What’s body hair got to do with it?

Personal autonomy and finding embodiment guides in unexpected places.

Have you ever noticed how most people seem drawn to snuggle babies? It is as though there is a longing to fulfill some sort of fundamental sensorial desire. Perhaps it is the vulnerability of babies that frees us from our conditioned constraints, releasing us to experience innocent pleasures. I confess I am lured to caress a baby’s delicate peach fuzz with the sensitivity of my face. Like the warm comfort of a wool sweater, or a sheep’s fleece, there is something alluring about the vellus hairs of a baby. Vellus, which does in fact mean fleece or wool in Latin, refers to the short, barely noticeable hairs that cover almost the entire human body up until puberty. Then they give way to thicker, and in some places coarser, androgentic hairs which cover many parts of our physical geography. And this is when body hair suddenly becomes weird.

Influenced by culture, convention, trends, and political views; our thoughts about body hair are deeply emotional and complex. Opinions vary sharply; shave, wax, laser, grow or embrace the possibilities of vibrant colours in the armpit hair dyeing craze. In my teen years I felt the group pressure to march to the common drum and shave. But there was a different kind of influence at home. You see, I was raised by a single mom rooted in the 1970s feminism movement, where body hair was a “radical” statement. That is, not shaving was all about personal autonomy. Kinda complex stuff for an adolescent to get her head around, I mean, what was the big deal? – it’s only hair…it grows back. Ever the people pleaser, I was significantly torn between my mom and the rank and file found in my high school classrooms. Eventually, I succumbed to mass mentality, and SHAVED. 

Gone were the lovely virgin blond hairs on my legs. Hair does, indeed, grow back; only it turns out that on the legs it becomes darker and no longer luxuriously soft. Recently, I’ve noticed this unique hair on my adolescent daughter’s legs and I recognize that same baby snuggle desire. Probably a good thing it is just confined to my own kid; and let’s not tell her, she would be horrified! I’ve shaved on and off over the years, taking long breaks during cold months or while running after young kids. It also turns out that when on parole from the violence of blades, hair returns to a softer state of being. I no longer really care one way or another about leg or underarm hair.

A few years long ago, a need abruptly arose within me to claim my autonomy (truth be told, at the time I didn’t recognize it as that). I began a process of breaking bondages; of uncovering and destroying the internal rules of people pleasing. After all, people pleasing is way of living that surrenders autonomy to others. I stripped off external controls and claimed my right to self-government. Part and parcel to this process was a return to my body and a laying of claim to my sensual nature. Out of the blue, I decided to explore the experience of body waxing. Guided neither by peers, parental units, nor spouse, I chose to have this experience for me. Without research I selected a small local spa in the downtown core of my community, and decided to experience leg, armpit, and bikini (because why not?) waxing.

Believe it or not, I loved the experience. The warm wax spread smoothly over my skin was intensely pleasurable, the ripping off of hairs was painful only on a low level, and there was an oddly thrilling sensation of bare skin for a few days. So, I returned and it became a routine.

Recently my regular esthetician, Sarah, went on maternity leave. Well aware I would miss her, I really had no idea what I would discover about her in her absence. Another esthetician, who truly is a lovely young woman, would be waxing me for the duration. The first experience was fine, except I had this lingering impression that something. wasn’t.. quite… I don’t know. Words alluded me in describing what was missing after this friendly satisfying encounter. After a similar second appointment I took the tactic of asking for silence, except when necessary. You might not realize this, but our bodies are portals to incredible wisdom. Problem is, we live in a society so disconnected from nature that we have difficulty listening to what our body is saying to us. Tuning-in can be like swimming through seaweed, never sure if you will reach clear water. It took silence for me to begin to hear through my body.

Attentive to what I was experiencing, I realized that my body was being handled as a job to be completed, which was being attended to effectively and efficiently. That was the problem. My waxing was performed as a duty to fulfill an expected outcome, and through that process I was being striped of my autonomy. I had become a commodity in need of fixing. The cautious, sectional removal of my wrap as the esthetician performed my bikini wax, suggested either she was embarrassed with this area of my body, or she anticipated I was. As though dragged down by a grindylow, conditioned shame started pulling me into depths I had worked hard to emerge from. That was the moment I realized that Sarah, who I came to out of nothing more than dumb luck, was an embodiment guide.

Now I’m sure you are wondering what an embodiment guide is. Fair question. It is a person who understands each and everyone one of us embodies sacred wisdom. As a guide, they join you along your journey, creating a container of spiritual space where you can access your internal voice and engage in a process of healing. That is what Sarah does, though she probably doesn’t know it. She creates a nonjudgmental chamber where she honours a body throughout the session. In this contained period of time, like a tree losing its leaves in the fall, it is the process that is full of beauty. We know there is a final destination, a transformation of sorts; but the true value is in the process. When I enter a waxing session with Sarah, I am engaging in a process of stripping to a raw nakedness where I vulnerably expose my personal borders. Internally I mirror the physical process, psychologically peeling back layers. As without, so within. And wouldn’t you know, that nakedness actually contributes to a reclaiming of my personal autonomy. 

In recent years I’ve traveled what feels like a thousand steps or more in my quest back to myself; seeking and being open to experiences along the way. Hearing internal wisdom is key to taking me closer to who I truly am. By hook or crook, I stumbled upon an embodiment guide in an unanticipated place. Truthfully, I’m not all that wed to waxing or removing body hair. It is just an episode along my journey. But I’ve discovered that any encounter along the path has transformative potential. From now on I will look out for those accidental guides, creating unheralded sacred spaces where the soul’s voice is amplified.

I am full of gratitude that Sarah joined me for awhile along my journey. It is time now, for her to tend to her family.  Perhaps it is time for a new experience for me. Where are my keys? I think I’ll check out what brilliant dye colours they have at the drugstore. What do you think of purple?

 

Sexuality: red camisole

This piece, along with its sister piece, Sexuality:  bra and underwear, are a contemplation of internalized societal messaging around our sexuality and what we associate with sexual arousal and pleasure.  Are we caged into concepts by our external cultural experiences?  Can we break away from mental restrictions and assemble an individual understanding of what arouses and pleases? 

Sexuality: bra and underwear

This piece, along with its sister piece, Sexuality:  red camisole, are a contemplation of internalized societal messaging around our sexuality and what we associate with sexual arousal and pleasure.  Are we caged into concepts by our external cultural experiences?  Can we break away from mental restrictions and assemble an individual understanding of what arouses and pleases? 

Emerging from metamorphosis

Metamorphosis is an amazing biological process wherein an organism’s body undergoes significant change.  In complete metamorphosis, which moths and butterflies undergo, the body literally breaks down and reforms.  In Emerging from Metamorphosis I imagine metamorphosis akin to a time of personal change and growth, perhaps while engaged in therapy.  This piece pays homage to the incredible beauty within each individual, and the possibility of freedom from our psychological pain points.

Birthing identity beyond labels

Identifying with various societal groups can give one comfort in belonging, a sense of shared experiences, and codes of behaviour.  Yet, they can also strip one’s uniqueness by providing established role templates.  Some labels are given to us early in life shaping our experiences from birth and setting the stage for other predictable labels we may acquire in life through actions and experiences.  I am a white female and a daughter.  I am well educated, in part due to my privileged as a white and the social economic status of my birth family.  Identifying as heterosexual, I eventually become both a wife and mother.  I find that deep within there is a burning fire of a singular individual birthing herself beyond the labels. 

Empowerment coach for menstruating women