Feminism

I have a complex about my hair

sweetums
We were halfway through our week of revival services, and a family that we didn’t get to see that often was there. I adored the two little boys who I’d had the opportunity to babysit, and I’d gotten especially close with Micah*. Both boys, like their mother, had wispy, baby-soft brown hair, straight and shiny, a sharp contrast with mine that was coarse, thick, and somewhere between wavy and curly but that mostly looked like a frizzy bush. I’d noticed that Micah had a fascination for my hair, so that night when he asked if he could touch it, I said yes.

As he stroked it, his face lit up with wonder. “Your hair …” he sighed, “it feels like a horse’s mane!”

I stared at him—it was obvious he intended that to be the highest praise, but all I could think was thanks, kid. Thanks a bunch.

~~~~~~~~~

I’ve gone back on forth on whether or not I wanted to write this post at all, uncertain that it would be applicable or even relatable. But, I figured, we all have those things about ourselves that we are insecure about, that we don’t like—mine just happens to be my hair. All of it, not just the stuff on my scalp.

When I was in kindergarten, our cat ate the hair off the back of my neck while I was sleeping. When my mom discovered it, she had my hair cut into something that, to me, resembled a mushroom. The next day I was at school confirmed my suspicion—I definitely looked like a mushroom, thanks to the class’ almost instantaneous decision to replace “Sam” with “Shroom.”

The nickname didn’t last long—thank God—but it was enough.

When I was seven, my mom trimmed my bangs, but she didn’t anticipate how thick, coarse, and frizzy my hair was becoming. She trimmed too much, and they exploded into what I thought of as “the Barbie swirl”—and I hated it.

barbie dolls

When I hit junior high and high school, someone gave me the American Girl Hair: Styling Tips and Tricks for Girls, and I mourned that it would be impossible for my hair to ever come anywhere close to the sleek, non-frizzy, shiny, smooth, straight hair of those girls—and my hair also didn’t come anywhere close to what the book thought “curly” hair looked like.

In high school, I got desperate. I chemically straightened my hair, but when that did absolutely nothing, I permed it; while that made my hair slightly less frizzy, it only lasted a few weeks. Before straightening irons were a thing, I saw an episode of the Brady Bunch when Marcia irons her hair on an ironing board, and my mother was horrified when she caught me almost scorching my hair off.

Puberty hit at 14, and when body hair started showing up, I freaked out big time. A mole on my shin sprouted three black hairs that were capable of inducing nightmares. Not only did I develop a unibrow, my eyebrows went nuts. They turned dark and curly, sticking every which direction and no amount of “eyebrow gel” could get them to stay in place. There’s this weird hair that grows an inch below my belly button that is black and grows to over an inch long—and don’t even get me started on my pubic hair, which I was absolutely positive would cause me to die of humiliation. The fact that my skin is so sensitive that I can rarely ever shave my armpits because I always get a razor burn that lasts for weeks? Yup. That was actually humiliating, because everyone in my life commented on it and refused to believe me when I said it was painful to shave. At one point I tried shaving off my pubic hair—wow was that a mistake I regretted for two itchy, painful months.

So I gave up. I stopped trying to do anything, and stopped trying to care about it. I wore my hair in a ponytail constantly until I discovered the sock bun in college, which my mother not-so-affectionately referred to as “the Wad.”

I got a Chi straightening iron for Christmas my sophomore year—the only brand at the time that would get hot enough to actually straighten my hair—and it was like a miracle sent from heaven. I compensated with the rest of it by never, ever wearing sleeveless or cap sleeve and wearing shorts to the beach. I hated raising my hand in class, paranoid that no matter how long my sleeves were someone would notice that my pits weren’t hairless.

~~~~~~~~~~

One day, I met Handsome, and I could not get over how much he loved it. He took my hair out of its clip one day—I discovered the Octopus Clip in grad school—and it stopped him dead in his tracks. He couldn’t resist burying his hands in it, and I laughed when he described it as “robust.” He regularly compliments me on my hair, and it’s finally gotten to the point where I feel comfortable leaving it down around him, which he adores.

octopus clip

If I’m leaving the house and I haven’t straightened it—into the clip it goes, contained and hidden. A few months ago, I was out in DC with Handsome and a friend, and I complained about a headache I was developing because I’d had to put my hair into the clip wet. Handsome suggested that I take it down—problem solved, after all—and I ended up in tears trying to explain to him why I couldn’t.

