The country is going through a brutal lockdown, with migrants walking hundreds of kilometres to reach home, with the poverty-stricken dying of starvation and exhaustion even before the virus could possibly hit them, with the job-market at an all-time low and the economy crashing before every graduate’s eyes.
It’s a dark time, and the future is nightmarishly uncertain.
But amidst all this chaos, I’ve learnt a crucial lesson that I’ve struggled with ever since I was three.
“It’s okay, there’s a little hair on your forearm, no one will notice,” I’d tell myself, disappointedly gazing at lustrous strands. And in a jiffy, I’d pull out my saviour – a long-sleeved plaid shirt because I felt the hair was obvious and that I didn’t feel comfortable.
But I felt more than discomfort, it was disgust that went skin deep – for my own body. For my hair.
The daily cycle of picking clothes that covered every inch of my arms – whenever hairy – came to a sudden halt a day after the announcement of the first lockdown. Now confined at home, I have begun to forget the mental preparation required before getting waxed, and the half-an-hour long wailing session that the deed itself entailed as two women stand on opposite sides while displaying clockwork mechanics by spreading warm wax with a butter knife, firmly pressing a strip, applying pressure in the opposite direction of hair-growth and ripping it off with the coldest heart.
Now before someone points out other available quick fixes – from razors to cold wax and creams – hear me out. With the hair growth I have, these aren’t viable solutions.
It has always been a race against time, and my body hair is faster, thicker, stronger and the ultimate winner.
Body hair was – and is – something I’ve always been conscious about. From uneasy looks on faces to being nicknamed ‘wolf’ – such incidents aren’t easily forgotten, no matter how hard I try. What may have begun in casual fun or jest resulted in years of avoiding strappy tops, cropped shirts, deep necklines or basically anything that revealed more than a fully-waxed arm of skin.
The temporary closure of beauty parlours is a wise decision, undoubtedly, for these would have been hotspots for easy transmission considering the shared intimate space. Though, I am happy to not have to bear the unasked-for wise-preaching by the beautician, “Tch, so much hair, why didn’t you wax earlier?”
However, this closure of grooming centres also meant something greater for the negative portrayal I’ve had of my physical appearance. With each passing day, I’ve slowly grown to view my true physical self without flinching at the fur-coat of body hair. It’s no less than inch-long, probably longer on my arms, and my legs are neither smooth but rather sown with ingrown-hair. My back is shielded by strands that can bear the meanest of comments – be it monikers of the Amazon forest or Australian grasslands.
This lockdown has taught me to look at myself differently, with a less harsh lens of scrutiny. Most importantly, to be kind to myself once the lockdown is over, when the hypocrite in me decides to visit the parlour – it will not be because I despise my body hair, but more just for myself.
Nivedita Menezes is a student at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai.
Featured image credit: Isaac Small for Januhairy