My mother told me, “Never shave the hairs on your legs,” when those hairs were the faintest fur of my girlhood. “More will grow back, and darker too,” she warned me. She knew, she’d been there, and she was annoyingly accurate.
More parts of me have started to resemble parts of her. Even if I could’ve stopped the thriving forests of dark hairs, I sure as hell couldn’t have halted the large breasts and prominent nose. A small part of me says these traits are sacred and special; they’ve been passed through generations of the women who survived, the ancestors whose blood flows through my own children’s veins. A large stupid part of me tells me to FIX ALL THE FLAWS.
It’s a tragedy that my flesh is a memorial that I dream of desecrating, reforming in an acceptable shape by way of scalpel and stitch. This is bullshit, and I know it, but I still might do it. If trauma and shame are passed through generations and stored in our bodies, is it so surprising women are plucking, shaving and ripping out parts of themselves deemed unacceptable, but trying to spare their daughters the same fate?
I study the hairs on my little girl’s legs. Truly, they are like spun gold. Is there an adequate answer when your child, your daughter, asks you why you’re removing the hairs from your legs, despite the blood flowing from the tiny nicks the razor leaves on your skin? Is there an adequate answer when she asks you why she shouldn’t do it too?
How could I make a little copy of myself and then explain to her that the way we look is so awful that I paid someone to cut open my face and slice some of my nose away? How could I then tell her that the beauty of her face when she sleeps brings a tear to my eye? What can I do when celebration of these traits is too much to ask but their decimation is too much to bear?
It would be my greatest victory to help my children avoid any bullshit body issues, and to live happily in their own gorgeous, glorious skin. My mum said, “Never shave the hairs on your legs,” but she meant, “Don’t get caught up in the awful cycle that I did: the cycle of shaving hairs, growing hairs, hating hairs, shaving hairs…those little blonde wisps won’t look so bad to you when you’re older.”
I will say, “Never shave the hairs on your legs,” but inside I will be screaming, “You’re perfect, even better than perfect, but I don’t want you to strive to be perfect because nothing good comes from that. Do as I say, not as I do, because I’m already damaged and unable to see features instead of flaws on any more than a superficial level. I’ve let you down by being so dissatisfied by the body that delivered you to me. I love you, please forgive me.
Words and image: Lynsey Hansford