It’s getting better. There have been a few moments when I’ve looked at my natural hair and thought it was pretty—five, to be exact. I’ve even worn in it in its natural state out in public once, as part of a costume. I went to the pool last week and wasn’t obsessed over my armpit and pubic hair every single second. Slowly, I’m genuinely learning to not care about this.

makeup

But it’s hard. Beauty standards are a hard thing to get away from, and every time I wear a sleeveless shirt in public I have to shrug off the voices in my head asking me how I can stomach going out in public without shaving my pits.

I’m learning, slowly, to love my body exactly the way it is. I’m not sure why it’s so much harder to love my natural hair than it’s been for me to love my stomach pooch and jiggling thighs, but it is.

So, that’s me. What about all of you? What causes the most insecurity? Let’s talk about why we’re insecure about these things and encourage each other.

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  • Oh goodness, this hit a nerve. I have *issues* with my hair. A few months ago I called it a day and cut it all off into short layers– I’ve never felt prettier, more adult, or more confident. (I think we both have “robust” hair– mine’s just black instead of blonde, and very thick and “healthy,” but a mess all the same. It doesn’t help that my mother has very fine hair, which *she* hates because go figure, and never let me even TRY chemical straightening in high school.)

    I actually wrote a short piece about the day I cut my hair off. Would anyone here be interested in reading it?

  • Dani

    I have a love/hate relationship with my hair. It’s thick and coarse, and somewhere between wavy and curly, like you’ve described yours. I too had a tragic short hair cut at a young age. I tried a perm and it didn’t hold. Ended up trying a perm again later and it held that time and so I permed whenever I grew my hair out. I did cut it short with great success late in my HS career. I was blessed with a wonderful woman from my church who was EXCELLENT with hair and she helped me a ton. She KNEW how to cut hair, and how to make different kinds of hair work. I’m so sorry you didn’t have that. I’ve always felt my hair was my greatest asset, but it’s also potentially my greatest enemy haha. I had a super hard time with razor burn until I discovered the venus breeze razor. It has variations, but basically, the ones with the soap around the razor are the only ones I can use. Before that I used baby oil and that was the best I could do.
    I STILL have a hard time trusting other people, besides the woman from my church back home, to cut my hair. I’ve recently just moved again. I had it cut recently with lots of layers (which used to terrify me that they would create poof) and I’m not good at styling it so I just straighten it flat. I wear it back a lot, but it gives me headaches if I’m not careful.
    You’re not alone 😉 you’ve got it worse than me, for sure, but I get where you’re coming from. People were always telling me (and still do) that they love my hair, wish they had as much hair as me. New stylist? “You have SO MUCH HAIR!” It’s my lot in life. Love/hate. Forever. I just try to take the exclamations as positive.

    • The right haircut makes all the difference in the world.

      Also, I think we might be hair twins. LOL. 🙂

    • Ugh, I hate the “You have so much hair!!” comment from stylists. Like that’s news to me? The first time I heard this – actually the comment was something like “You have enough hair on your head for three people!” I was about 8 years old and just cried. I had a dance instructor who didn’t understand why my curly hair couldn’t be smoothed back into a simple bun. I had friends pull on it and yell “BOING!” when they let the curls go. Etc, etc.

      Now, I mostly live in the messy bun too, but the dry Colorado weather has been an improvement. Still feels like a fur coat on my head when I wear it down, though.

      • I hate, that, too. Especially when it turns into a show for the entire salon. Last time I got a hair cut, she didn’t take any length off, it was just to cut layers into it, but there was a carpet on the floor when she was done– as usual. Everyone in the salon had to comment. :/

        • Colinde

          This all reminds me of why I haven’t set foot in a salon in about 13 years: last time I went was a special wash n’ prep in highschool for a dance. Waist length hair…. yeah.

          Aside from the “SO MUCH HARRRR” comments I got, the woman washing it wasn’t used to long hair and got it hopelessly knotted in the process. It took 3 stylists plus myself to untangle the mess afterwards. X_X Pain, much pain. Plus I had to keep a hawk-eye on them to make sure they weren’t slyly picking up the scissors to do a “quick trim” in the process. (you’d be amazed how many rude people just impose their own desire to cut your hair without your consent when it’s longer than societal standards dictate)

    • Yep, I get the “You have so much hair!!” thing all the time too. I once spent three hours sitting in a chair while a student hair stylist poked and snipped defeatedly at it, complete with loud sighs and repeating “I don’t even know how to handle it all…” Finally the instructor came in and went at it like a hedgerow with some scissors, which was equally obnoxious. Serves me right for wanting a cheap haircut, I guess. I finally found someone who knows how to do a good cut, and it makes a world of difference. I won’t know what to do with myself if she ever moves away!

