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 this...an 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?
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.