Body hair’s lack of space in society

My eyelashes are easily my favorite thing about my physical appearance. They are longer and thicker than some of the fake eyelashes that I’ve seen in drugstores, they never need any mascara, and they require literally zero maintenance to look as gorgeous as they do. However, when anyone expresses any jealousy or desire to have similar lashes, I always remind them that there’s a big trade off: intense body hair. It makes sense logically – if the hair on my eyelids is long and thick, so is the hair everywhere else. While I’ll always be thankful that I can give a great butterfly kiss, the other consequences of having lots of body hair have been nothing less than challenging and often debilitating. 

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My parents both have naturally dark hair, so it was no surprise to anyone when I was born with a full head of hair. I was very subjectively the cutest baby that had ever walked the earth, but when the hair started growing on my arms, legs, and pretty much everywhere else, I was quickly made aware that something was “wrong” with me. 

My elementary school bus bullies tormented me for my body hair, labeling me a gorilla and taunting me with gorilla sounds day in and day out. I knew that there were 2 or 3 other girls in my grade in elementary school that also had a bit of body hair, but they didn’t experience any of the same bullying because they were ~popular~. It was the most isolating experience my little ten-year-old self could fathom. 

My parents saw how much this destroyed me and helped me try to accept this part of myself. This was a difficult feat for them, as I’ve been stubborn and impossible to convince since day one. Plus, if the school bus bullies zeroed in on it so much, it had to matter, right? 

My mom and dad thus looked into the additional approach of helping me find ways to minimize this hair. They invested more money than I can even imagine into monthly laser hair removal treatments. My mom helped me on a biweekly basis to apply bleach to the hair on my arms, stomach, and chest (yes, girls can grow hair there). Lasers and bleaching were extremely painful, and they honestly didn’t help too much in getting rid of the hair long term. 

I tried to wear T-shirts into the ocean because I was insecure about the hair in every bikini area ever. I eventually worked my way up to tankinis and bikinis, but I still spent hours upon hours trying to pluck, shave, Nair, bleach, or laser the hair away before I dared to go to the beach. 

I didn’t go as far as I could have with high school boyfriends because I didn’t want them to see hair in places that girls were supposed to be super smooth in. 

Even years after the bullies subsided and I went to college feeling like the most confident version of myself, I still maintained my weekly hair removal routines, occasional laser appointments, and frequent crying sessions anytime someone mentioned how much arm hair I had. 

While I think I’ve gotten to a point where this insecurity doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it used to, there are still moments when it drives me absolutely insane. A few days before this past semester ended, I saw someone at my school post on social media about being insecure about their body hair. I didn’t know this person too well, but I still felt like I should reach out and offer the advice they said they were seeking. I later found out that they posted that message during a drinking game as a dare. While I laughed it off in the moment, this made me feel like absolute dog shit. To know that I felt so genuinely bad for this person for feeling the same insecurity that I’ve felt my whole life, only to find out it was all a mindless joke for them, was awful. While I really don’t hold any animosity toward this specific person, I do hold a lot of animosity toward the society that made this person feel like that was okay to post. 

Our society has made immense strides toward body positivity, but this is an area that is falling way behind. Most morally decent people would never make a post like that if it had to do with weight insecurity, but for whatever reason, people still think body hair is okay to joke about. 

There is no room in society for the girl who has PCOS or Hirsutism who has to shave her beard every day to feel like she fits the feminine mold. There is no place in society for the hairy girl who wants to experience her hot girl summer but doesn’t have the time or mental energy to do a full body hair removal routine before going on a date. There is no room for girls who shave their legs because they simply want to but don’t shave their arms because they simply don’t want to. 

