I have a giant bush. It’s not giant in the grand scheme of things. If I was sitting in front of you at a concert, my bush would not infringe upon your view of the stage, the lasers ricocheting back and forth through a massive bramble of hair. It’s not like when I take a shower my feet don’t get wet. I can ride an escalator with relative safety. When I take my pants off I don’t have to give nearby windows a wide berth for fear of busting them out with the elastic release of a cluster bomb of pubes. (Although, it’s probably not the best idea to get undressed in front of windows in the first place on account of curious passersby and your neighbor’s dog Bigby, who is a known pervert.) I say that I have a giant bush because I feel that at this time, in this country, any pubic hair at all could be categorized as giant. A “giant bush” and “just a bush” are synonymous (and very scientific) terms. The choice alone to have body hair is giant.
Now, I know you’re wondering if I am a true American hero for sporting this big old bush. The answer is yes, I am. Thank you for asking. There are some truly amazing women in the running for the Best Gigantic Beaver/Bravest Women Who Speak Out/Feminist Role Model of the Year Award; it’s an honor just to be nominated. [Side note: For those of you who benefit from visual aids, I will be peppering several pictures of my bush and myself throughout this essay.]
I don’t want anyone to come away from this essay thinking that I’m telling women what to do with their body or their hair. Telling women not to shave would be just as bad as telling them to shave. Women should do whatever makes them feel good with their bodies, whether it be growing your armpit hair so thick you can’t lay your arms flat against your sides or buffing your vag until it’s as smooth as a polished rock. Stick some little googly eyes on it if that’s what makes you feel good! Call her Sheryl! [Side note: Do not call her Sheryl.] What I would like to talk about is why we shave. Why do we assume that sexy (normal, even) must equal hairless?
I know exactly when and why I started shaving. I was in 7th grade and I didn’t want the other girls on the basketball team to make fun of the hair on my legs. That was it. That was the whole reason. I felt ashamed that I wasn’t doing the same thing that other girls were doing. Ironically, the only reason I was on the basketball team in the first place was because it was what other girls were doing. I hated basketball and I was fucking terrible. I’m not exaggerating this for the story. Once during an away game, I was just running down the court by myself, purposefully avoiding any ball action, and I tripped on my own feet and smashed face-first into the hardwood. “Foul…” I mumbled into the polished floor. I sat out the rest of the game while my eyebrow swelled to Quasimodo-esque proportions and it was for sure not even my worst game of the season. As I sat on the bench the eye that wasn’t swollen shut surveyed the row of legs to either side of me, tallying those shaved and unshaven, covetously admiring the stubble on my neighbor’s knees. Looking down at the light sprinkling of hair on my own legs made me feel more embarrassed than when I was lying face down on the court five minutes prior, and a group of kids supporting the opposing team had literally pointed at me and laughed. Finally I worked up the courage to ask my mother if I could start shaving my legs. Hesitantly, she agreed. She gave me a quick Don’t Flay Your Leg Skin Off, Please crash course, and then handed me my very own disposable pink razor. (Pro tip: Always buy the pink ones. A lot of people will tell you, “The pink razors are exactly the same as the grey men’s razors.” And to that I say, “Yeah, except they cost more. I’m worth it!”)
And so that was it. After that I never really asked for advice or permission when it came to shaving. When hair started to grow under my arms, naturally I just started to shave them too. [Side note: I am almost 24 years old and I have never had hairy armpits in my whole life. Isn’t that kind of fucked up? Half a year ago I tried to grow them out but they did not bloom in to the lush lady gardens I had dreamt they would. They just looked like pubes and I figured I already had pubes so I didn’t really need more of the armpit variety so I shaved them off.] My first rite of womanhood, set into motion because I was embarrassed by the natural state of my body. If you think about it, becoming ashamed of our bodies is probably the ultimate rite of passage for young women. What better encapsulates the transition to womanhood than a young girl abruptly realizing that her body is actually a fugly garbage heap that has somehow been stuffed into an Aeropostale hoodie? I think Britney Spears said it best when she sang, “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman. Also I feel like my arm fat is super loose, my breath smells like a dead onion, my nipples are crazy big (like not pepperoni big, personal pizza big), I’ve got bags under my eyes, a massive zit on my underbutt, my eyelashes are too short and my eyebrows are missing on the sides because I think my headgear rubbed them off when I was a kid, my belly button looks remarkably like a cat’s asshole, my feet are gigantic, teeth look like a pile of corn, nose hairs grow like weeds, and when I went skinny dipping last summer I think a leach swam into my vagina to lay its eggs.” At least I’m pretty sure those are the lyrics… You get the idea.
Fast-forward to my freshman year of high school when I am listening to two senior boys congratulate each other on how they would never sleep with a girl with a bush. “I just couldn’t do it,” one laughed. “I know. That’s why I’d be nervous to go to Europe. All the girls over there are so hairy,” the other said. “Oh, sick!” his friend replied. I sat there, suddenly very conscious of the apparently European style pubic hair I had hidden under my jeans. I hadn’t even kissed a boy at this point and now I was wondering if I could discreetly give myself a Brazilian using household items. If I could go back in time and talk to myself, I would say, “Oh wow. Yes, those dudes are so swamped with pussy. Of course they turn away the girls with hair. Just as an organizational tool. There’s not enough hours in the day to bang all the ladies in line for that hot dick they’re serving up. After the girls with bushes, they tell the girls with weird moles to go home, then girls with wonky knees or elbows, and after that there’s still too much poon to sort through within the fiscal year. Oh wait, NO. Obviously not. They are 17. They saw two videos on PornHub before their mothers revoked their internet privileges and now they think they’re real hot shit. Also, Turd #1’s huge gauges will not stay cool for long and his earlobes will end up looking like a couple of worms relaxing in hammocks. Furthermore, Turd #2 will grow up to be a Republican so don’t even worry about it.” Anyways, I started shaving. A couple times, I tried shaving completely but I always thought it kind of looked like the chest burster from Alien, minus the teeth obviously. Eventually, I went with sort of a wide landing strip, which I maintained for several years, four or five times a week painstakingly shaving all the cracks and crevices of my vulva, enduring endless dry skin and razor burn before I had this realization: “Oh wait, I don’t have to do this.” I will still shave around the edges, just so it doesn’t look like Weird Al Yankovic wearing a ski mask when I’m in my swimsuit, but for the most part, that was the end. I’ve had a bush ever since. And may I say, I highly recommend it.
So, I would encourage you to consider why we shave. Why we do any of the cosmetic things that we do. Do we do it because that is what makes us look good and feel good? Or do we do it because we feel like we have to? Because we will be shamed or stigmatized if we do not. Because we will be making a political statement whether we want to or not, just by coloring slightly outside the lines of societal beauty standards. If it is the latter ladies, then may your bushes grow as tenaciously as your friendships and as boundlessly as your dreams. [Side note: As long as it makes you feel good.]