BY MAHEK SAINI
My relationship with my body hair is conflicting, to say the least. It’s always been a part of me, covering my arms and legs—a forest of thick, black lines.
It all started when I was nine years old, in the middle of my fourth grade year. I had begun puberty at this age and hair found its way above my lips and on my chin.
To put it straight, I had what a boy in my class called a “moustache and beard.” I still remember the way he looked me up and down, making a disgusted face. I even wanted to punch it.
“You have a moustache and a beard,” he said. “Are you even a girl? You’re so hairy.”
A lot of the children in my elementary school were also South Asian, and I felt ostracized because of his words. It felt like betrayal, to think that at such a young age I couldn’t fit in with my own community because of my facial hair.
I came home crying to my mother, telling her all about the horrible events of that day. I asked her why I had hair on my face and she too wanted to punch that boy’s face. It was the first time she heard me call myself ugly, to make matters worse.
My aunt suggested waxing, and later took me to a local auntie’s waxing clinic (AKA her basement).
“It’s painful,” the auntie said, face deadpan. “This is going to hurt.”
And oh, it did. It was so painful. As she removed each strip with such force and speed, I began to cry. My aunt kept trying to assure me, telling me it’d be over soon. But I insisted on having it end, even kicking and screaming. After thirty minutes or so, the lady was finished, but she wasn’t too happy about my reaction to the pain. Still teary-eyed, I cupped my now-red cheeks and chin. They ached.
I continued to get my facial hair waxed, but in the form of Walmart waxing strips meant for home use. They hurt just as much, to no one’s surprise.
As I grew older I began to curse my body hair. I didn’t know anyone in the media who was proud of theirs, making me feel even more alienated.
In seventh grade I began laser hair removal treatments. They were expensive, but the pain was bearable compared to wax strips. To my delight, the results came quicker. My relentless hair follicles finally started to die, and I felt a boost in confidence.
Alternatively, I feel comforted knowing I’m not the only South Asian girl who deals with these problems. Body hair is something many of us deal with, with treatments shared family-to-family. Everyone knows someone who has it and is working on removing it. It’s ingrained in our culture, and the amount of chemical-ridden hair removal creams will tell you just that. But at the same time, it’s just a part of our bodies and doesn’t deserve to be shamed. It’s societal beauty standards that mock it and think it should be erased entirely.
To this day, I still get laser hair removal procedures done, and not just on my face. I’ve gotten my leg and arm hair removed, and have gotten the treatments done on my stomach hair. But that’s just what I want for my body—the embarrassment and mockery I received from others because of my body hair was too much for me to endure.
However, body hair is truly nothing to be ashamed of. I didn’t deserve to be made fun of for something that’s always been a part of me. I also wish I didn’t have to take drastic steps in order to remove it at such a young age. Instead, I hope for more steps to be taken in order to remove its stigma and end the bullying and harassment South Asian girls unfortunately deal with.