I am not a very confident person.
Those who have met me and known me more recently - internet friends, people I've met at conferences, and the like, wouldn't really agree. This is in part because I've learned confidence, or at least the steps the go to the dance. I've not perfected it yet, but I've definitely come a long way.
As someone whose very anxious, I've always worried if I'm making the right decision, the right move, the right- you get the idea. I've never been certain of myself, always second guessing. This does not make for a confident individual. For me, allowing myself to grow into my femme, something I've talked a bit about here on the blog, was a big part of gaining that confidence, but I didn't realize until recently that something else pre-dated that.
I didn't notice what the foundations of my confidence were until they were gone.
About four years ago, I had been going from place to place and staying with friends, couldn't find work, and was trying to figure out what to do with my life after I couldn't afford to keep pursuing a BFA (yep, I went to school to be an art teacher). Moving around as much as I did, my usual shaving regimen had lapsed, but I'd try to follow up with it as often as possible and felt immense discomfort with my body hair.
At one point, I had to ask myself: why does this make me so uncomfortable? The act of shaving is time consuming, it's a luxury, it can result in painful rashes and cuts. Fed up with my own disgust at my body, I stopped shaving, in a more consciously chosen way.
For awhile, I was very uncomfortable with people seeing my body hair in public. I'd find ways to hide it - if I was wearing a short sleeved or sleeveless shirt, I'd clamp my arms to my body when I was around people who I didn't know.
Eventually, this loosened, and slowly my hairy legs and underarms became something I was proud of. Knowing that in American society, unshaven people determined by others to be women are generally considered lazy and unattractive. I threw that back in people's faces by presenting high-femme, with intricate outfits, stockings, heels, carefully done makeup and hair. It was interesting to watch people's reactions when they saw all of this but then noticed the long hair under my stockings. It was confusing and seemingly contradictory, but at that point it's what made me feel good.
Knowing the rules and consciously breaking them became a game for me, and something that made me feel confident - before, when I'd see people judge me, I'd shrink back. Because people reacted so often and so strongly to my body hair, I was able to write it off in my head and say "fuck them".
For awhile, I had been toying with the idea of shaving. Mostly out of the same place that began my journey of not shaving - curiosity. I had had body hair for so long that I wanted to know what it would feel like if I changed it, now. But it was never an idea I took seriously - shaving was time consuming, and although I do often spend a lot of time on my self-care ritual, I knew I would either need to be waxed or I'd have to incorporate it into my ritual, somehow.
I had a fascination with straight razors and shaving brushes, and after hearing about erotic shaving and considering it, I knew that if I was going to do it, I was going to want to start with someone else doing it. Someone I trusted. My last partner loved my body hair, and we never got around to it. The investment that goes into a straight razor, and my indecisiveness when it comes to investments, also helped slow down any progress.
Until I came to Israel. My partner, though very supportive of me doing what I wanted with my body and what felt most comfortable to me, admitted aesthetically preferring shaved legs. He was also concerned that people would treat me differently because of it - culturally, it's seen as unclean here. And I noticed right away how people reacted with revulsion at a degree far higher than I'd experienced in the US.
Before I came to Israel, I had talked to my partner about shaving my legs in response to his worries, and thankfully the wonderful people at the Smitten Kitten pulled through and provided me with a shave soap kit from SeaGrape Soap, one of my favorite natural soap and body product producers. So I had soap.
But there was some difficulty finding a good razor. I was still dragging my feet on making a decision, and once I was in Israel it was even harder. I looked around, nowhere in the country seemed to have straight razors in store. I eventually found someone who refurbishes vintage razors and is actually based in Israel, but nothing really struck me at first.
I gave up looking, but got increasingly uncomfortable because I was so unfamiliar with the culture in Israel that I didn't feel comfortable breaking rules I didn't really understand. I wore knee-high socks and, whenever I wore a shirt that didn't have sleeves I wore a sweater despite it being pretty warm here. My confidence became incredibly degraded, I became depressed, and a bickered with my partner whenever he mentioned shaving, since I had been so into the idea of him shaving my legs.
One day I had a complete breakdown, wherein I realized how important my body hair had been in the formation of the confidence I had in myself. I had become reliant on it to kind of shield myself from people - if they were looking at me weird, it was because of my body hair - I could easily write things off that had previously bothered me immensely, because I was using my body hair as a shield. A shield I had become so dependent on that I was subconsciously avoiding getting rid of it, and became incredibly upset at the thought of it.
So I got a razor.
It helped that the site with the vintage razors had a refurbished razor with the word "climax" stamped into the blade. I was sold, and bought it as soon as I saw it. Sometimes things work out in lovely ways. You can hover over the image to the left if you want to learn a little about the razor's history.
It unfortunately took a little while to get to me - I ordered it a little before a bunch of holidays happened. But it eventually got to me, and within a few days we decided to go for it.
There is something really nice about having someone take the time to slowly shave your legs and underarms, especially with a razor and brush soap. I don't really find it erotic, really, but the care and attention involved feels so refreshing and nice. My partner taking the multiple hours it took out of his time to not only shave me but really, truly pay attention to what he was doing and be insistent upon doing it well, all the while checking in to make sure he wasn't hurting me - that was an amazing feeling. I can't fully put into words how it felt.
I also can't really wrap my head around how I feel after having been shaved. I feel good in some senses because I feel more comfortable in my body here in Israel, but at first I definitely noticed something I'll call "body hair awareness" still lingering. I was still in the mindset of having body hair, if that makes sense. It's weird how divisive and binary our society has made something that is really a personal grooming choice.
Will I keep my shaven legs and underarms? At least while I'm in Israel. I'm thinking I'll let things grow out for winter when I get back - something I've always done - and then I'd like to have my partner shave my legs and underarms again come spring, and see what happens.
Whether or not you shave your body hair - whether it's a daily or a weekly or a once-in-awhile practice for you, I'd highly recommend trying it out with a partner, at least once - it's definitely a trusting and bonding activity, and unlike anything I've ever tried. Maybe once you build up some trust, you can try out shaving more intimate areas (yes, I'm talking about the pubic mound, mabia majora, and balls), which really takes trust. I'd highly recommend the SeaGrape Soap shaving mug set (it even comes with a brush!) and I've been using their massage oil to moisturize, but you can use any massage oil or moisturizer. Here are some recommendations from the Smitten Kitten:
All of the product suggestion images in this post are from the Smitten Kitten's website, and all links to products are affiliate links. If you buy something after clicking a link, I'll get a percentage of the total. This helps support the work I do and is kind of a "thanks!" for my letting you know about some awesome stuff. If you want to make sure I get a cut, you empty your cookies and cache first. Not sure what that means? Learn more (and how to do it) here.
The SeaGrape Soap Shave Mug and Massage Oil were both provided to me by the Smitten Kitten in exchange for my honest opinion. I bought the razor, and plan on buying more in the future, from strazors.com