A ranty, funny, dead-serious intersectional feminist blog.

When I Don’t Shave My Legs, I Have Nightmares

We are a hirsute people.

Not even joking: When I leave my legs unshaven I have dreams about the fact that my legs are unshaven in contexts where it is embarrassing or even horrifying. What the hell is going on in my psyche? Let’s see if we can get to the bottom of it, or at least unpack it a bit. (If you’re still with me after the headline and opening pic, the rest should be cake!)

In real life, if I haven’t shaved and I suddenly need to go somewhere I’ll give myself a quick shave in the bathroom sink, or if the weather’s cool, throw on a pair of black tights. Fixed! In dreamlife I don’t have the luxury of preparing for a situation–I just AM. In my very favorite of these dreams (I’ll let you decide whether this qualifies as a nightmare) I’m sitting in a posh bar in a hotel during the Oscars. It’s like at a convention, where everyone is there for the event, but you hang out in the hotel bar and BS when there’s nothing better to do. In my circles, we call it BarCon, and it’s a treasured part of any convention experience. So, here I am at BarCon surrounded by dark wood and fancy dress, sitting next to Julia Roberts who is speaking earnestly to me about I truly wish I could remember what, and I look down at myself, and I’m sitting there in a tank-top and ratty shorts and my legs are bare and So. Hairy. I mean, not impossibly hairy, but what they look like when I go a good, long time between shaves. And I’m just…mortified.

“I really couldn’t be arsed.”

(The better Oscars dream was the one where I found myself in my hotel room with no idea how I’d come to be there, and called my mom to tell her “I’m at the Oscars!” Then I walked out into the hallway wrapped in my maroon hotel towel and ran into Sarah Jessica Parker who was also wrapped in her towel and we joked that it was embarrassing that we were wearing the same dress. Later I ran into Jennifer Jason Leigh, but she was in character for Dorothy Parker and couldn’t be arsed.)

Anyway, I had another unshaven legs dream not long after I quit my last job. In it, I was at work in a baggy t-shirt, shorts, and unshaven legs. (At this point I’ll note that I work at home and while I often wear pajamas or other loose, comfortable clothing at home, I really don’t wear shorts.) I was talking to one of our VPs and he didn’t seem to notice anything, but I felt so gross.

When I think about my life during the times I had these dreams, there are some similarities. I was without a full-time job, spending a lot of time at home, and not always bothering to get dressed or shave my legs or even shower some days. Was I missing the act of making myself presentable for the world? Did I feel guilty about not keeping myself “well-groomed”? Is this reaction something that is built-in or did media and culture rewire my circuitry?

Mo'Nique

Mo’Nique is clearly not having my issues.

There was a time as a young woman when I would never go out with bare legs–it was nylons or tights or nothing. I was ashamed of my fat, ugly legs and I wanted to hide them. I never, EVER, wore shorts (like even less often than I do now, which is almost never) because of that shame. When I was a little girl with scabby knees a teenager remarked within my hearing how remarkable it was that our legs were so ugly as children and got “nice” or something when we got older. I was pretty fucking hurt at the time and obviously I never forgot it, but I assumed that when I grew up I’d have pretty legs like the ladies on tv. But mine were fat and dimpled and spotty and just not. At some point I matured enough that it was ok to let people see my legs as long as they were clean-shaven from top to bottom. Nowadays if the weather’s warm I check and if it’s under a quarter inch, I’m good to go. But then, I’m nearly 48 and I’ve come to a point where I accept the hand I’ve been dealt in a way that never seemed possible before. I credit a lot of that to age and wisdom, but a good deal also to the love of a partner who sees *me* when he looks in my direction.

And something else has changed. Very recently, I had an unshaven legs dream, but in it I was still in the house, though dressed up and ready to go out. I remembered that my legs were unshaven and looked down and the hair was long enough to be visible. I was perturbed because I’d have to do something about it. That was it. That was all.

Maybe after nearly 50 years I’m finally growing up. At this point, I won’t fight it. Much.