If someone has grown out body hair, they’re automatically assumed to be a radical who is trying to fight against the patriarchy. While I completely respect the people who are fighting the fight that way, some of us just want to exist without having our body hair mean anything deep. That group is who I want to dedicate this post to: The girls who have fought for so long to fit the feminine, hairless expectation and are just tired of giving a fuck. The girls who shave where/when they want to. The girls who have worked hard to love, or at the very least, accept, their hairy and simultaneously beautiful selves. You don’t owe the world smooth legs, but you also don’t owe the world a political statement about your unshaved legs. You deserve to exist and not worry about shaving when you’re running late one day solely so that a Karen doesn’t look at you with judgment. 

I hope that one day, body hair is not viewed as something worth loving or hating, but instead something that just exists. There are so many bigger and more consequential issues in the sphere of bodily autonomy right now than what a girl decides to do with her hair follicles, but I nonetheless feel compelled to encourage this conversation. I don’t want another girl to shy away from the ocean in fear of having her tummy hair exposed. You’re meant to feel the ocean waves with every part of your body – a body that is beautiful not in spite of having hair, not because it has hair, but simply in addition to having hair. 

Passion vs Balance

Everyone is encouraged to have passion. We are taught at a young age that having hobbies or beliefs that you are fiercely devoted to is a good thing, and that life without passion is dull at best. However, we’re also encouraged to have balance as a core element of our lives. We’re reminded that most things are bad in excess, and that being so obsessed with something that it takes up all the space in your brain and all the time in your schedule can lead to isolation and disappointment. Most of us thus strive for a form of ~balanced passion~ in which we pursue the things we care about in a rationally timed, fair-minded way. This approach seems like the best solution we can realistically achieve, but the more I reflect on it, the more dichotomous balance and passion seem to be. Passion shouldn’t be a logical process; it should be something that radiates out of you. In contrast, balance should uplift holistic wellbeing instead of perpetuating narrow life focuses. It seems as though simple hobbies can exist in a balanced state, but true, devoted passion cannot. Unless, of course, the very passion you’re talking about is a passion for balance. 

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It’s a funky way to describe my world view, but over the last few years of reflecting on what I value in the world, balance is a recurring theme. I always prefer having a mix of a bunch of things that make me happy rather than pouring my heart into one or two big things. Similarly, I believe in forming holistic opinions that consider all sides of a situation rather than sticking to one core view. Whether it’s my appreciation for law-related topics, the relationship I have with running, or simply my day to day schedule, I find the greatest peace and fulfillment in making balance the foundation of everything I think and do. 

I’ve always found the law to be super interesting and legal proceedings to be super intuitive. With properly funded and educated counsel, both sides get a chance to sway the jury with their side of the story. Though there often are clear injustices in the power discrepancies between prosecution and defense, the premise that the law should be based on balanced scales of justice really appeals to me. I’ve always been a big believer in hearing everyone’s side of the story and considering all perspectives when evaluating what is true or not. If you think about it, that’s kind of a simplified version of what judges and juries are supposed to do with every case. I swear this isn’t me claiming I have the credentials to be a judge (though my parents did say that I should become one from the day that toddler me started arguing with them over what is and isn’t fair). This is, however, me saying that I think I’d be better at seeing the validity in both sides to a case than a decent number of judges I’ve read about. 

The same thing can be said for the relationship I have with my love for running. In high school, I was pretty much forced to have an unbalanced relationship with the sport. I loved my coach to pieces, and I know she only wanted the best for us, but my naturally injury-prone body did not fare well when it came to running 3 to 9 miles almost every day. Still, I was absolutely in love with everything running put into my life. I felt so validated by the act of setting and accomplishing goals, and I also relied on my runs almost daily to give me clarity with whatever was going on in my life. It was the epitome of a passion, and I didn’t really know how to give it up once I wasn’t running competitively in college anymore. I joined the club team at my school and even ran a half marathon with them, but my other responsibilities and involvements didn’t allow me the time or mental/physical energy to devote to running passionately like I used to. Running now is something I root in balance instead of passion, and while I’m constantly working to refine what that relationship exactly looks like, I know that I’m significantly happier doing it this way. The sport is now something I do to stay healthy and tone muscle instead of something I do to win all the medals I possibly can. It’s still one of the best coping mechanisms I have and a priority for my summer break this year, but it’s not something I feel forced to do on days when my body is begging for rest. The clarity I used to get from a 6 mile run is now just as easily attained by a 2 mile run and a half-mile walk with my dog. I might not be able to come even close to hitting the times I used to when running was my true passion, but I now have more time and energy to spend on my other interests. This balanced view has helped me fall in love with the sport in new ways that I didn’t know were possible when the sport was my whole life, as odd as that sounds. 

