Hair today, Gone tomorrow

Make me bald. Seriously. All of me. Make every last inch of my body hairless so that I resemble a slippery seal.

In fact, make everyone bald. Life would just be so much easier if none of us had hair. Anywhere.

From where I am lying in my bed I can see a long strand of hair hanging off a jacket sleeve. It’s taunting me, glistening in the morning light. I should get up and take it, between two fingers, and dispose of it in the bin. I can’t be arsed. I’m typing. I’ll no doubt forget about it. At some point it will gracefully float to the floor to hang out with millions of other stray, loose hairs making a nuisance in my bedroom.

This precariously placed sleeve hair is just the hairy nip tip of the iceberg. An iceberg that I regularly think about. What with hair maintenance, hair removal, hair worry, hair loss ~ These things take up my time. And I want that time back. I’ve got shit to do. I haven’t even started watching Succession yet!

Let’s start with the hair on our heads where there can be a fine {hair}line between it being an utter joy or simply ruining our day.

 

Now, I’m low maintenance. My hair is cut twice a year, if that {£60 plus tip}. I shampoo {Aveda Shampure £17.50} and condition {Aveda Colour conditioner £22.50} and I dye my hair every 6 weeks when I’m on it and every 8 weeks when I’m lazy {Clariol Nice and Easy £10 for 2}. I dye it myself so I don’t need to pay extra to have my roots or any highlights done. There’s no styling with an appliances {I don’t even own a hairdryer} and I don’t put any product in it. There’s no straightening or curling or lifting or smoothing with serum. The regular note I tell my hairdresser is ‘I just want to rise from my pit and go’

Having said that I’m not immune to a bad hair day. And for some women, in the words of Fleabag ‘Hair is everything, Anthony! We wish it wasn’t but it is’, it can be a constant daily battle. I’m lucky that my only issue is a severe shedding after I’ve washed it. Annoying but not unmanagable. The back of my cardigan can resemble a shag pile cardigan some days. And, as mentioned earlier, I’m forever finding loose hairs in strange places.

I once went to the toilet and found a strand of unmistakable long, black, curly hair, belonging to a friend, in my underwear. I’d not seen her for three days.

 

Worrying about stray hairs is a luxury though as my hair is thought about. It is represented in magazines and has been shown on screen my whole life. It’s hair that, if I did want to start doing something with it, I can easily find salons and products to accommodate that.  I have not felt like my hair is unmanageable, unfeminine or a novelty for others to idly fondle without permission. There is no need for me to pick my salon carefully so that there is a technician who can ‘deal’ with my type of hair. According to a 2018 Nielson report women of colour spend nine times more than their white counterparts on hair and beauty products. Nine times! That’s insane because as I’ve already pointed out, I’m low maintenance, and I already spend approximately £300 a year on JUST the hair on my head.

Ten years ago I worked with Joyce, who’s mother was a hairdresser, and learnt all about the time, money and complexities of maintaining afro hair.

There’s the relaxing, the weaving, the glueing. Then there’s the hours and hours required for braiding or dreadlocks. There’s also the avoidance of getting your hair wet or tangling your weave when you sleep.

 

All that puts my moaning about the culmination of hair in my butt crack, after I wash it in the shower, to shame.

So that’s the hair on our heads which, more than often, we welcome. What about the hair that we see as unwelcome? Oh good god. I’m SO over it. The amount of time and money spent on waxing, plucking, shaving, lasering, microblading. *Deep breath*…Also tweezing, shaping, dying, threading, epilating. 

A few summer’s ago I stopped shaving my armpits. I had to. Sheer exhaustion had kicked in. I worked out I had been coarsely running a blade under my arms, two to three times a week, for approximately 27 years. Bar in-between your fingers or maybe behind your ears I’m not sure there’s any place more awkward on our bodies to try and wield a razor. If you’ve had the pleasure of not having to shave your armpits {We all know what percentage of the population I’m talking to here} why not give it a go? See how easy it is making those two hollow nooks smooth. And why exactly are we doing it? I can tell you now, from experience, it’s because armpit hair looks masculine.

It’s what our eye has been trained to see our whole lives ~ Men have hair under their arms. Women don’t. 

 

As the barriers surrounding gender start to break down there are more women brave enough to showcase their pit bushes. If, of course, it’s done in the right way. Sadly, I don’t have a light, soft, East-London-cool, dusting of fine hair that gently nestles in my pit. When I put down the razor I’m on a par with Jason Momoa.

Last year I read ‘Girls will be girls’ by Emer O’Toole who experimented with halting all of her hair removal procedures. Sounds simple enough but it took her a year to feel comfortable with the constant staring at her hairy legs. I couldn’t go that far. There’s just some areas I don’t have the energy to stand up for ~ legs, bikini lines, toes, beards, top lips.

I sat behind a young, dark skinned girl on the bus the other day and caught glimpses of the soft, dark moustache that licked her top lip. To me, it looked beautiful. It hadn’t been tampered with and still held it’s innocence. But I knew the pain that top lip would cause once someone in the playground threw a grenade of ‘Euuuurrrrrghhhh…She’s got a tash!’

Because as humorous as razor burn, wonky fringes or a bad dye job can be {Sister with Massive Laugh accidentally dyed her hair grey at the age of 13} hair can also bring pain. I have grown out of the constant thought that I will be ridiculed as a girl who’s too hairy. But it was definitely there well into my 20’s.

I was lucky enough to have partners who never made me feel embarrassed about being hirsute. ‘As long as you’re not hairier than me, Babes, I don’t care’ one boyfriend would often say when I worried about my top lip or my stubbly legs.

 

And there is real embarrassment, as well as shame, within women surrounding a downy face, a hairy top lip, or a chin that needs plucking. Women will have their forearms waxed, up to their thighs, their toes, their buttholes. I see shorts being worn when swimming so as not to offend anyone with a bikini line that isn’t as smooth as a peach. Apologies. I mean a nectarine. Peaches are, of course, downy.

With all the shame and embarrassment surrounding attempts to shed hair there is also the pain caused by losing your hair through no choice of your own. Through illness, the subsequent treatment of that illness or just stress. Due to the importance we place on our hair that can be the cause of stress! Is it more harrowing for a man to go prematurely bald or a woman to have thinning hair?

I have not touched upon the momentous debate surrounding female pubic hair. {Whole other discussion about pre pubescent looking vulvas vs My Body, My Choice}  My new 25 year old friend recently told me she has never had pubes. 

She has grown up in an era where a bald vulva is the go to preference for a large percentage of women. She has shaved her private parts ever since the first signs of womanhood made themselves known and that, to her, is the norm.

 

I really hope that the discussions and judgements about hair, especially women’s hair, change over time. I hope that we can prove Fleabag {in just this ONE case} wrong. Because hair isn’t everything. There’s way more interesting and important things in life. For me they are Can I make you laugh, Am I being kind, Where am I next going skiing.

These are the things I want to spend my time and money on. In the words of Maxine Waters ‘I’m reclaiming my time’ and I’m off to watch Succession.

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