Sunday, June 12, 2011

What's the HAPs? The Hobbit Acceptance Project, Phase 1

If you're like Sherlock Holmes, you probably tried your best to forget my post about body hair. In that post, I mentioned that while I don't like shaving, I was scared to break that social norm. On a good day, I tend to be a bit socially anxious, worrying that everyone is staring and laughing at me. I wrote: "Maybe I can put myself on a gradual plan...becoming more comfortable with stubble, perhaps, before I embark on a full quest to Middle Earth." And I decided to do something like experiment, if you will. I wanted to share its progress with anyone who might be interested.

Step 1: Cycling Immunity

When you ride a bicycle, it's customary to roll up your pant legs, so that the fabric doesn't get stuck in the bike's chain. It had been a while (maybe two or three weeks) since I'd shaved my legs, so I decided to roll up my pant legs...and then leave them like that as I went about my business. As I hopped off my bike, I would feel a growing sense of self-consciousness. When nothing happened, I would forget about my legs. Then, I would look down and feel that pang of awareness again. It would pass. It seemed easier to break the social norm this way, since I had an "excuse" for baring my legs, and it could be passed off as something "unintentional". This step lasted for around 3 days, and I went to casual places like the library, grocery store, and a friend's house. (I'm currently working as a pet sitter, and the animals don't care about my appearance, luckily.)

Step 2: Photography

I knew that the next step was to intentionally bare my legs in shorts. One Sunday morning, it was finally warm enough to wear them. I put the shorts on, but I still didn't feel comfortable going out in public. I knew I still didn't fully accept the hair, but maybe I could at least put it in its proper place. So I took a full-body picture of myself. When I looked down at myself, the first thing I noticed was the hairiness of my legs. But when I looked at the photo, the first thing I noticed was the fact that my shirt collar was oddly misshapen. And when I looked at my legs in the photo, it was the paleness of my skin I noticed first. These observations were fairly neutral, and this gave me the push I needed to go out. I'd been wanting to check out a certain vegan treat at a local farmer's market. Surely this would be an easy place to have hairy legs?

[Image: Me, caught mid-dance move]

Step 3: Among Raw Food Enthusiasts

As I stepped out of my car, I felt the fear come. I even walked through a parking lot, trying to avoid the public gaze. I entered the market and bought my food, then walked with it through the throng of people. And then it happened: People whispering about me.

Woman 1: What does she have?
Woman 2: A cone of vegetables.
Woman 1: That is so cool!

That comment made my heart soar--no exaggeration. While I don't want to care what people think of me, when it comes to breaking social norms, sometimes a bit of social approval can really help. No one, at least in that crowd, cared about my hairiness. Good choice, me!

And so the project continues. To all those working towards the acceptance of Hobbits, and other exotic creatures, I salute you.

[Image: Casting directors agree--Martin Freeman kinda looks like a Hobbit. But d'awww, he's so cute! As are we, my are we.]


Anonymous said...

Yay, you can do this! I stopped shaving my legs because I am way too lazy for that. I even wear tennis skirts with my legs unshaved.

heidi said...

Heeee! I'm SO ridiculously happy that you're trying this experiment! I've been fuzzy-legged forever (except that one time when a male friend finally took me up on my "if you shave yours, I'll shave mine" bet/dare") ...but to REALLY know they're not looking at your legs, go braless. Then you'll wish people were staring at your legs =/ Now I rock the bralessness along with the leg hair and the world is a beautiful place; but mostly I'm way more comfy with the leg hair than the nipple-staring.

Just know that we love you, we support you, and we won't shave if you won't shave! =D (also, I live in Texas, so it's friggin' weird to be hairy-legged out here!)


Anonymous said...

I've never shaved my legs. I've never seen a personal benefit to shaving one's legs, and I'm not going to do it for other people. Most of the time my legs are covered, so nobody has to know. In my entire life, I've only been approached once for not shaving my legs - a girl came up to me and whispered 'this may be a personal question, but why don't you shave your legs?'. That did make me self-conscious, I admit, but I said that usually my legs are covered anyway, and that if I started shaving then the hair would get much more vicious when it grew back. Which is true - because I have never shaved, I probably have less leg hair than if I had been shaving and then let it grow out.

Am I careful to cover my legs in situations where showing leg hair could be a significant social problem (for example, when I go to work)? Yes. But when I'm casually walking in the street, I don't care what a bunch of strangers think (if they even notice).


Ily said...

@Anon: Thank you! Are tennis skirts the final frontier of unshaved legs? I wouldn't know, since I've never played tennis in anything but the most casual manner.

@Heidi: Aw, thank you! *warm fuzzies in your direction*
Bras are kind of's hard to find one that fits well, but I don't mind wearing them for the most part. My breasts aren't huge, but they're big enough that going braless is uncomfortable, unless I'm wearing a couple of layers. :/

@MK: Yeah, when people lead with "this might be a personal question", it's probably going to be awkward and/or a bit rude. Anyway, one comment in a lifetime doesn't seem too bad. Usually my legs are covered too; it doesn't get all that hot where I live, and I'm a big legging fan. Thanks for the comment!

