How Not Shaving My Hairy Hands Taught Me To Love Myself For Who I Am

I am Turkish and my Eastern European/Middle Eastern heritage is very evident through my darker physical features, including my hair. I don’t just mean the dark brown hair on my head or my super thick leg hair, though, but also the wispy brown hair on my hands and fingers. Of course, I completely realize that most human skin is covered in hair — even if it fair or microscopic — so it's likely that many folks have hair on their hands and fingers. Mine just happens to be particularly dark and thick. While I can’t complain about the hair on my head (I’ve always been quite fond of its natural color and texture), I always feared that my body hair was somehow odd.

As an elementary school student, I often got picked on for of being hairy (kids suck, guys). A lot of my peers didn't start growing leg or arm hair until early middle school, but I started growing heavier tufts in the third and fourth grade. Going to school in a rural town in Maryland, I definitely stood out from the other kids. It wasn’t just my dark eyes and my olive skin, though, but also my hairy legs and arms.

My older sister was in middle school herself at the time, so thanks to her I caught on to shaving my legs and underarms pretty quickly to avoid the inevitable teasing. It wasn’t until I saw my sister plucking the dark hairs on her hands, however, that I thought about inspecting my fingers for the same hair. When I looked, there it was: Hand and finger hair in all its glory.

I obviously wasn’t thrilled by this discovery, and hoped that by a stroke of magic it would all fall off in my sleep. Don't get me wrong: I love my culture immensely. But my hairy father (sorry, dad) definitely passed on his dominant hair genes to both my sister and me. Even though I initially hated the hair on my hands, however, I couldn’t stand watching my sister take time out of her day to pluck the locks on her fingers. The whole practice just seemed crazy and a little too extreme.

Of course, the things everyone needs to do to their bodies to remain comfortable and happy vary individual to individual. I don't fault my sister in any way for plucking, because that's what was right for her. That being said, my sis's seemingly painful plucking practices encouraged me to embrace this part of myself rather than get rid of it. Considering I used to be a severe nail biter, I also knew my hands were terribly damaged anyway, so I didn’t put forth any effort into making them more traditionally pretty. My nail beds would inevitably be bleeding the next day anyway, so what would a little hair added to the equation actually do?

My sister, on the other hand, was concerned about showcasing pretty rings on her long, lean fingers. She wanted to be able to take photos of her hands and post them to social media, adorned with sparkling gold jewelry of course. While she definitely had to put forth a lot of time and effort to achieve that, she did it nonetheless. Because, you know, it made her happy.

When I look at my hands, though, I see scars where I cut and nicked myself. I see calluses from climbing too many monkey bars when I was little. I see pulled cuticles and the occasional ripped nail bed (I admit, it’s still a little bit of a bad habit). But the last thing that I see is my hand or finger hair.

Although I do remove my leg hair and my armpit hair through shaving, never once did I think to shave my hands or my fingers. It's a decision I totally stand by to this day. In a way, my hands are the canvases of my experiences — of all the doors I slammed closed too fast and too hard, and all of the nerves and anxiety I have experienced. The tiny hairs are just an addition to that... an addition to what makes me, me.

I am a hairy person. So what? Sure, it might not make for the most traditionally pretty fingers in the world, but my hair is my own.

If you have anything bad to say about it, well, just talk to the (hairy) hand.

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Images: Melodi Erdogan