If you've never given much thought to your arm hair, it may be hard to imagine what it's like to be unhappy with your own day in and day out, but that's precisely the self-consciousness experienced by countless women moving from childhood into adolescence. One such person is Nicole, who recalls, "My arm hair was pointed out to me ever since I can remember. The average human body boasts some 5 million hair follicles , and generations of beauty standards across many cultures have dictated that on femme-presenting bodies, some of this hair is acceptable and some of it is not. Body hair has been censured and policed, giving rise to hair-removal rituals requiring immense time and resources: shaving, waxing, laser hair removal, electrolysis, and more. As the body-positivity movement has gathered momentum in recent years, though, body hair , especially on legs and armpits, has begun to enter the mainstream, with celebrities and Instagram influencers applauded for flaunting theirs. Arm hair has been discussed far less, but that's not to say it doesn't inspire strong feelings in those who have it, which is to say all of us.
My shins are also decorated with ribbons of shiny white scars. These hark back to a period of adolescent one-upmanship when my older sister began shaving her legs, so I decided to start too, all the while refusing invaluable insights from my mother about how to actually perform the task properly—and safely. I never did listen to my mom! Through years of trial and error, I more or less learned how to remove hair without cutting my legs open, but my life continues to be plagued with ingrowns, irritation, and those annoying red dots.
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Daddy had promised me I could come live with him anytime, so my underdeveloped thirteenth year was spent in East Texas with my father and stepmother. I was skinny and flat-chested, but wore a padded bra my mother had bought for me. My deepest wish was that my period would start before I left New Mexico. No such luck. It descended shortly after my arrival in Longview.