  • When I was growing up I felt self-conscious about the gap between my two front teeth and my wavy/curly hair because it was hard to figure out what to do with it. (The hair on the back of my head is wavy, but my curls are tighter and coarser around my face. Having that mixture of textures and curl patterns made it hard to find hairstyles/products that worked for my whole head!)

    I’ve since learned to love both of them, but it took a while. 🙂

    • I’ve always described my hair as “indecisive” or “schizo.” Left side– super thick, incredibly course and somewhat curly. Right side– much finer, and wavy instead of curly. Underside: curly. Top: wavy, with the front being almost straight. There are patches that are courser or finer or curlier or straighter… makes for an interesting mix.

      • It also makes you unique. From the pictures that you’ve shared, I think that your hair is incredible! I would have to side with Handsome on this.

  • My hair is curly and always has issues. My life changed in college when I discovered Aveda hair wax and it made the curls pretty instead of frizzy. But now…when I’m really stressed my hair falls out, and in the last 5 years you can see my scalp now when my hair is parted. My big fear is that I will have a bald spot on top of my scalp and I’ll have to wear wigs.

  • For what it is worth, I think your hair looks very pretty in the pictures you posted.

    I also am not fond of my hair. I have super fine hair. It tends to cling to my head like it is afraid of the breeze. Many clips slip right off. It starts to look greasy almost as soon as it dries. I have always wanted thinker, curly hair. ( I also wanted to be a red head. Wanting does not change genetics). So this month I permed it. Now I think my hair looks like a bedraggled poodle.

    The cosmetic thing I hate the most about my body is how easily it sweats. If I am nervous or doing something stressful, I have to wear dark colors. If I don’t wear dark colors, I get nervous that people can see me sweating, and then I sweat from nerves. I wish I could bathe in antipersperant.

  • For me it has always been my skin.

    Like you I cold never shave without looking like I had contracted chicken pox. Again like you my body hair situation was “coarser” than others and started appearing right around puberty. Which , coincidentally was when I also started getting acne. Now not normal, “teenager pimples” and not on my face. But cystic acne all on my back shoulders chest and neck. This mean I would never wear anything less then a full t-shirt.. which meant that I was always hot.. and sweated .. which gave me worse acne, which meant that even in 100 degree weather I would have rather hidden under a black hoodie then let anyone see my body.

    I still have scars but they are fading.. but I still cant leave the house in anything that shows off my back or upper body without at least bringing a cover up with me in case I get anxious.

    Fuck shitty self-images eh?

    • Dani

      My husband has the cystic acne all over his back. It makes me feel so bad when I hug him too hard and hit a sensitive spot. =/

      • It’s tough. Feeling afraid someone might see what your hiding…. Whether mental or physical. The stupid thing was the BEST thing for skin like that is to be clean and dry and UNCOVERED.. I ended up doing 3 rounds of accutane.

        Thanks for your post. I’m glad you’re working on letting mr. Handsome’s compliments stick. I’m sure he means it, and I’m sure your hair is glorious. Try some coconut oil on it 🙂

        • I don’t think I had cystic acne, but I had severe, severe acne as a teen. It got to the point where I could not look in a mirror without being, like, ashamed and horrified. That sucked. Even as a grown ass man, my complexion isn’t always super clear. But luckily, it mostly dissipated by my early 20s. Also: fat. Being fat is not good times. It’s kind of awesome that I would die the slowest if stuck in freezing water with a bunch of other people, but other than that, can’t think of any upsides. At least I’m a fat man, and not a fat woman. Worse for them.

          Might have been (am) fat and riddled with acne, but n the plus side, I always did have great hair. 😉

  • L

    Interesting, I have the same issue with razor burn, though with the armpits it got better enough that I shave there once a month, but I’ve never been self-conscious of my hair at all. (I did have trouble finding the right way to condition my hair, but using a rinse with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar per cup of water has been my shiny, smooth hair go-to for years.) I’ve always been extremely embarrassed by my stomach. I seriously used to want to live in the 1800s in large part due to the fact that they wore corsets. I no longer spend every second in public trying to suck it in, but I still don’t like my stomach.

