Friday, December 12, 2014

39. Body Hair

I hate to do re-posts, but I have to admit that there's no way I'll ever be able to top the initial way that I wrote about my leg hair while I was on the trail last year. So here it is again, in all its glory:


Hair is a funny thing. Women grow it all the time. SURPRISE. But there are countless industries based on the removal of said hair. I don’t really want to get into the feminism side of this, since you’re not here to see my soap box (which is good, because I'm a thru-hiker, so my soap box is empty because I am utterly filthy). But, the whole thing is a bit conflictual for me. Suffice it to say I believe that one can be a hairless feminist. The important part is that you find you hotter with or without hair, whatever your own preference is for making you want to make out with yourself more. Because really, isn’t that what’s important anyway?

Before I left on the trail, I lived in New York City. Everyone who’s NOT from NYC has this idea that you can get away with anything in New York. There is the magical land where everyone is crazier than the last person, so you can act like a total loon ball and people will say “Hey! Well, at least she’s not squatting in the middle of the intersection of 8th and 43rd, reading a newspaper and taking a poop.”
Au Contraire, my lovelies.

New York City is chock full of people who are teeming with PRIDE, and if you are deviant enough, you will be shunned. The people of this city do not want to associate with you, sit near you, nor make eye contact with you if you cross the thin line from being “fashionably eccentric” to “a freak.” In addition, they will openly mock you. Gleefully. Apparently, hairy legs don’t just cross that line, they leap over that line like an Olympic Hurdler, in a blur of fuzzy medal-winning glory.

I do need to qualify what I mean by HAIRY legs. I don’t have cute, soft peach fuzz. None of this: “D’awww, look at that little hippie girl!” Nay. My leg hair is the Kool-Aid Punch Bowl of the follicle world. It smashes through walls with the sheer audacity of its existence, sending children scattering and shrieking into the night like goats fleeing El Chupacabra. If you were Samuel L. Jackson, my leg hair would be the horde of silent, deadly velociraptors, which devour everything but your arm, and then leave said arm resting in such a place that it could be found later by the main heroine, like an April Fool’s joke of pure goddamn terror.

Clever girl.

Some combination of my genes made it such that hair grows on my body like the amazon rainforest, creating a veritable canopy, under which all sorts of fascinating and horrible creatures can thrive. However, due to some cruel cosmic joke, the hair on my head is like thin, wispy candyfloss, and I’m 99% sure that I will become as bald as a monk by the time I'm 35. At that point, I will wear lots of bandanas. Or rainbow clown afro wigs. I haven't decided.

I didn’t leave myself unshorn because of an attempt to make a statement. I wasn’t trying to evoke any sort of emotions or provoke any thought. No. It’s because my hair is made of thick, NASA-grade titanium. Though I have tried every single shaving product that has ever existed, whenever I do shave my legs, I get huge patches of gristly, ingrown hairs and red splotches. Furthermore, it grows faster than acne on an adolescent. I would shave in the morning, and by 3pm, there would be visible hair and my legs would feel like shark skin. It simply wasn’t worth it. And I didn’t mind having hairy legs, so I figured, why would it matter?

As it turns out in New York, it did matter, and I was verbally assaulted and physically threatened on several occasions precisely because of my legs. Also, they were really hot in the summer. So I rid myself of the leg hair by shaving or waxing in the summer, and just let the hair grow in the winter. When I decided I was going to hike the AT, I realized with great delight that I was going to be living in the woods and no one would expect me to have hairless legs. In fact, perhaps my gorilla skin would be revered, perhaps something of which I could be proud.

And proud I was, my friends. The entire 3 months of the trail I have yet to meet anyone, male or female, with hairier legs than mine. Who cares if I felt a little bit like a Greek Satyr, balancing my human body awkwardly on a pair of furry goat legs? So what if people would mistake me for a man? I had sincerely no choice - having access to a potential shower at most once a week makes it impossible to shave, as I would then have to suffer the aforementioned red welts and stubble immediately afterward and for days on end.


Turns out that I was correct. My leg hair was admired by other hikers. It was pretty great to go from a place where my leg hair got me physical threats of violence, to a place where grown men would look at me and say "Wow," with utter respect. 

I like my legs hairy. I also like them shaved. I like them however is most convenient and fun for me at the time. If you're a hiker, you don't have to worry about anyone giving you any crap for your hair. All the men have beards like prophets, and all the women have legs like neanderthals. Well, because the universe is unfair, most women grow dainty peach fuzz on their legs. But even though I was an outlier, I was respected even more for it.

Clever Girl

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