Lastly, balance has been a core element of the way I’ve structured my life’s priorities for the past few years. While on the outside I probably come off like a workaholic, I’m extremely proud of myself for always seeking and pretty solidly implementing a balance of rest, social time, extracurricular activities, and studying throughout my college experience. I know that I’m the kind of person who needs to study something a million times before I can actually retain it for an exam, but I also know I’m the kind of person who will go absolutely insane if I spend the whole day in the library. I also don’t go out as much as some of my friends do, but I still make sure to embarrass myself at a bar or party at least a few times a semester. I know some people are genuinely SO happy living in excess when it comes to this, especially if you think about how the stereotypical happy college experience is painted, but I’ve never really gravitated towards that. 

If you’ve ever taken an introduction to microeconomics class, you’ve probably heard of an indifference curve. For those who haven’t, the curve basically shows all of the different bundles of two goods that someone would be equally content with. For example, the average ~rational thinker~ could be equally happy with getting either 10 units of Good 1 and 2 units of Good 2 OR 5 units of each good. While people prefer means to extremes, the consumer can be equally happy with less of Good 1 if they get more of Good 2. The whole time I’ve been writing this post, I’ve had a whopping indifference curve living rent free in my brain. I hate that my economics class has manifested into my writing, but I do think it’s a pretty interesting metaphor. My preference for balance in everything I do would make my indifference curve look pretty abnormal, as I’ll always prefer the means over even the slightest extremes. I suppose it makes me not a typical rational consumer, but economics is pretty fake anyway, so it’s okay. 

As long as you find fulfillment in what you do, it really doesn’t matter whether you’re a means or extremes type of person. In fact, maybe that dichotomy doesn’t exist for you, and you’re able to see more of a gray area between passion and balance. I do, however, wholeheartedly believe that spending some time thinking about what underlying value your actions and priorities are rooted in is vital in developing your understanding of yourself and the way you want to spend your time on this crazy spinning ball we call Earth.  

How Justice Reform Can be Bipartisan

I consider it a huge blessing to have grown up with parents who were on one side of the political spectrum and friends that were on the completely other side. I’m thankful for it, not because it made me adopt an exact midpoint of those different views, but because it challenged me to think critically about what I truly believe in. Having such different inputs at home and at school allowed me to become more confident in my own perspective and encouraged me to see the validity in the other side’s points. This balanced approach augments my passion for criminal justice reform because I see so many of the issues that encompass it as something that people from all different political positions could theoretically agree on. These issues are not rooted in values that everyone can agree on, but I believe that reforming them would support the separate values that each party is known for believing in.

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Losing the writing spark

For as long as I can remember, writing was my favorite outlet. When I was in first grade, I filled up more writers’ journals than anyone in my class. These journals contained everything from narratives of my family vacations, to make believe storylines about my American Girl Doll, to acrostic poems about each and every one of my friends. I would often choose to stay inside during recess to write, and even though my teachers looked at me like I was crazy, there was something so satisfying about putting pen to paper even at such a young age. 

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Throughout my K-12 education, this passion for writing only grew. My middle school creative writing club encouraged me to use writing as a tool of soul expression – the kind of expression that most people associate with journaling. My 11th grade teacher taught me to be intentional about every word I write, and this fairly intense scrutiny helped my rhetorical skills grow immensely. My 12th grade English teacher piqued my interest in the linguistics side of writing and implored me to keep writing past high school. These teachers had extremely high expectations of us, and they didn’t let crappy writing slide. When I realized that with a ton of hard work, I could fulfill and surpass these expectations, I grew even more sure of the gift that I had when it came to writing. The passion and knowledge that these teachers shared with me made me confident that even though I probably wouldn’t go into an English-centered career, writing would always be a part of my life. My genuine draw toward writing was the reason I created this very blog when I was a junior in high school during a time in my life when expressing myself on WordPress was the therapy I didn’t know I desperately needed. 

