Who knew a simple family trip to the waterpark, once a certain source of anxiety and self-consciousness, could turn into an act of radical self-acceptance?
My Personal Revolution Was Unintentional
Having a little time off of work between Christmas and New Year’s, my husband and I packed up our kiddos (a 3.5-year-old and an 18-month-old) and headed out for a few days of “rest and relaxation” on our first vacation since becoming a family of four. Seeing as we live in the Pacific Northwest, with its notoriously gloomy winters, we chose to visit a family-branded indoor waterpark. (You probably know the one.)
Upon arrival at the hotel/waterpark, we were early and couldn’t check-in. No problem. Assuming I was fully prepared, we had planned to play in the water first, bringing along a bag of all the necessities ready to go for water play fun times.
Now, it wasn’t my aim to test the progressive bounds of social acceptance of the feminine form, at least, not consciously. However, as I changed into my swimsuit, I realized something rather important. I had not shaved… in ages.
Mostly it was due to it being winter and my perpetual state of wearing leggings. And even in the warmer months, I rarely shave above the knee unless it’s a VERY special occasion, like a pool party. Don’t get me started on my underarms. I forget those ladies for months on end.
I should probably mention, I’m rather furry by nature, literally. While I inherited thick, dark locks of luscious hair atop my crown, I was gifted the same on my legs and arms (thanks Dad). Add a rather pale skin tone, and my body hair is rather hard to miss. Although there’s certainly nothing wrong with the hair that we are naturally born with, a lifetime of the societal assumption that women should not appear to have these traits does a bit of a number on one’s self-esteem.
I realized I had two options.
I could refuse to change until I drove elsewhere, purchased a razor, waited to gain access to a room, and shave myself to become “presentable”.
I could just go about my business, enjoying my time with my family, without regard to the natural pretense of hair on my body.
I chose the latter.
Uncertain at first, I waited for the looks of disapproval or disgust over my body hair, but nothing happened.
Well, nothing happened to anyone else at least. I’ll admit, I was not entirely confident walking out of that bathroom stall. But after a little while, I had the stark realization that no one (literally not a soul) cared about my body hair. I was probably supposed to feel relief (which I did), but, moreover, it felt like gaining the freedom to just be myself and truly enjoy the time I had with my family.
This had me thinking, why did I even care in the first place?
I have PCOS, a medical condition that affects my hormones. Namely, I have higher testosterone levels than most women, and as a result, an increase in facial hair (and perhaps other parts of my body, too). As someone born into a hairy disposition, I have spent a great deal of time, money, and worry making sure to keep my body hair in check. Waxing my eyebrows, shaving my legs and arm, even going through several rounds of laser hair removal ON MY FACE!
Everything was in response to feeling like I didn’t “fit” into the societal female aesthetic. I had spent so long feeling like I couldn’t be seen until I was (at least presented as) hair-free.
We know that parenthood changes our priorities.
Maybe this was just my breakthrough. It took a couple years to conceive my first child (thanks again, PCOS). I grew and birthed two babies in two years. One of those births was after falling and breaking my ankle, rendering me unable to walk with a newborn and toddler at home.
So yeah, why should I care at all about a little body hair at this point?
Perhaps, I was in the right place.
I cannot stress enough, this was a family waterpark. There were kids everywhere, which meant there were a lot of moms, too. I saw them and recognized a familiar uncomfortableness. Bodies that weren’t the same shape they were before babies came along.
Many of them were dealing with similar feelings. I could see it in the way they angled their bodies and the way they intentionally tried not to draw attention. I overheard bits of conversation requesting that they NOT be included in any photographs.
And I realized we’re all dealing with stuff here. While I expanded my comfortability with myself, it’s certainly not perfect. Sure, I couldn’t care less about my hairy legs at this point, but I still worry about the hair on my face. Incremental progress is still progress.
I wasn’t internally trying to make a statement or push myself. I was simply unprepared and decided it wasn’t worth missing out on time with my family. In a roundabout way, I think that’s called growth.