  • I’ve had long hair since I was fairly young. I wonder if I should try something new, since I’ve had essentially the same hairstyle since, oh, ten years of age, but I’m afraid I would miss it if I cut it off. Which is pretty dumb, because 99% of the time I have it in a ponytail or a messy bun-thing. And I hope I gain the courage to wax for the first time tonight, because I’m generally too lazy to keep up with the amount of shaving my armpits/legs need. I’ve sometimes been embarrassed about the foliage on my arms, but it lays pretty flat and I’m too lazy to want more shaving upkeep. (Sometimes I actually do hide my insecurity behind apathy, but I have quite a bit of apathy to go around.)

    • sunnysidemeg

      I had medium/short hair as a kid and preteen, shoulder length or longer through teens and 20s. This summer I decided I didn’t want to have my only choices be limited to wearing my hair up all the time or suffering with hot, thick hair hanging down my neck and back.
      So, I got an inverted bob and told the hairdresser to go wild with layering /thinning. It’s very flattering, easy to care for and blows in the wind/swings around as I move. I love it.

      • I have you all beat: When I was 10, I had a mullet. Aw yeah!

        I usually had a short hair cut as a kid though. Classic flattop most of the time. Decided a few years back to grow my hair out. It grew thicker faster than it grew longer, so I had to get it trimmed pretty regularly. It looked good, and it prob maxed out just brushing my shoulders. My hair is very fine though and it wasn’t long enough to put in a ponytail that wouldn’t slip. The game plan was to grow it out and donate it to LL, but you have to have a long ass ponytail for that, I think 10 inches below the band or something. I got tired of it and got it all hacked off, sorry kids, but it was sad to see it go. Didn’t want to wait another 18 months for it to grow that long. While I had it I used to tell people I looked like Thor’s fat cousin. My little gravatar image is a caricature sketch drawn at the time, but the head of the sketch was pretty realistic.

  • Emily N.

    I was blessed with great hair, although I have spent rather too much time wishing that my forehead weren’t so high or that my hairline makes my face look too wide.

    My armpits are pretty sensitive, too. Waxing is pretty much amazing. I actually just had mine done this afternoon. Yeah, it hurts, but it’s not a lasting pain and the redness goes away after a day or so. Then it’s weeks of lovely hairlessness.

  • yamikuronue

    Oh my god. That’s like, exactly it. My hair, because I’m of mixed parentage, isn’t quite African hair but is way closer to that than European texture. All the American Girl books and style magazines and drugstore product in the world won’t make a difference. I still to this day wear my hair up in ponytails, ignore my body hair until I’m getting ready to don a costume that’ll show any of it, and just basically pretend none of it exists. But thanks to my husband, every once in a while when I want to wow him, I’ve learned how to style it down so he can see. He loves my hair 🙂

  • I have the opposite problem: super fine hair that does NOTHING. In HS, I spent 1.5 hrs every morning just on my hair: washing, blow drying with a curling brush, and styling. In an hour, my bangs would go flat and the cowlicks would take over. By the end of the day, the whole top of my head would be limp with grease. At 12, my mom gave me a home perm, and my hair broke off in rows. To top it off, I have a scalp condition that demands I wash my hair every day, or else I itch like I have a pox.

    Finally, I decided to cut my hair OFF. I mean, 2 inches on top of my head and shaved in the back. For a while I had to endure “Mommy, is that a man?” comments every time I went near a women’s restroom, but it beat the alternative. The problem now is that I have a weird bald spot slowly inching up my hairline from my neck, and I get red splotches every time my stylist cuts back there. I console myself with the thought that because it’s the back of my head, I can’t see it.

    Yeah, don’t get me started on pubic hair. Yikes.

    I probably feel most insecure about my femininity. I have short hair, a deep voice, and an androgynous face that seems to get more androgynous the older I get. Sometimes I feel like a boy in drag. Sometimes I think my husband got cheated.

    • This is coming from a random person on the internet, so take it for what it is worth! Assuming that picture is you, I don’t think your face looks androgynous at all. I think that haircut works for you, honestly. I don’t mean to kind of be presumptuous or step over the line here, so I apologize in advance, but honestly I think you look cute, and I’m sure your husband feels the same way!

      • Thanks so much. That’s very sweet!

    • Courtney

      I think you’re so pretty I know it’s strange but I really like androgyny, I’m not saying that you are cuz I only have that one picture to judge from which is not that androgynous but if you think you are then I would embrace it. I know, embracing the way you look is easier said then done, but androgyny is very popular right now in the fashion world.

