Ah, January: a month of grappling with holiday hangovers, trying to decipher what the fuck a “bomb cyclone” is supposed to be, and looking ahead to a year chock-full of possibilities. But don’t let all those motivational memes trick you, because while it may be a shiny new year, you’re NOT a new you. Though you COULD be, thanks to this new gold flake/collagen shake and 15 minute workout regimen — which will have you ready for bikini season by 2021 or whatever!
Just kidding. I don’t have a Pajiba-brand wellness scam to sell you, and let’s face it: 2018 is going to be just as messy as any other year. All I have to offer you is a friendly ear, ready to listen to all your troubles — and then share them publicly while offering up some half-cocked, dubious advice. So let’s shake a leg, shall we?
(Reminder: Ask Pajiba (Almost) Anything is the perfect lazy lifestyle scam for the new year, and there’s no sign-up necessary! All you need to do is email your questions to [email protected] and we guarantee that we might answer you!)
Speaking of legs: what’s with not shaving them come wintertime?
I understand that I’m probably going to get my ass kicked by both the Overlords and the Commentariat for this, but I’m trudging ahead anyway with what can only be considered the tackiest of relationship questions. I’m not even seeking advice here so much as I’m asking for an opinion.
OK, here’s the situation. I am happily married to a woman with whom I am madly in love. Beyond the run of the mill everyday matters, we have no issues in our marriage. She’s a fantastic, lovely woman, and I am deadly attracted to her.
There’s just one thing. When winter rolls around, she often goes weeks without shaving her legs. I completely understand that this is typical of a lot of women, and I don’t give her shit for this. BUT, I don’t find it particularly attractive. I don’t really know why, exactly. She doesn’t wear make-up or anything, but I less attracted to hairy legs. I don’t know why. I imagine for the same reason that some women might find growing a mountain beard might be a turn off or maybe not trimming ear hairs might be a turn off.
Hairy legs, long beards, and ear hair are a perfectly natural, but does it make me a faulty person if I find such things unattractive? Again, I am not asking for advice — my feelings on the matter are not a secret with my wife. However, she calls me “patriarchal” because I prefer shaved legs to unshaven legs. Maybe that’s true! I don’t know. Is it patriarchal? Or is it simply a matter of preference? And if she shaves her legs in the summer before going out in public, am I terrible person for wondering why she doesn’t do so if I am the only observer?
What’s the deal with hairy legs? Should men work to adjust our perceptions, or is this something too deeply ingrained? Am I a sexist monster for even broaching the question? Or just deeply, irreparably heterosexual?
Is this a dumb question?
First off, there are no dumb questions. There are dumb answers, but that’s on me really. So apologies in advance if this turns into one of those.
There is a whole lot to unpack here, so let me give you some quick answers and then we can dig in. First off: It’s OK for you to be attracted to what you’re attracted to. But also — yes, your preference for smooth gams is probably patriarchal. Both things are true. And yes, we ALL should probably be working to adjust our perceptions or at least question how much of our tastes and preferences are ingrained in us because of societal influences, and why. But no, you’re not a sexist monster for thinking about this — as long as you don’t make your wife feel bad for doing whatever she wants with her own fucking body hair.
Cool? So, let’s get down to the follicles here. Hair removal in all its forms, from tweezing to shaving to waxing to using pumice stones and depilatory creams, has been around for Ages-with-a-capital-“A”. There is evidence that our cave-person ancestors were tweezing their beards with freaking clamshells to avoid frostbite (hair holds moisture, and if it’s cold… yeesh). Fast-forward to the ancient Egyptians, who went hairless to combat the muggy heat along the Nile. Think about it — the smells are one thing, but hair can provide a home for pests and diseases to thrive in warmer temps. For hygiene purposes alone, it made sense to practice personal grooming — at least until reliable soaps and medicine were developed. Of course, they then used wigs and fake beards to cover up their baldness (probably because scalp sunburns sound AWFUL). So in that society, being hairless was preferred, but showing it was a faux pas. Go figure.
Alexander the Great adopted the Egyptian taste for shaving, but for tactical reasons: Why give your enemy a beard or a ponytail to hold onto while you fight? And so it went though history, with trends often starting with a practical purpose, then transforming into an aesthetic standard. Being able to afford a visit to the barber became a sign of wealth and status in some societies. In others, having a beard was a symbol of masculinity.
So in many ways, the idea of men and women not only practicing hair removal, but viewing hairiness/hairlessness as attractive, is absolutely ingrained in us. But that doesn’t mean that our current obsession with shaved legs on ladies is ancient history. In fact, it’s a fairly modern trend — likely rooted in the early 1900s, due to the convergence of a number of factors including the rise of disposable razors and other advancements in convenient, personal hair removal, new fashion trends, and some clever(ly awful) marketing. Basically, as women started wearing shorter skirts and even going sleeveless, there was greater focus on what was growing in those previously covered-up regions of the female body. And naturally, companies jumped on the opportunity to market exciting new methods for getting rid of unwanted body hair to women. For example, one ad for X-Bazin Depilatory Powder claimed to remove ‘humiliating growth of hair on the face, neck, and arms’. Gillette came out with its first razor for women, called the Milady Decolletée, in 1915. And a fashion magazine from this era, for the first time, showed a woman in a bathing suit with her arms raised… and a hairless armpit. By the 1940s, the wartime shortage in nylon made women’s stockings a hot commodity — and without them, women often had to go bare-legged (in every sense of the term).
