I came across a hair-related article the other day just crying out for my response. After all, I am the woman who shaves her head and lets the remainder of her body hair fend for itself - apart from one or two stray eyebrows, that is. (We all have our weaknesses.)Read Plucking Hell by Polly Vernon (The Observer, Sunday 15 January 2006) and you'll learn that Polly is an obsessive plucker. She finds the pain of extreme depilation far easier to cope with than the sight of her own sprouting leg hair. As an experiment, she allowed the hair on her legs to grow until it became all too terrifying and would "physically repulse anyone I show it to." After three and a half weeks she was desperate to shave once more.
I can relate to Polly - but only in an inverted way (no real surprise there, then!) I know exactly what it feels like to go beyond two weeks without the slide of clippers on my head. It's a cruel form of self-torture. I could never achieve three and a half weeks. But put a razor, hot wax, or cream anywhere near my legs, armpits (no! never the armpits!) or (ahem) elsewhere and I'll be fighting to keep the root in every follicle.
Yes, head-shaving is my preferred form of therapy. It keeps me shiny, inside and out. It's also very cheap. Just what are British women doing spending £280 million a year on hair removal? Polly seems to know:
On a more bog-standard and British level, when was the last time you saw a woman expose leg hair or armpit hair, or (heaven forfend!) an untended moustache, on the streets of the UK? The rare female celebrity who dares to venture in front of the paparazzi without first ensuring that every last trace of excess body hair has been plucked from her lithe form is roundly and publicly vilified.
I guess this must mean that women are depilating all over the UK in order to keep out of (or get into, in some cases) Hello, Heat or the News of the World. Just in case they turn into celebrities overnight, I suppose! (Well, anything's possible - just look at Chantelle on Celebrity Big Brother.)
I know, I know - there must be times it would be just as bad, or worse even, having the neighbours or your workmates observe that you're sprouting more than the average woman. But I've said it before, and I'll say it again, it's a pretty sad state of affairs when hair is understood to be the distinguishing measure of how much of a woman (or man) you are. It all depends where on the body you're looking, of course.
There is a suggestion in Polly Vernon's article that women have to remove more hair these days because we are becoming hairier. One of the ironies I see is that my leg hair is probably less rampant than most women's (were they to let it grow) if they have been shaving or using other depilatory methods for many years. Removing hair encourages hair growth - doesn't it? Or is that one of the myths our mothers used to stop us shaving too soon?
If women are becoming hairier surely it's because they keep plucking, scraping and ripping it off. It's the hair fighting back.
By the end of Polly's article I'm able to admit I have one thing in common with the pluckers. I like hair to be in its place. Velvet and cropped on my head. Unshaven elsewhere. I enjoy the different pleasures my natural body hair gives me. I'm never repulsed by leg hair poking out the bottom of a woman's trouser. I prefer a fluffy underarm on a woman. I think it's amazingly sexy. Each to their own. My hope would be that £280 million is being spent because every woman is genuinely determined to pleasure and enjoy her body in the way she desires it for herself; not because she is attempting to buy an image of femininity and public acceptance in a gender (how to be a woman)-obsessed society.
When was the last time you saw a woman expose leg hair or armpit hair? If it was a little warmer in the UK I'd be doing it every day. I can't wait till summer.