I was bullied for my dark body hair. Now I’ve finally decided to stop caring about it
It’s simple. Everybody has body hair almost everywhere, no matter your gender or your hair colour. It’s natural and it’s there for a reason, yet I was only eight years old when I was made to feel like it wasn’t.
Being Italian, I am already set up to have the mediterranean problem of having dark hair, and not just on my head. My arm hair is more prominent, my baby hair on my face is more visible and along with the rest of the hair on my body, my upper lip hair was slightly darker. My body hair was not something that was a problem to me, until my classmates decided that it was.
It started in the same way that all bullying does, the stupid nicknames in the playground and the teasing. The boys taking pleasure in my reaction every time I was upset by their comments. It would only hurt me more when I attempted to speak to teachers. Male behaviour would be excused with the sentence commonly heard by many girls when they’re little. “Boys are only mean to you because they like you”. As though that is supposed to be a form of comfort.
There is a difference between childish comments and pointing out something that slowly becomes one of your biggest insecurities.
In my final year at primary school we were asked to make a booklet about ourselves as a piece of homework. The front cover was a drawing of ourselves and inside we had to write about our personality and interests. It’s only recently that my mum told me, I had drawn my upper lip hair on my own self portrait. At such a young age I was so affected by their comments, that it had clearly become normal to me to have that view of myself. That was when my parents decided it was enough.
At 11 years old I started laser hair removal surgery. Every four weeks I would sit in a white sterile room holding my dad’s hand, as my consultant dermatologist would burn the hair follicles on my face. It was hardly a comfortable or cheap experience that would carry on for a few years.
I was made to feel disgusting for something that was completely out of my control and I soon became conscious of all of my body hair. I wanted to remove even the smallest amount of leg hair before PE lessons in school and I would shave my stomach before going on holiday out of fear of people noticing anything.
I don’t regret that my parents made the decision to have laser hair removal surgery for me. Seeing your daughter troubled is distressing for any parent and despite the time that it took, the route they decided to go down was permanent and helped end the teasing all together. It also means that in the long term, I no longer have to worry about it.
Society stigmatises female body hair and it’s a topic that people pretend doesn’t exist. There is this huge social pressure on women to be completely hairless from their eyes downwards; from barbie, to advertising, to porn, female beauty has become synonymous with zero hair. A man can walk around during summer with a full chest of hair and nobody would turn their head, yet many are repulsed by any form of hair on a woman.
The sad reality is that this beauty standard still exists, with some of us applying it most harshly on ourselves.
The amount of body hair you have is something you’re born with. Some ethnicities have more visible hair than others, sometimes it’s simply down to genetics. Now that I look back, I wish I wasn’t as affected by something that is so natural.
I’d be a hypocrite if I said that I no longer care about my own body hair but there is no doubt that I am much more comfortable with myself. I remove it because I want to, because that’s how I like my body, not because someone makes me feel like I have to.
Accepting yourself isn’t something that happens overnight but learning to love yourself for all your natural characteristics is indescribably refreshing. We control our own bodies and we shouldn’t feel pressured by other people’s opinions. The most important thing is to do what makes you happy, people that say otherwise are irrelevant.
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