As with any extreme change your body goes through, growing out your body hair is a roller coaster of emotions — from the trickiness of the decision to sticking through it and becoming comfortable and happy with your new sense of self. Unlike a bad haircut — when friends, family members, and strangers usually tiptoe around telling you their honest opinions — many folks won't have any qualms about telling you what they think of your growing strands. Maybe it's because of body hair's links to feminism. Or maybe it's just because it's still an unconventional (and highly noticeable) choice for female or feminine-presenting bodies.
My advice is to stay strong and ride out the bad emotions because the outcome is totally worth it. Whether your reasons are purely medical — folliculitis is hell, after all — totally feminist, or a simple matter of personal preference, accepting your body for how it comes naturally often yields a completely new level of joy.
None of this is to say that you can't be a feminist without growing out your body hair. Some of us do, some of us don't, and something as insignificant as shaving shouldn't be representative of your social justice activism. Either way, the choice is often an emotional one. Before going for it, you might want to have a grasp on the kinds of emotions and issues you're going to deal with along the way. No matter what, though, at least it will be interesting watching yourself change. Here are the seven emotional stages of growing out your body hair.
1. Preliminary Worry
I have pretty bad anxiety and I used to — and still occasionally do — wonder what people must think of my hairy bod. It's impossible not to notice the glances coming your way whenever your underarms or legs are exposed, and those glances can really tear you down sometimes. Don't feel bad about worrying beforehand. It takes guts to adopt an IDGAF attitude, but you kind of have to. (Unless you're happy to wear tights all summer.)
2. A Brainstorm Of Explanations
When people ask about your motives, you have to be prepared. Sometimes I've blamed skin conditions, sometimes I've been upfront about my feminist values, and sometimes I've been honest about my sheer laziness. Brainstorming and readying some prepared answers can make the sudden questioning about your body much easier to handle.
3. The Actual Pain
This will likely only be brief, but for some parts of your body (you know which ones I mean) growing back body hair can really itch and be downright painful. Make your last shave a pampered one to avoid irritation after shaving. It'll all be worth it once it's fully grown out and you're covered in the softest of downy hairs. But getting there will undoubtedly cause some emotional (and physical) agitation.
4. The Oddness
In the beginning, you might feel disconnected from yourself. Looking down and seeing a bush or feeling your leg hairs brush against each other is definitely disconcerting at first, but soon you will get used to it and love the difference in your body.
5. Dealing With Strangers
In my old job at a fast fashion store, two teenagers stood next to the till once and tried to Snapchat my leg hair while I was serving customers. I lost it, shouted until they left the store, and (hopefully) they learned their lesson. Depending on how hairy you are — and how noticeable your body hair is — the reactions you get are going to be different. Try to get used to them and even get over them, because you probably can't afford a fight with every person who looks at you funny.
6. Dealing With Friends And Family
This totally depends on your own friends or family, of course, but I've been the butt of my fair share of jokes thanks to my body hair. It's normally all in good fun, but it can be difficult to realize that some people — including those you love — will never understand why you're being so "unfeminine." Try not to let this be such an issue or cause of upset. At the end of the day, being the target of another family joke doesn't have to yield any longterm harm.
7. Self Love
As strong as the emotions you have to deal with leading up to this point will be, the payoff is so much stronger. From my experience, finding love and acceptance in how your body comes naturally is incomparable to any other feeling.
If you do embark on hairy adventures, but then decide to give up and shave — whether it's due to societal pressure or just because you love the feel of new sheets on silky legs — don't let it affect your self worth. We all have different preferences when it comes to the way we present and maintain our bodies. But if you manage to make it through the entire process of growing out your body hair, then I hope you experience the surge of confidence that comes from having legs as hairy as a dad's.