CW: Mental health, body shaming
A couple of weeks ago I wrote this very personal piece on being hairy and Indian. The reason I choose that title (even though I know that there’s a larger group of cultures out there that suffer from this), is because I didn’t want to speak out for other cultures. I only understood my issue and how it was reflected in my culture. I appreciated that lots of people who aren’t Indian contacted me to say they went through the same problem. It’s interesting that the line ‘you’re just an Indian girl’ can be translated in many cultures.
Mostly, I was shocked with the amount of people that responded positively to it, and more so, those who related. I decided to only post the article on Twitter: I’ve felt a large disconnect with Facebook recently. Strange as that’s meant to house my real life friends, and yet that’s where I feel most uncomfortable.
I instantly got a flood of messages, my DM’s lit up and my inbox started pinging. It took me a moment to build the courage to look at the messages and the thing that touched me the most was ‘thank you for writing this’. I felt an unintended connect through a confession about my disconnect, and it was beautiful.
I promised I would write something to follow up about how men have previously reacted to my hairiness. This has been far more difficult, because these people have all been in my life and whether I have responded to them in the same way I felt inside, is something to be considered.
I’ve spent so much time making excuses to men about why I can’t take my clothes off, why the lights will never be on, why their hands are moved to certain areas of my body…that it became second nature to me. My hands would automatically move to cover, to brush off, no matter what situation I was in. I have done it to myself, when alone because of the shame I felt. In my own room, where there is no one to make me feel bad, but I believed everyone hated my body, even myself.
Interestingly, most men don’t care about me being unshaved as long as they’re ramming rhythmically into me, looking away to ignore my worried looks and odd attempts at positions where I could hide easier, more often then none, ignoring the discomfort and continuing the ramming. What I discovered is that as soon as we were alone, they didn’t care about what I looked like. Whereas, when I was in public, they thought hairy arms on show, a bit of a moustache, sideburns, prickly legs and so on, where far from okay.
Don’t get me wrong; I’ve had many interesting comments at the state of undress:
‘I’ve never slept with anyone hairier than me before’
‘Ugh, it’s like sandpaper, for fucks sake’
‘I don’t think I’ll be able to find where I put it in hahahaha’
‘This is unhygienic’
‘I have a razor in the bathroom, could you use it?’
‘Just give me a blowjob instead’
‘Just life your skirt and keep the rest of your clothes on’
I’ve had someone once walk out on me because there was another girl at the bar we were at ‘who probably was completely shaved’ but if not, he’ll come back. I’m happy to say I’ve never seen him again.
My relationship with sex changed from preparing and maintaining to hiding and hoping.
I stopped enjoying sex. In fact, I became scared of it. Relationships suffered. I believed that despite my high sex drive, I couldn’t fulfil my needs with another person unless I went through the pain of waxing every 2-3 weeks. I couldn’t afford the high maintenance of being sexually active, leading to tears and depression.
Men were a large part of the construct of my anxieties and body disorders. I found women more welcoming: sexual encounters would turn into an examination of differences and occasionally sharing a secret hair removal tip passed down from generations (shaving with butter was my favourite and tastiest one). A girl I had a sexual relationship with first instigated intimacy by discussing nipple hair. That's never happened with a man before. Quite possibly in the history of human existence.
My affair with men became destructive and I found myself in an abusive relationship. I already hated myself at this point, and this boy led me to the worst years of my life. When he called me names and told me I was worth nothing, I agreed. I let him cheat on me, because the other girls could probably make him happier. I would let him lie to me. I remember when he first told me I was disgusting, and I remember agreeing and going to the bathroom and shaving so he would be happier. He once told me that we could probably be a serious relationship if I got a nose job. I didn’t realise until then that we weren’t in a serious relationship. I don’t speak about him often, I feel like I was a different person then and sometimes I’m ashamed of her. I need to remind myself that the growth I’ve accomplished since then is far more impressive than any shame I could possible feel.
He once left me in a drug dealer's house (we were temporarily living there), to move in with his rich uncle, and I still went back to him. I believed I managed to get someone interested enough to consider being with me and that's the best I would get. Despite all my sexual experiences beforehand, despite any interest from any one else, I didn't believe I could do better. When we finally ended, I felt stronger, but dived straight into another relationship. I was so terrified of being alone for even a moment, in case it lasted forever. I began to grow in this relationship, and became a stronger person, but I needed to be alone.
I had a panic attack and broke into tears when an ex playfully wouldn’t leave the room so I could get changed. A relationship like that now would destroy me. I’m now in a relationship where my issues with my body are known and aren’t exacerbated. If I seem uncomfortable, he doesn’t push anything on me. If I say no to something he says ‘okay’ not ‘but I don’t mind, you look fine’. This is the biggest mistake men have made in the past. A man’s judgement has caused this discomfort, which has created deep seeded hatred and shame inside myself. I grew to hate my body because of men, I didn’t grow to hate how men see my body.
My body disorder wasn't about sex anymore, it was about being alive and human in this world. The hardest part is the fear that someone sees hair. The fact that I go out without removing hair from my arms is seen as making a statement. It shouldn't be a statement, it should just be.
Also, for those who asked: I've used a Phillips IPL machine, and it's worked wonders on me.
(Originally posted on writer's personal blog)