric shaver – or the lawn mower – because they were likely to blunt anything with a blade in their current state of hairiness. I gave myself an attractive shaving rash on my thighs that refused to go down despite being smeared, hourly, with hypercal cream. Inexpertly waxing my chin left a dry, itchy patch I tried, unsuccessfully, not to rub till it became this little red triangle of inflamed and peeling skin. Uncomfortable and unattractive, yes, but I had no whiskers.
My bikini line I’d leave au naturale, I decided. It would be my statement – my I’m free, wild and couldn’t give a shit about the beauty standard statement. Really, I was so thoroughly bored I couldn’t be bothered doing anything with it and I’ve never had much luck trying to make it look smaller, neater, cuter – whatever it is we’re supposed to do with a small and unremarkable patch of hair. I tried waxing it once and it made me cry and accidentally step on my rat’s tail (see The painful process of finding a mate for the unlovely details).
Shaving always causes an itchy rash and I have to sort of wriggle and squirm at bus stops/in the queue at Tesco/waiting at the bar to get my thighs to rub together because I can’t just take off my knickers to stop them chafing. I once tried taking it all off with cream just to see what the Hollywood was all about. It was horrible: I looked down and saw a child’s vagina. I can’t remember what my boyfriend at the time thought – whether he liked it or not – but I’d look every time I went to the loo, hoping it would have grown back a bit. Eventually, it did and I stopped obsessing about what was or wasn’t going on in my knickers. My pubic hair had taken back control of my nether regions. I felt womanly again. Hear me roar.
When Saturday night arrived, I decided to wear no knickers because there’s supposed to be something sexy about going commando. Maybe it’s blissful without the chill of an October night up your skirt and your period starting early. I don’t know. What I do know is that a little perspective tends to make for a more interesting time. My follicles will do whatever they want – if I’m to have hair on my thighs and a few on my breasts, then that’s where they’ll grow. There’s no point being a body hair vigilante because it’s a losing battle that requires copious amounts of time, effort and money. Smooth legs feel nice, but they’re just legs. This is not something to obsess over, even if for no other reason than that it’s horribly boring. The date was lovely.