About two months ago, my long-distance boyfriend came to stay with me for three months in Chicago. Before he arrived I had so many worries: What if we didn’t get along? What if he ended up taking up the whole bed? What if he ate all of my microwavable asparagus? The future was unclear. The worry that didn’t come to my mind as fast was the idea of shaving.
After a six month period of being single followed by six months of our long distance relationship, shaving was completely out of my mind. It was something I did every two to four weeks (maybe). Sometimes I would secretly revel in the feeling of letting my leg hair grow out so long that when I went for a run, it would blow in the wind. It felt really freeing. The topic came up between us after he had been with me for a couple weeks. “So I noticed that the hair on your legs have gotten kind of long,” he said. “Oh yeah I forgot! I’ll do it tomorrow!” I replied and we laughed it off.
The trouble began when I forgot for several days in a row after our conversation. He mentioned it again and then it started to hit me, it was something that he really cared about! The voice inside me said, Don’t conform to social norms. Only shave if YOU want to, don’t take pressure from a man’s perspective of what a woman should be! While the inner hopeless romantic (and drama queen) said, Shouldn’t he like me for me? Shouldn’t he see me as an angel that fell onto this earth and blessed him with my presence? Shouldn’t he see me as perfect no matter what?
I got upset the third time he brought it up. I explained that it bothered me, but he didn’t understand why. I tried to explain that he should like me for me, whether I was letting my leg hair grow free or not. After I had told him my qualms with the fact that he brought it up, he explained, “You know that I find you beautiful. You know that I do. When I ask that you shave, it’s not that I don’t find you beautiful. I want you to want to look good for me. I want you to make an effort for me, like how I make efforts for you. I think you’re more attractive when you make the effort.”
I understood what he meant, but for some reason I still felt the shaving my legs should be my decision. I still felt sad and angry that he really wanted me to change something about myself.
It took me a few days, but I realized that just because I’m doing it for him, it doesn’t mean I’m being unfeminist, and more importantly, doesn’t mean I’m not being true to myself. The reason why I enjoyed growing out my leg hair was because it gave me a sense of power and made me feel that I was in control of my own body. Just because he asked me to do something for him did not mean that I was giving all of that up. He was asking me to make an effort for him, similar to how I like when he makes an effort for me. I like when he dresses up to look good for me; I like when he says “you’re beautiful” or “you’re amazing” several times throughout the day, just because he knows that I like to hear it more than once; and I especially like when he makes the bed for me, even though I know he hates making the bed.
I am still powerful and in control of my own body, I just now have (semi)regularly shaved legs.