When I was about 10 years old, I got the distinct feeling that the way people-and more specifically, boys–looked at me had changed. Prior to that, the closest I’d gotten to any male attention was when my mother dressed me in a crop top and hot pants at 8 years old, and one of the neighbourhood boys (who were still my buddies) said I dress like a ‘bad girl.’
I was very confused at the time.
At 10, though, things changed. Boys were becoming less friendly and more mean, and both boys and girls were grouping together in little cliques. I felt left out for the first time in my life. Little did I know, this would be a common theme of my girlhood – my sensitivities and a certain ineptitude in social situations would be a self-fulfilling prophecy in my life, making me feel like an anxious lil loony toon.
No, at first, I was surprised. Why were people leaving me out? Why did I feel so bullied all of a sudden? Why was I getting cold whispers from the girls and evil guffaws from the lads?
Then, I moved to Canada. By this time, I have changed a lot physically. Once a cute little kid with dimples and curly hair, I changed into a hairy, bespectacled chipmunk with a very strange sense of style.
Yes, that is a pink frilly top with a weird emo choker. With beads.
But anyway. Coming to Canada was a game-changer. Once a slightly spoiled girl in a well off family, complete with daily maids and nannies, I was now hearing daily arguments between my parents. My parents never made me feel poor, and their story is incredible, but the difference was stark. My mom, once a stay-at-home wife and mother, now worked 7 days a week as a telemarketer. My dad juggled part time jobs.
Me? Well, I became a very unhappy, lonely, insecure little girl. With a full grown moustache and unibrow to top it all off. The bullying was pretty intense.
“You ugly monkey!”
“Shave your moustache!”
“You have really hairy arms.”
“Ewwww, I can see your nose hairs!”
were just a few comments I would hear on a daily basis. My crying and weird protesting just made things worse. (This is not when I learned that my reactions are of utmost importance, and that I need to keep myself together – that lesson has barely registered even recently.)
My mother wouldn’t let me thread or wax my eyebrows until I turned 16, so one day I took matters into my own hands and shaved my face. My mother was busy and tired and didn’t notice at first, but when she did notice, her gasp of shock and her subsequent look of pity and anger made me sick to my stomach. I begged her to let me wax and thread the offending areas, but she wouldn’t budge.
“It’s barely noticeable Shveta! If you start now, you will regret it, the hairs will get thicker. Just leave it to grow! And ignore the people who tease you.”
Sound advice, but I was an approval-seeking, anxious, unhappy little girl who had not a friend in the world and plenty of hairy-girl-haters. I used Veet next and was left with many burns.
Many years later, I’ve blocked much of this out.
I’m speaking to a friend at a party at my house. We’ve drank about 4 shots each and have eased into the music of the night, feeling great. I’m feeling restless and inspired, enjoying the good vibes all around. The night’s gone well, with a ton of dancing and only a few hilarious mishaps.
Let’s name my friend Anuradha
Anuradha is the prettiest girl I know. I’ve known her for years. She slays my whole existence with simple beauty and daring style. She has an amazing figure that I fantasize about…having. haha. She inspires me so much, whether it be taking care of her whole family financially, or dealing with life so maturely. I’m proud to be a woman when I’m around her. She means a lot to me.
A few weeks ago, Anuradha said to me: “dude – I’m so grateful for how tough my parents raised me. They made me strong by holding me to intense standards.”
I reflected on that. It was true – Anuradha had always dealt with things in an inspiring way. She was the true definition of caring, empathetic, but didn’t give a hoot what people thought about her.
It struck me that she and I both shared the same Indian background and came to Canada at about the same age.
I asked her, “Did you feel bullied growing up?”
“Yeah, but who hasn’t?” she shrugged. “To be honest, I was teased pretty badly about how hairy I am, but that just made me stronger.”
She recounted how, many times, when boys teased her about her moustache, she threw it back at them, saying they were just jealous.
“How could they not be? I’m so f***king hairy, I used to measure the length of my hairs.”
I gasp. Mirth filled my body and tears filled my eyes as I almost died laughing. “Me too!” I said.
“Our land is fertile. By that I mean, our pores grow hair amazingly well.” she said, killing me further.
After several hairy girl confessions and jokes, I looked at her. I had never once found her less than absolutely gorgeous. I pictured her whole body being so hairy that things got caught in the strands.
I pictured that her body hair got all matted and gnarly. Did I think she was ugly?
After many more ridiculous jokes that made everyone around us uncomfortable, I felt a bit in awe. I knew the age old sayings and mantras about accepting oneself and ignoring everyone’s opinions, but I never felt strong enough to do it. The fact that Anuradha was able to do so with such ease showed me that she had the guts to withstand emotion and learn lessons during the hard times.
Instead of hiding in the sand, avoiding emotions, lashing out or trying to change to please everyone else, she stood strong. I can see this trait, this history of reacting this way to problems has shaped her into the beautiful woman she is today.
Since then, my friend’s radical self-acceptance has inspired me to judge myself less. And especially about the hairy part. I got good hair, brows, lashes due to these hairy ass genetics. It’s all good.