Body hair. For some reason even the words bring up feelings of disgust. But to whoever is reading this, understand that this has been programmed. I struggled for years with my body hair. I was the only hairy legged, hairy armed, hairy faced Sri Lankan in my high school. I also competed in swimming throughout my schooling and I had little bits of stray pubes I would ferociously tuck in before every race. Why didn’t I do anything about it and save myself the gruesome embarrassment of high school gossip? No, not because I was an empowered young feminist women. It was actually because my mother didn’t allow me to shave my legs or get my eyebrows or upper lip threaded. She didn’t let me wear makeup, dye or straighten my hair or let me wear my hair down to school. “I’m teaching you to learn to love yourself the way you are'' she would say. “Trust me. You’ll thank me one day.” She would say time and time again as I would scoff and complain once more behind her back.
I wanted to blend in, to look like the other white pristine barbies at my school. After high school I finally had full reign over my body. I couldn’t handle my own insecurities so I made the expensive decision to permanently get rid of them. I had laser treatments and burned away the hair off my pubic regions, armpits and snail trail. Yes snail trail, that was the most embarrassing spot. It’s the spot most people would think only guys have hair on, but no! Not for us ethnic girls. Anyway, everything was gone and I felt good about it. I felt confident in a bikini and I no longer had to use that dreaded conceal tool on Face-tune for my armpits because they were ridiculously dark from all the shaving.
Around that time I happened to go through an awakening of sorts. I asked myself, “well, what if I just hadn’t compared myself to white girls or just anyone in general?” “What if I had listened to my mother’s advice?” It was then that it hit me. Beauty is not a real thing. It really is a social construct. It is something that the media portrays and a lot of it is based on white beauty standards. I can’t compare my beautifully crooked and bumpy ethnic nose to a genetically diverse white slopey nose that is equally beautiful in it’s own right. The logic is so flawed! Of course white girls aren’t as hairy and have straight blonde hair - they’re white! But you know what....They face different problems, like the pressure to fake tan, not having visible eyelashes, bad sunburn, ageing skin and the higher health risk of skin cancer.
My mother’s words echoed in my mind. I began to appreciate natural beauty. I began to compliment everyone around me for something that was individual and unique about them. I never ended up getting my leg hair lasered off because of this. I’m comfortable and confident with it now. Of course sometimes I might want the look of silky smooth legs with a silky smooth dress, but I also don’t hesitate to wear a dress and rock some scruff! The best part about it in today’s modern world is that even if you are insecure, at the very least, bare minimum, you can be mentally assured that today’s plethora of body positivity movements will protect you and make it look cool! Because it is! It’s cool to be yourself! This has definitely been a huge mental journey for me but I can confidently say that I am finally there, and you can do it too! You can and will learn to love yourself, just the way you are.
Aadhya is a dancer, singer and actress. She is also the founder of
brownpaintbrown which is a platform for brown creatives and renegades who are repainting the narrative of what it means to be South Asian.
You can follow her @aadhyawije on instagram.