      I also hate my thin, fine hair, to the point where when I used to hear girls complain about their hair being thick I thought they secretly liked it and were trying to brag without sounding like they’re bragging. Lol, now I realize that everyone doesn’t like what they have.

      Btw, your husband is not getting cheated and I’m sure he married you because he loves everything about you!

  • Snow

    I wish my hair fit in octopus clips. After snapping the hinge on a couple of those things, I gave up.

    I’ve learned that my hair has to be at least bra-band length in order to weigh itself down enough not to poof into a mushroom pyramid thing. At that length, I can at least brush it and braid it or put it in a ponytail. When I’ve had it cut shorter, there is just nothing I can do with it. All the careful blowouts and ironing and styling products in the world won’t stop the poof. Believe me, I’ve tried.

    I did discover that Spin Pins (those double-helix-shaped hairpins that you literally screw into your hair) are actually capable of holding my hair up in a bun — even on the top of my head. It’s literally the first time hairpins have actually worked for me (and I mean literally, not figuratively). No matter what I do, bobby pins always slide right out. I took ballet as a little girl and I still remember my mother shoving probably a hundred bobby pins into my hair to try and force my bun to stay in place. Now, it takes four spin pins to hold my hair up (the package directions say to use two), but it actually stays. (I tried a sock bun, but the added volume of the sock makes the bun almost the size of my head.)

    • Oh yes… I broke so many clips too, in my long-hair days. I ended up going drastically short a couple, which means my stylist also thins aggressively (which means basically cutting out over half of it), but finally, I don’t have such crazy volume. If I ever grow it out, I’ll be sure to have it thinned out then too. It’s a lifesaver.

      • I got a cut with a crazy amount of layers, and it’s been incredible. I still have length, but it’s half as heavy as it usually is and isn’t doing that ridiculous triangle thing.

  • I’ve always been self conscience about my red face. I have rosacia and no matter what cream or make-up I use, the redness is ever present. Actually, trying to cover it up makes it look worse, IMO. When I’m stressed, or hot, or working hard, my face gets BEAT RED and everyone around me always says that I need to take a break or to sit down and constantly ask, “are you okay? your face is so red!”

    My hair is a fine texture, but there is a lot of if. That’s a weird combination. I always say that my hair has a mind of its own, and every day is different. Some days its straight and flat and hugs my head and other days its a little wavy/messy. The only style that has ever worked for me is a messy style like Meg Ryan in her 90’s Rom Coms. But not as pretty.

    Mainly, I don’t feel like my outside matches my insides. The person I perceive myself to be and the person I see in the mirror don’t jive. Its like hearing a radio DJ for a long time and forming a kind of mental picture of them, and then meeting them in person, and you say to yourself, “Wow, he/she doesn’t look anything like I pictured.” So, I’m trying to work through that in my own life now.

    • Oh, wow, I totally hear you on the “my insides & outsides don’t match.” Well said!

    • Colinde

      Rosacia runs in my family and it starting to affect me now that I’m older. It’s so embarrassing and I totally feel your pain. I rarely wear makeup except when costuming (and I found some super heavy duty stage stuff that actually takes the red out!), so at work (where often I’ve been one of the few white people) I always ALWAYS get questions about my face… my emotions…etc. It’s hideously embarrassing and I turn even MORE red when I realize they’re all studying my face. >_< It's so frustrating that people just latch onto stuff like that and it just makes it harder for us to go through daily tasks being scrutinized.

  • MB

    Have any of you curly headed girls read the book “Curly Girl” by Lorraine Massey? The techniques used in that book can make your curls look GORGEOUS and remove the need for straightening and ponytails everyday. Changed my life!

    I’ve always been self conscience about my belly – as an incredibly overweight kid and not-so-big but still overweight adult I’ve come to be alright with most of my body, but still can’t stand my stomach. I’m always wondering if the reason I’m still single is because I’m too fat.

    • J. Rachel

      Have the Curly Girl book, and it’s been so helpful, MB. Used to hate my hair… now it’s usually pretty happy 🙂
      Trying to change that attitude I have towards my body… like it’s a thing to be conquered by me. Not easy. Feel really self-conscious about my appearance – have gotten so many nasty comments over the years that often find I don’t even want to leave the house. Everything is always too something… too big… too small… too wild… too flat… I’m 30 and am only starting to accept and love my body as an expression of me, my soul and where I come from.
      Thanks for sharing your struggles, Samantha.

