How amazingly freeing it would be if hair removal — arguably the most deep-seated and impenetrable of all our beauty myths — became strictly optional, and being hairy was considered maybe a little hipster-ish (or insert your-favorite-youth-culture-group-here), but basically cool? -- Virginia Sole-Smith
I have never been super diligent about shaving my leg hair. When it first became A Thing To Do, I never quite understood the need to remove something that was so determined to grow on my body. In high school, when my entire basketball team decided to support one of our members in her pursuit of the Hairy Leg portion of the Smooth/Hairy Leg contest for Spirit Week, I was relieved that I would more easily blend in with my teammates when we were all wearing shorts. The looks on the faces of one opposing team in particular (whom we privately called the Microwave Barbies) were priceless to behold. We may even have gotten a few points off them before they crushed us with their superior firepower and uniformly perky blonde ponytails.
My mother's leg and arm hair had long since been stunted by radiation, and shaving was something that she rarely bothered to do. Nevertheless, I have always felt obliged to shave my legs (eventually), probably due to some unspoken social pressure. Like many women, I do less shaving during the winter, and I never wear skirts and therefore don't feel any obligation to have accordingly feminine-looking legs. I've never considered waxing or any other more extreme form of hair-removal, because I simply don't care that much whether there is hair on my legs at all. And I like to avoid pain wherever possible!
Last winter, I was stricken with a particularly painful full-body outbreak of psoriasis, which meant that I certainly wasn't going to apply a razor to any part of me, as it already looked and felt as if that had occurred. Several months and many treatments later, I was recovered enough to shave my left leg, but ran out of energy before I got to the other one. And then I kept shaving the left leg, and leaving the right leg. I idly wondered (although I knew better) if there would be some kind of crucial length of time where the growth would eventually stop, or whether I would have a braid-able quantity at some point. I enjoyed the contrast of one smooth leg and one . . . not. Recently, I went to the mall in shorts and noticed an older woman staring at my legs. I guess that unspoken social stigma is still in place for women with hairy legs, or maybe it only exists for women with one hairy leg?
This experimental phase of my life ended abruptly with the onset of summer weather and the brave sacrifice of two razor-heads. Did I end up shaving my right leg because of the aforementioned social pressure? I can't be sure. Part of me wants to grow it back out again expressly so I can find that lady at the mall and walk aggressively past her. Part of me just wanted my legs to match again, which, of course, they don't. I now have a smooth-shaven right leg and a few days of growth on the left leg.
Leg shaving: It's a lose-lose proposition.
Other reading: My other meditation on hair; Beauty Schooled on hairy legs and Reclaiming the Leg Wax; the frightening articles in Allure's Hair Removal section of the website; and an opinion piece on Feminism, Women Shaving & The Western Harem.