So I was talking to my inlaws the other day, with the spawn in tow. Suddenly, she came up to me, interrupting our conversation to shove her foot in my lap and exclaim, “Mommy! I have hairy legs!”
“Do I have to shave them?”
“No, you’re too young for that.”
“Will I have to shave them when I’m a grown-up?”
Both my sister in law and I answered at the same time. “No.”
But SIL added, “No, never shave. Go and get waxed, that’s so much better.”
I said, “Actually, she doesn’t have to wax either, if she doesn’t want to.”
That’s when my charming mother in law joined the conversation, scoffing and saying, “Yeah, then she’ll look like your sister.”
Now those of you who have been readers for awhile may remember me mentioning that my sister is a dirty, unwashed hippie. Which I wouldn’t make fun of, if she wasn’t the most confrontational person on the fucking planet.
“My problem with my sister is that she doesn’t bathe,” I told them. “I don’t care about her hair. Lots of women don’t shave. And more and more are stopping. It’s kind of like this big thing.”
My father in law laughed and said, “Good luck with ever finding a man to put up with that.”
Okay, so there’s something you have to understand about my father in law. He’s literally the friendliest, most talkative person you will ever meet. And he’s remarkably open-minded for a conservative Republican. Kazander has two female cousins, both of which are lesbians, and they both got married at the same ceremony as my inlaws’ vow renewal (a triple ceremony… the pastor I hired damn near had a heart attack when I told him).
However, he’s still a conservative Republican, with very conservative ideas and opinions.
And he’s slightly racist, which honestly shocked the hell out of me, since Kazander’s best friend (who lived with them for a couple years when they were teenagers) was black, and I’ve never seen him act differently toward black people. I never knew.
Until one night, a couple of years ago, when he called Obama the “N” word (if you’re not from the US, just google it. I’m not writing it out. It’s a word that white people used to call black people during a not-hugely-fantastic chunk of our history, and it’s pretty damn racist for a white person to call a black person that now).
Okay, so my father in law called Obama (you know, the fucking President) a n*****. In front of the spawn.
Who, of course, promptly inquired, “Mommy, what’s a n*****?”
So that was a fun conversation. And my then-3-year-old learned a word that I’d hoped she would never hear used, and as a bonus, she also saw Mommy lose her fucking shit on her grandfather.
Okay, so back to the present. My father in law said, “Good luck with ever finding a man to put up with that.”
And I said, “Wait just a minute, I spend literally 25 hours a year shaving my legs. An entire fucking day, wasted. And it’s costing your son like $500 dollars a year. Waxing costs more. That’s $2,500 since the spawn was born that could’ve gone toward her Disneyland trip, or her education, or taking her on a weekend trip at a ski resort so she could play in the snow.”
“Well people spend a lot on toilet paper too, but we still have to do it.”
“I don’t have to do shit. I shave for one reason. Literally only one reason. And that’s because I prefer it. Should I change my mind and not prefer it anymore, I’m going to stop. You think I’m going to spend all that time and money, and cut the shit out of myself on a regular basis, just so some guy will think I’m ‘pretty?’ For a man’s approval? You’re saying I have to go through all that nonsense because a man’s opinion is more important than my time, and my comfort, and my self-esteem? Is that what you’re saying to your granddaughter?”
“No, wait, I didn’t mean it like that. I just meant–”
“You just meant that she won’t be able to get a boyfriend if she doesn’t shave her legs. You just meant that men won’t approve of her decision, and that looking pretty for them is more important than what she wants.”
He stammered and stuttered, and my mother in law jumped to his defense. “Some people just don’t like body hair, and they’re entitled to their opinion.”
“You’re right. And how many of those people are straight women? Do you like flossing every time you give a blowjob? Because I sure fucking don’t. But we don’t have a choice, right? We just have to put up with it, right? Why?”
“Because men don’t shave,” my FIL said.
“What about porn stars? Most actors? People who make a living out of looking good shave their body hair, regardless of gender. Professional wrestlers shave their arms, legs, chest, and pits. Swimmers, too. Most athletes. And why not? Who decided that women have to shave, while men don’t?
“You’re not going to ever tell my daughter she has to do a goddamn, motherfucking thing to please anyone but herself. And if she decides she doesn’t want to shave, you’re going to keep your outdated, sexist opinions to yourself.”
“Wait, I’m not sexist,” he said.
“You’re saying she has to shave because that’s attractive to men, and attracting a man is more important than her own self confidence. How is that not sexist?”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“Then enlighten me.”