  • Stephanie

    From the top of my head down to my toes I have issues with my hair. Shaving and waxing just cause clusters of breakouts, and even if I could afford electrolysis, I can’t deal with the pain.
    Plus I am pretty fair and am tired of people staring/making comments about my pale legs.
    And excessive perspiration, I have that too. I dread warm/hot weather. Its gotten worse now that im in peri-menopause.
    I think I might have Poly Cystic Ovary Disease, but now that its clear that I will never have children, I’m not going to bother. But if any of you with these body hair issues , especially if you also suffer monthly debilitating pain and heavy flow might want to be screened for PCOS, especially if you want to get pregnant.
    I’m hoping that someday we can be freer from the overly strict standards regarding women and body hair. Its a part to full time job for some of us with shaving, waxing, skin sensitivities and rashes, etc.

    • I do have PCOS & there is something you should check out: insulin resistance (IR). IR is a typical and dangerous part of our syndrome – left untreated it leads to Type II diabetes which is quite dangerous. So, if nothing else, if you think you have PCOS get screened for IR! (also, for me, controlling the IR controls a lot of the other symptoms, including lowering my testosterone levels and thus lightening the body hair. And no longer growing a mustache – boy was THAT awkward!!)

  • Dani

    I am pale with dark thick hair alllllll over my face. Started in my early 20’s I’d spend hours plucking and waxing and it hurt and left red bumps all over my face. I hate it when men sweetly touch my face. I freak out. I decided to get electrolysis. It’s starting to work. And I’m extatic! It’s painful but worth it. Maybe you should consider that for you armpits and bikini. I’m a hairstylist and I love big hair. I’d rock that big curly hair and wear it proud it I were you. You Guys with big thick hair know that everyone is just jealous of your hair and wish they had it right? Lol

  • I don’t shave much, either, just the sides of my pubic hair where my bikini bottoms don’t cover. I actually stopped shaving which I was living in the Caribbean (where such a thing is pretty scandalous, especially from a light-skinned woman with an American passport), & suddenly felt so, so attractive…I don’t know why it took until my mid-twenties to finally admit to myself that only shaved b/c I felt guilty about offending people…who the #&^#@%% are they to get offended about another person’s natural body? But it was awesome liberating to stop, I love the pattern of hair on my lower legs, love the perfect balance of hair in my armpits, love love love how much better it feels not to injure my skin every couple days & how much less BO I have to deal with. It’s awesome.

    My funny story is that I wore my hair short for years b/c my mother has insanely long hair & mine only grows to mid-back (yes, I now realize that mine is dang long, too, but at the time I thought it was thin, pathetic, embarrassing). My parents have this silly idea that women should always grow their hair long (awesome misuse of Scriptures, there) & one of my more traumatic childhood memories involves my father’s reaction to the first time I discussed haircuts with my mother. Now I grow it long b/c Hero & I have a sort of I-don’t-cut-my-hair-you-don’t-shave-your-mustache pact, & he’s even talking about growing a beard for Movember, woopee! When I look back on how silly it was to dislike my hair (which is gorgeous…almost as gorgeous as yours), I can laugh happily these day. & so will you!

    My not-so-funny story involves how quickly I metabolize food. It involves how blood-sugar drops can send me into emotionally dark places, it involves my body falling out of balance b/c of emotional abuse in my childhood…& it involves an “eating disorder” & years of suicidal ideation…when I was very, very young. It involves having women I wanted as friends hate me b/c I have the “ideal body,” slender yet curvy; men & women saying they wished they had my metabolism, when I knew it was one of the reasons I was struggling to survive. It involves staring at myself in the mirror & wondering if I’ll ever gain enough weight to hide my ribs. It involves a lot of fear & shame…& so much regret that my beautiful great butt & thighs just melted off of me after my child was born (trying not to burst into tears every time a woman told me I “looked great,” when I knew I was super thin b/c of all the illness I’d suffered via hormonal & adrenal imbalances during my first year as a mother). It involves a lot of guilt b/c just looking at my body makes women feel small, fat, ugly. & it involves a lot of people dismissing any & every pain I’ve suffered b/c apparently “beauty” = happy (& somehow only some of us are “beautiful?).

    Thank you for your post & this invite to share our stories 🙂 You continually create a safe space for us all. Thank you!

  • karenh1234567890

    I remember the ironing your hair on the ironing board trick. The first time it was popular in my lifetime was in the 1960s when girls wanted to look like Mary Travers of Peter, Paul, and Mary.