The modern idea that sporting visible body hair is humiliating or wrong basically came from advertising, but now it’s everywhere — reflected in movies and magazines and in the women we see every day. And so it has become the norm over the past century for men AND women to see a smooth, hairless female body as ideal. But the thing to remember is that finding it attractive isn’t just ingrained in men — it’s ingrained in women too. I understand logically that body hair is natural, and removing it is a scam perpetrated on women as a scheme to make money by a patriarchal society — and yet I don’t feel sexy unless my legs are shaved. And I mean that literally — having hairy legs impacts my confidence, and thus my ability to get in the mood sexually. I happen to be blessed/cursed with darker, thicker body hair, and I remember begging my mom to let me start shaving when I was 11 years old, because I was already feeling self-conscious about wearing shorts at fucking soccer practice. If someone offered to pay for all the laser hair removal treatments I would need to never shave again, I WOULD ABSOLUTELY DO IT IN A FUCKING HEARTBEAT.
So the question of whether hairy legs are gross or not isn’t one that exists purely in the minds of heterosexual men — it’s something women go to war with every time they look at their own stubble. If you’re wondering why your beautiful wife shaves for the public and not for you, take it as a compliment! It means she’s comfortable with you. She’s probably not comfortable with the judgement of strangers. It’s rare to see women who are confident enough to sport hairy legs and pits and mustaches in public, and when you do they inevitably draw attention. People will stare, and ask questions, or make assumptions about her sexual orientation (because it’s ALSO ingrained in us to assume that leg shaving is performed solely for the benefit of men). We have made a natural part of the human body so completely taboo that it’s almost a shock to see someone who doesn’t conform to this made-up standard.
It’s also important to remember that there is a hell of a lot more hairy ground to cover on the legs than on the face, so shaving is a more time-intensive endeavor for women than men. It’s also usually a slippery endeavor that involves some interesting physical contortions. So sure, even if women want to be smooth, sometimes we’ll fudge it when we aren’t showing it off. Especially in winter, when cold air can dry out the skin and make it itch like crazy.
So to go back to your original question: Don’t beat yourself up for being attracted to smooth legs. Most of us feel that way because of the society we were born into. Hell, your wife might even feel that way herself! But you need to recognize your preference for what it is: YOUR preference. Don’t make that HER problem (which it sounds like you aren’t doing, so good for you). If her preference is to grow out her leg hair, then you should recognize that it’s her choice and support it… or work out a compromise.
Personally, I have a preference for beardless men, yet I am married to a man with a long, thick beard. The thing is, I’m attracted to my husband for a lot of reasons, and no matter what he’s got all over his face (or how incredibly handsome I know he is underneath that beard), I remain attracted to him: for his intelligence, and his humor, and all the other reasons that make him a great partner. I’m not saying that looks don’t matter, but I do think that what we find attractive can be more complex than purely physical traits. So when he decided to grow that fucking beard, I realized I couldn’t talk him out of it — because it was something he really felt strongly about, and because his face itched when he shaved, which… fair. But there were things I could do that would support him AND make me happy. If I was going to have to look at it every day, I wanted him to take care of it (grooming doesn’t have to mean taking away the hair, after all). Luckily he already shampooed and conditioned the beard daily, so I added to his routine by giving him beard oil and a comb. I also got him nice, sharp hair scissors, because my one stipulation was that I didn’t want his mustache getting all up in my mouth when we kiss (which feels like a fair compromise, right?).
My point is: if your wife’s wintry hairiness is getting to you, maybe you can think of positive ways you can support her and make yourself happy at the same time. If she is actively choosing to live a hairy-leg lifestyle, then perhaps you can buy her fancy scented body oils or something. There’s no reason why the skin UNDER that hair can’t be smooth! But if she’s not shaving because it’s cold and no one else is looking so why bother, then maybe you can make it easier for her. Do the chores so she has time for a nice, long, hot bath with a fancy new razor. Or, I dunno, BUY HER LASER TREATMENTS SO SHE NEVER HAS TO SHAVE AGAIN!
You can make a game of it, and offer to shave your legs whenever she shaves hers. She may even agree, just so you will understand her pain. Or you can move someplace sunny and warm year-round. Or you can take the time to befriend her hairy legs — get right up there and pet them if you have to — and maybe you can change your own perceptions of them through exposure.
And if all else fails, you can always rely on the old Pajiba standbys that are applicable to any situation:
Bear trap. Or fire. Either one will solve the issue in an expedient and horrendous fashion.