“That’s just the way it is. I’m not saying it’s right, but that’s just the way it is. That’s the way it’s been for years.”
“Uh huh. And how many people said that about slavery? About not letting women vote? About paying women less than paying men? Are you saying we should still own slaves and women shouldn’t have rights? Because ‘that’s the way it is?'”
“Shaving is not the same thing.”
“No it’s not. But it’s the same mindset. And that mindset is a shitty one to have.”
“It doesn’t make someone sexist,” my mother-in-law said.
“That mindset isn’t why I called him sexist. I called him sexist because he is saying that ‘looking good’ for a man is more important than what women want. (I turned back to FIL) And yes, you are sexist. You remember how uncomfortable you got when I breastfed the spawn in front of you? You’re fine with me wearing low-cut shirts and push-up bras. You’ve never once said that anything I wore was inappropriate.
“I know this because I’ve tested that theory. Right after you asked me to feed my fucking child somewhere else. You know, when you basically told me I wasn’t allowed to interact with people and feed my kid at the same time. Remember the blue blouse I wore out to dinner when I was still breastfeeding, and my boobs were bigger than they are now? Of course you do, you couldn’t stop staring. I knew that was completely inappropriate to wear at a nice restaurant, but I wore it anyway to see what you’d say. You didn’t have a single problem with it.
“So flaunting my tits as sexual objects for men to stare at is fine, but flaunting them for what they’re actually for makes you uncomfortable, because that’s not hot. That’s not sexual, that’s not done for men’s approval, so that makes you uncomfortable. And it makes you uncomfortable because at some level you feel like you have a right to every woman’s body. Every woman you find attractive, you have the right to objectify and sexualize. So when a woman does something that contradicts the way you see her, or interferes with your right to see her as nothing more than a sexual object, like breastfeeding, it makes you uncomfortable. Right?”
“Lots of people are uncomfortable with breastfeeding,” FIL said. “Women, too.”
“Lots of people are entitled to their opinions,” I answered. “But when it comes to my daughter and her choices, you’re going to keep them to your fucking self, or you’re not going to be around her.”
That pissed the MIL off. “So you’re going to use her as a pawn then? To manipulate us?”
“Protecting her from being seen as a sexual object is using her as a pawn? So again, your opinions are more important than her self image, and being comfortable with her body. Shaming her for not conforming to an outdated and unrealistic standard of beauty is more important than encouraging her to think for herself.”
“That’s not what I said.”
“I said if you can’t keep your opinions to yourself, you won’t see her. You protested and accused me of using her to manipulate you. Which means that you don’t agree with having to keep your opinions to yourself in order to see her. Which means you want to be able to tell her that she has to shave if she ever wants a boyfriend, and that if she ever becomes a mother, she will become a social pariah, and will have to lock herself away from the world to breastfeed, because using her breasts for their biological purpose is shameful. You want to push all that bullshit on her, otherwise you wouldn’t have a problem with me telling you to keep that shit to yourself.”
My MIL rolled her eyes. “Fine. Whatever.”
I grabbed the spawn and left. We made up after that, and everything’s fine, but I meant what I said. I have no problem cutting them out of her life if they become toxic.
And it’s true. I shave because I prefer being hairless. I shave and tweeze and pluck because I like it. And I spend half an hour putting my makeup on because I like the way it makes me look.
I mean, please. Do you think Kazander knows the difference between a cat eye, kitten eye, and pinup eye?
Do you think I own 9 shades of red lipstick to impress a guy who literally cannot tell the difference between Rebel, On Fire, and Dynamite? Who, whenever I buy a new shade, asks, “Don’t you already have red lipstick?”
I do it for myself. And I shave for myself. I shower at night instead of in the morning, for a lot of reasons (not the least of which is because my hair is easier to style and looks better 10-ish hours after being washed, and don’t get me started on washing your hair every day), and one of the best feelings in the world is climbing into the soft sheets with freshly-shaven legs. Seriously awesome feeling.
So I do it because I like it. Should I ever change my mind, I’ll stop doing it. And the men in my life will either deal, or they won’t. And if they won’t, I’ll know that they care more about what society thinks, and my physical appearance, and ability to conform to society’s standard of beauty, than they care about me as a person.
If that’s the case, I don’t want them in my life, anyway, so that works out for me.
And I’ll be damned if I’m going to raise a girl who feels pressured to conform to what someone else thinks she should be.