    I have fine hair that curls a little when it’s short, but hangs straight in clumps when it gets any length to it. I was envious of girls with naturally curly hair until I was in a dorm and learned what they had to go through to try to keep it from frizzing when the humidity rose.

  • RE

    For me, it’s my peach fuzz. A kid I knew in high school pointed it out and I’ve never forgotten it.
    Thankfully, though, now that I’m more aware of the different gender possibilities and where I put myself on the spectrum, I’ve come to accept it. Makes me feel a little more like an aristocratic dandy with their wispy facial hair.

  • V

    I don’t really care too much about the hair on the top of my head, but I have become painfully aware of body hair recently. I don’t really care about coloring my hair, either. I find it kind of neat to find white hairs, though I was weirded out when I saw two white eyebrow hairs.

    I have issue with unwanted facial/body hair. I’m a dirty blonde and have never concerned myself too much with things like my arm hair or leg hair, but I had an ex-bf who asked me about my mustache. I waxed it after that, but had a horrible reaction on my lip.I don’t do it anymore. I don’t think anyone can really see it, and my husband says he can’t see it, but I still worry.

    I am really self-conscious about my arm pits. I have hyperhidrosis which means no mater what I do or use, I always have huge armpit sweat stains. The only things I haven’t tried are botox and surgery.

    I think my giant boobs contribute to my sweaty pits because I can’t find shirts that fit properly. I hate shopping for bras and swim suits, and I wish I could use words like “perky” and “pert” to describe my body shape.

    But perhaps the thing I am most self-conscious of is something other people can’t even really see, in a sense: my fertility. I hate feeling so unfeminine and useless. My body can’t do the most basic thing that females should be able to do. Innocent questions about my family are triggers that no one else notices. My therapist says that I have a lot in common with people with body dysmorphic disorder, but this has really caused a lot of problems in my life. I’ve lost friends over this and I hate the way that I look at people now.

    For the most part, I am comfortable with the way I look, but I hate the way my body works.

  • Rose

    For me it’s my eyebrows but for the opposite reason. It’s a long, sordid tale but basically when I reached puberty my brows were big and bushy but also kinda wispy (hard to explain). Then I was at a friend’s cabin and her mom got bored and decided to pluck my eyebrows. She was a little zealous with the tweezers, leaving me with about 1/3 of each eyebrow. THEY NEVER GREW BACK. I have had to fill my eyebrows in every day since.

    I’m always so jealous of girls with full, luscious eyebrows! (Plus big eyebrows are totally in style right now) I live in dread of anyone seeing me brow-less. I had a humiliating sleepover experience in high school when after washing my face my friend was all “did you just pluck your eyebrows? You have like five hairs left!” The worst.

    Now, many years later and with a little more wisdom and self-care I can look in the mirror and think my face looks fine (although not for leaving the house!). It’s funny, the things my friends find monstrous about themselves I always find beautiful and interesting. I’m trying to afford myself the same goodwill.

    • sunnysidemeg

      🙁 I have an aunt with almost the same exact story. It should be more widely known that brows don’t always grow back.

      • Rose

        Wow, I’ve never heard of anyone with the same experience! Yes, absolutely, people have to be more careful about other people’s eyebrows (especially if they aren’t professionals!).

  • I find the American obsession with female hairlessness (at least, non-cephalic hairlessness) to be creepy, and more than a little pedophilic.

  • Rebekah Jones

    If I have any issues with my also super thick head of hair it’s that I can sometimes be a little vain about it! Growing it super long has helped keep it manageable and I’ve learned some awesome ways to braid and fix it to keep it off my neck. It has never really bothered me but yeah I remember getting comments at the salon about how thick my hair is (and even a ‘wow is that a gray hair?!’ comment, well jee its like 25 yo me was trying to ignore it or something!), I also thought at least I’d never have to worry about going bald.

    The hair on the rest of my body is another story though…..I don’t really have any skin sensitivity but I feel you on the obnoxious belly button hair, the jungle between my legs and everywhere else. I even ‘won’ third place in our high school swim teams hairiest legs contest (we usually didn’t shave all season! really what would have been the point? it was winter). Not shaving so much in HS has helped me not really care that my leg hair is ridiculous when I don’t feel like shaving but it is still super annoying to have to take care of if I want to wear a skirt or shorts. I can’t even cover it with tights, not even black ones, the hair is still visible!