I appreciate the support from everyone! :D

Janet S. said...

That is really inspiring! I keep thinking about how individuals can actively and purposefully resist social norms and you've done it! Keep up the good work!

Ily said...

@Janet: Thanks for the encouragement, it means a lot! Most of the ways in which I break social norms are totally invisible, so it's definitely a change to try to break them in a visible way.

Charles said...

I hope this comment isn't remiss, but you are the adorablest.

Ily said...

@Charles: Aww, not at all, thanks :)

Anonymous said...

I've been meaning to say since you posted this how very much I love it. It's not just that these sort of tiny-step by slightly-less-tiny step projects are how I've conquered basically any anxiety I have conquered (and therefore very close to my heart). It's not just that the transition from mind-reading ("omg that girl!") to reality ("she has a cone of vegetables!") -- is something I need to be reminded of over and over and over (and over) again... It's just... it's the overall WIN, of which this has so much. So thank you - for what I cannot fully articulate. :)

Ily said...


"...the transition from mind-reading ("omg that girl!") to reality ("she has a cone of vegetables!") -- is something I need to be reminded of over and over and over (and over) again..."

Meeee too. It's such a long process and I feel like my progress is negligible sometimes, so I love to get a really obvious example like this one. Thank you kindly! I'm glad the post resonated with you :)

Anonymous said...

The following video was recently published in Austria and it made me think of you (for the topic, not for the odd English). ;-)

I fully support The Hobbit Acceptance Project. I'm excited to see where this leads you!


Ily said...

@Carsonspire: Thank you for the support! And that video was pretty amusing :)

Anonymous said...

This reminded me of this post from the Shrub blog.

Good luck! :)

Ily said...

@fintinobrien: Thanks! And that post is indeed eerily similar to mine. It was good to read :)

Emily said...

The Hobbit Acceptance Project... This is super awesome. I kind of want to join the movement. :D

My biggest setbacks are 1) similar to you, I have this pathological terror of breaking social norms and having people judge me, and 2) I'm not a big fan of body hair. But really, I'm so, so sick of having to figure out how to remove said hair. Both shaving and waxing are SUCH a pain. I frequently toy with the idea of simply not shaving, but then I'm ultimately too afraid to actually do it.

This H.A.P. thing, though... it's pretty inspiring. I'm going to seriously consider the idea of joining you in this experiment. I wish you good luck in the continuation of your project!

PS - Martin Freemannnn! :D

Ily said...

@Emily: Join me! :) It makes me really happy to hear that this project is inspiring to people. I wouldn't say that I'm "a fan" of my body hair, and I'm not sure if I'll ever really be. But I'm just attempting to accept and co-exist peacefully with it.

Kay said...

I used to shave my legs when I was a young teenager mainly because when I didn't it would lead to ritual humiliation in the changing rooms from other students and occasionally teachers, but it always made me feel bad about myself, that I was doing stuff to myself to please the people I hated and who hated me back. After a while I stopped which lost me a few friends (okay the only friend I had).

I still get nervous about going out with shorts on as my legs are very obviously hairy (as thick as my dad's leg hair). So it never really goes away that fear, the fear of people you don't know judging you and worse of all people who you do know and you like. If I do wear shorts out in public and feel that I am appearing female I get nervous for breaking the social rules, I am always trying to find something to stand behind or sit in a way that hides my legs. But it is getting slowly better, I went for a picnic with my friend and her family and after discretly asking my friend if it would be okay to wear shorts with unshaved legs infront of her mum I felt completly comfortable.

In short what I am trying to say is that it's a long road, but I will be interested in following your story about it as your feelings about it seem similar to mine. I never quite get it when people say oh other peoples opinions don't matter, because they do matter for some illogical reason. Maybe matter is the wrong word, have the ability to inspire fear of social rejection maybe.

Anyway this has turned into a very long comment so I will shut up now. Also, I have only just discovered your blog,!

Ily said...

@Kay: Thanks for commenting, and hi! I can relate a lot to what you're saying. Yep, I definitely have more prominent leg hair than a lot of guys I see. So the "hobbit" distinction is definitely with good reason. Hopefully we can support each other on all this.

I never quite get it when people say oh other peoples opinions don't matter, because they do matter for some illogical reason.

Yeeeah, I must admit that a Smiths quote comes to mind: "Why do I spend valuable time on people who don't care if I live or die?" Anyway, I'm with you. While I wish that people's opinions didn't matter to me, they do. But I don't want to wait to live my life until I stop caring what other people think, you know?

Kalisis Rising said...

Very cool. Do what you want, be who you are - I see women all the time who have hairy legs, and I think, "you go girl/boi/guy/trans/genderqueer person" and then I look down at my own shaven legs and remember the way it pleases ME, my own sexuality, to do so.

I'm serious - I love when I see people doing their own thing.

That's what counts - be you, do you, stand up for you!

Ily said...

@Kalisis Rising: Right on! And thank you. People need to save their judgement for the really important things, like music tastes (hee hee ;)

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