I was in the third grade when it started. I remember being on the playground playing with a girl in my class. A boy walked up to us and asked me “Why do you have hair on your legs?”
At my tender age of eight I had no clue how to respond because I really didn't know. I thought about it for a minute and looked at the legs of the girl I was playing with, pasty and bare and all of a sudden it hit me:
I was different.
And from that day forward I was reminded of it every single moment the teacher's back was turned; it seems the children in my class felt the need to remind me on a regular basis that I was “hairy,” “gross,” a “werewolf,” and a “woolly mammoth,” or just “woolly” for those more informal moments. It would be easier to count the number of days I came home from school those years not sobbing. Each and every day I would beg my mother to let me shave my legs, and she would always tell me I was too young. “But mamaaaaaaaaan! You don't know how they tease meeee!”
Fast forward seven years: 6:00 A.M. and the alarm clock is ringing.
T-Minus 2.25 hours until school begins.
When I was in high school I woke up two hours early each morning for hair care – and not the kind on my head. I would drag myself out of bed and into the shower to shave my legs, my armpits and any other body parts with hair that ran the risk of being exposed. When I began middle school my mother finally allowed me to shave my legs; those three years my family went through at least $1,000 in band-aids, but by the time I reached high school I was a veteran.
I knew exactly how long I needed to shave each body part, how many hours I had until stubble began to appear and what hair removing creams worked best. I was a shaving, tweezing, waxing maniac. My eyebrows, arms, armpits, legs, bikini line and facial hair all fell victim to my daily violent hair-removing frenzies.
As time went on, it began to become a chore, not that it was ever pleasant to rip hair out of my flesh, mind you, but I did it because I felt like I had to in order to be normal, accepted; I didn't enjoy being an outcast in the elementary school caste system and I had no intentions of going back.
Eventually though I just grew weary of it. It was exhausting to shave everyday, to be paranoid about how much stubble would begin to show by the evening; it was painful to brush hot wax onto my arms and ruthlessly rip the hair out, and to my gentlemen readers, you have no idea what tedious work eyebrow shaping is, keeping them even by sitting on the bed with a magnifying mirror for hours plucking out stray hairs every single day.
The point is that, well … it's pointless. That was my epiphany. There is no benefit to removing body hair, no hygienic reason to do it and honestly, there is no aesthetic reason to do it either – removing our body hair just makes us look like the ten year olds we were before puberty hit.
The fact is, yeah, we, as Persian women, do tend to have more body hair than our Caucasian counterparts, but that's no reason to remove it! Why does it seem like we're in a constant struggle to look like Caucasian women? I see too many Persians dyeing their hair blonde and zapping off their eyebrows with painful laser treatments. What for? Because one day a kid walked up to you in the third grade and asked why you had hair on your legs when the other girls didn't? Because it just seemed like the right thing to do? Since… all the other girls did it, right?
Every Persian woman I have encountered has been ashamed of their hair… and I can't scold them because I used to be the same, but eventually I figured out how bizarre the entire hair-removing idea is… and no, it's never too late to stop; despite the old wives' tales our khalehs spread when we were younger, your hair really doesn't grow back thicker or darker, it just seems that way the first week or two because it's stubble.
We are Persian women, we are dark, hairy and we are beautiful. We are different from Caucasians and that's okay!
I'm not here to convert anyone, I can only share my experiences, and I can say that I have not plucked my eyebrows, used hair removal cream on my upper lip, shaved my legs, feet or toes, waxed my arms or shaved my armpits in three and a half years. I have not removed any of my body hair in three and a half years.
And I have never been so happy, felt so beautiful and yes, so very proud to be Irooni.
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