    I think I have mostly accepted my belly button hair, mostly because I’m afraid shaving/plucking will just lead to it getting worse and worse. But also because I saw a picture of a european female modeling a crop top she had made and she was rocking her bb hair like nobodies business. I’ve been much less conscious about wearing bikinis ever since.

    The worst though is definitely my chin hair. Ugh. Plucking is such a pain and my skin seems to be more sensitive there so it always looks red and irritated for a while after I bother with it. But I’m pretty sure if I were to let it grow I would end up with a beard. 🙁

  • Abby Normal

    Oh, man, I can totally relate to the hair issues. I had always had paintbrush-straight
    hair as a little kid, but it turned curly when I hit puberty. To make matters worse, it didn’t curl all at once–I had this wonky tuft of curly hair on top of my head. I thought I could disguise it by having my hair cut short so I could smoosh it all flat into sort of a pixie cut, but it wound up sticking up even worse into this sort of old-lady-helmet-hair thing. The mean girls in middle school called me Nancy Reagan and I was *mortified*.

    I didn’t come to terms with my hair until grunge became a thing and I decided to let it grow out and stop brushing it (it looked awesome with a babydoll dress!)

  • To the girls with curly hair: You might consider researching African hair care and products. My (super) curly-headed daughter finally got so fed up with dealing with her hair and the teasing of her classmates that she shaved her head when she was in the seventh grade. Fortunately, as it was growing in I got a new employee who was African American and wore her hair natural. She taught my daughter how to care for her hair–I’d been telling her all the wrong, white people things to do with it. For starters she only washes it about every three weeks. The rest of the time she only conditions. She also NEVER uses a brush; instead she finger combs it when she conditions. Also, she sleeps in a Do-Rag. A cotton pillowcase sucks the moisture out of your hair.
    By the way, once she learned to care for her hair properly and also learned to be quite fiercely passionate about natural hair and confident about hers.

  • Colinde

    Wow, this really hits home. Yeah… my hair (all of it) and body have been sources of insecurity for the longest time.

    Your stories about your hair make me laugh though because although mine is structurally different (very fine and frizzy) I have the same feelings and stories. I had bone straight hair as a child that I was dissatisfied with because it did nothing. During the whole Tom & Huck teen-boy-craze in the 90’s I decided I wanted a “boy” haircut (ala Brad Renfro). It was pure awesome… for like… 1 day. Then the reality of my hair hit and I ended up looking like a brunette Carrot-Top as it grew out -_-”” Apparently my hair grew in curly! In frustration over the result and the amount of time and care it took to “style it right’ per mom – I gave up and let it grow long. So now it hovers somewhere between my butt and my knees mostly and I trim it myself when I think it needs it. It’s still curly, but with the weight it actually behaves most of the time. Much less care too, IMO. Wash, condition, comb and go. NOTHING else. The only problem is that since it’s outside of social norms (and I’m not particularly a feminine personality) I get alot of unwanted criticism about it, ALL the time. It’s amazing how people have the nerve to tell me HOW to cut it, WHEN to cut it, that I SHOULD cut it and that my split ends are “obvious” (read: ugly). *sigh*
    My whole life I just wanted straight hair that had body…. never got that no matter what I tried. It’s taken me a long long time to come to a semi peaceful relationship with the beast on my head.

    As for body hair.. I have similar issues. For the razor bumps I actually use Hydracortizone cream right after I step out of the shower, and it helps, but none of it really removes the root (haha) problem: my insecurity and hatred of my very black body hair on very white skin. I’m getting better: I stopped shaving my thighs years ago but my lower legs are another story, and I have a Happy Trail from HELL. >__o

    Now, it’s the cellulite. With my metabolism changing as I get older: I’m packing it on. And it’s killing me esteem-wise. :/ Still trying to figure out how to get around the awful feelings about that one…

  • I can’t comment much on the curse of hair, since as a privileged male, I can just cut mine short and nobody cares. 😉 (True story: I had the same hairstyle from 5 to 22, and changed it just that once to what I have now. I also refuse to do anything to my unibrow. It keeps the sweat out of my eyes…)

    However, the fact that you posted a picture of Sweetums was enough to make me read the entire post.

    Also, I never understood the societal demand for shaved legs and pits. The silliness we humans have about hair.

  • I just saw your comment about dyeing your hair!!!! I love the idea of going purple! I’ve been thinking it for myself, too, but I’m too much of a chicken. YOU GO SISTER!!!