Tuesday, October 14 3:21p.m.
“Why do you look like a boy?” she asks, accusingly. This fifth grade girl is pointing at my unshaven legs, clearly confused and disappointed in me.
I’m not totally sure what the simplest way to break it down for her is. Should I tell her lots of women have hairy legs? Should I ask why she thinks I’m not a boy? Should I explain that the dichotomization of male and female gender is constructed in order to enforce patriarchy? Should I tell her I’m not a boy or a girl?
“I don’t like shaving my legs.” I tell her. It’s simple, anyway.
“When you get home, shave your legs!” she commands. I smile and shake my head “no”.
Her confused expression grabs the attention of her neighbor, who asks whats wrong. The girl points at me and says “she looks like a boy!” The second girl looks puzzled.
“No, she looks like a girl!”
Their debate continues as I smile and continue to insist that my leg hair has nothing to do with my gender, feeling at once embarrassed by the sudden attention focused on my legs and also excited at the opportunity to challenge standards of beauty and gender roles with such impressionable people. I no longer think much about my hairy legs and armpits – I haven’t shaved them in years – because I spend most of my time around people who don’t look twice, but every once in a while someone will call my attention to the fact that in not shaving, I’m doing something most people find pretty shocking.
While grown-ups are often more tactful in their reproaches, the gender policing thing doesn’t seem to go away.
As I climb into the passenger seat of a large semi truck, my grizzled driver’s eyes grow wide.
“When is the last time you shaved your legs, girl?” he exclaims.
“When is the last time you shaved yours?” I respond, as he raises his eyebrows and turns away, I think, to hide his slight blush.