15 responses

  1. Anonymom

    This was a great read! I found this while doing a Google search about a similar dream I had last night. I dreamt that I was at a salsa club in a short dress when I realized and panicked about not shaving (I often get these dreams when I’m not freshly shaven as well). The funny thing is that a very attractive man took one look at me and said I looked like his dream woman (live at fort sight). …I think my mind is using a male figure as affirmation. I’ve been getting this a lot in dreams lately since I’ve noticed just how much I seek out male approval. My mind has made up an imaginary man to cheer me on, even in my feminism. :) lol It’s a step in the right direction.

    September 10, 2015 at 8:57 am

    • Anonymom

      That should be *love at first sight* autocorrect thwarts spell check every time.

      September 10, 2015 at 8:59 am

    • Ha! That’s hilarious. We’re so conditioned to believe that men’s approval should be our primary focus! It’s such relief to me to be in a place in my life where I care a *lot* less about approval in general, and yet that conditioning still affects me daily. I love that your subconscious came up with an avatar to tell you that you’re amazing no matter what, using that conditioning to your benefit. Brains are amazing!

      September 21, 2015 at 7:23 am

  2. I just ran across this article and feel as if i have found a kindred spirit. I too endure the night terrors of dream leg hair. Amen, sistah!

    July 1, 2014 at 8:40 am

  3. Pingback: Confessions of a Feminist Butt | The Outlier Collective

  4. Betty Jean

    I Stopped shaving in college….some time ago. I remember hearing hearing Gloria Steinen lecture on the infantalization of woman and I was done.

    October 30, 2012 at 6:10 am

  5. Fox

    You know, I used to be paranoid about going out unshaven. I would only do it if no one could tell. That meant with pants in the winter. Then when other people were over and I hadn’t shaved and they could tell I always apologized before they said anything, as though it were something to be embarrassed or apologetic about. Now I generally don’t bother saying anything at all. Much like walking around barefoot, if I don’t mention it, no one seems to notice, well, except for the armpits, but that’s more in people’s faces.

    Only time I shave anymore is when it starts bothering me. Unless it’s bugging me there’s no point to try and get rid of it. Who am I trying to impress? More importantly, if I have to impress them, is it really worth it?

    October 21, 2012 at 12:55 am

    • Exactly. It’s so freeing to reach that point in our lives when we’re just less anxious about these things. I wish it could happen for more of us sooner.

      October 27, 2012 at 6:00 pm

  6. I haven’t shaved with any regularity since July 2005. It was a matter of circumstance. I didn’t pack a razor for my study abroad because I was only taking a carry-on. Then some crap happened with a check the school forgot to cash 6 months prior and I forgot wasn’t cashed, so my cash was strapped and I decided to pass on the razor purchase. I shaved to give birth to my children, for my divorce, and a couple of other occasions here and there. I never go a day without shaving under my arms. That feels icky…personally and socially.

    October 19, 2012 at 2:02 am

    • Yeah, I don’t like hair in my armpits, though I understand it’s meant to be quite sensual. I have such thick, long, dark hair everwywere, too. Also on my face. Sigh…

      October 20, 2012 at 7:23 pm

  7. OMG, I thought I was the only one having nightmares about shaving. :D This happened to me not so long ago, when my boyfriend had been away for a couple of weeks but was coming back soon and I just couldn’t seem to remember to shave in time. Cue me having lots and lots of panic-dreams about leg hair. As it turns out, my boyfriend doesn’t give a flying fig about my body hair, because in his words, “You never tell me what to do with mine, so why would I tell you what to do with yours?” And we’ve had plenty of intimate-snuggle moments when I haven’t exactly been all svelte and smooth. So these days, I’m trying really hard not to feel awkward about it, (since I realize it’s all in my head) and just shave whenever the hell I want to shave. (It does often itch and become uncomfortable, so there is more reason for me to do it besides “society says so”.)

    October 19, 2012 at 1:53 am

    • Your boyfriend consistently sounds awesome. I approve.

      October 20, 2012 at 7:21 pm

      • Haha! Thanks. I shall tell him you said so. :) He is indeed a very sweet, thoroughly cool person.

        October 20, 2012 at 7:36 pm

  8. Living on Capitol Hill, where even the femmes frequently go unshaven, has done me healthy in this regard.

    (As in, I wasn’t shaving before, but I felt weird about it, and now I don’t care.)

    October 18, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    • I’m not sure I’ll ever be all the way to the don’t care place, but one can hope! :)

      October 20, 2012 at 7:20 pm

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