Not only did my genuine interest in writing grow during those years, but so did the validation I received in regards to my abilities. My teachers would often ask if they could hold onto my essays to show future students. I won the English Excellence Award senior year. My SAT tutor said she had never seen someone get an SAT essay score as high as mine. This consistent validation definitely made me grow a big head about my writing abilities, but I think it was pretty warranted. I wasn’t great at every subject in high school (I would say you could ask my physics teacher as proof, but he forgot my name by my senior year, which speaks for itself), but writing was my thing. 

Once I got to college, I realized I was a small fish in a very large, rhetorically-skilled pond. I go to a school with a ton of really intelligent people, and while it’s incredibly inspiring, it also is quite humbling. My friends who are STEM-oriented have created some of the most beautiful prose I have ever read, and they know how to make even an email to a professor or a discussion post sound extremely well-spoken. These friends can create extremely unique and capturing stories even if they’re doing so completely on the fly. Learning that just because I was the girl with the blog didn’t necessarily mean that my writing was the best that had ever existed was a bit jarring, to say the least. I don’t say that to sound self-deprecating, but rather to describe the feeling that I’m sure many other passionate students at my school deal with upon realizing that they are not, in fact, the shit. This feeling has caused me to look at my writing much more critically than I used to. Whether it’s an essay or a blog post, I typically second guess whether or not what I’m writing about is original enough, whether or not it’s coming from a place of ignorance, and whether or not I have the right to speak out on the topic in the first place. I question whether it’s worth writing at all and if people will read it out of genuine interest or out of a sense of obligation. I never thought twice about all of this in the past, and while this perspective shift can be somewhat healthy, I think it’s limited me a lot recently. 

This annoyance with my self-inflicted limitation manifested beautifully a few weeks ago. I was getting coffee with a friend on campus before I left for the summer, and at one point in our conversation, he was gushing about how much he loved his creative writing class this past semester. Hearing the passion in his voice as he described his different pieces inspired me to chase this joy in my own life again. I don’t know what exactly recapturing it will look like, but I know that this blog is the perfect medium for doing so. While this summer is going to be crazy hectic for me, I know I can commit to prioritizing this passion of mine and consistently reminding myself why I started writing for fun in the first place. I’ve used the burnout excuse for far too long, and while there is so much value in giving yourself a well-deserved brain break, depriving yourself of a wonderful outlet out of fear or fatigue isn’t the solution either. First grade Anna never cared how impressive her pieces were or who read them – she just wanted to express herself and share her life and thoughts with the pieces of paper in front of her. If she could do it so effortlessly then, there’s no reason she can’t make it happen now. 

Why I Won’t Make New Year’s Resolutions Anymore

Throughout my whole childhood, I made sure to designate some time each winter break to crafting a well thought out New Year’s Resolutions list. The holiday season has always elicited a strong sense of inspiration and made me super hopeful about the potential of the year ahead. I tried to be specific when it came to making my resolutions, having two separate lists: one for tangible goals to achieve in the coming year, and one for more intangible goals: such as personality traits and habits to work on developing in the year ahead. The first list always featured big benchmarks, from getting my driver’s license to running my first half marathon. The second allowed me to do some introspection.  I would encourage myself to improve my Russian and practice guitar for fun more often (both of which were featured on the lists too many times throughout the years before I gave up…oops?) I was decent at accomplishing everything I set out to do because I’m the kind of person that thrives in accomplishing things when the steps to get there are within my control. I knew the exact measures that I had to take to achieve each goal, whether it be the more tangible or more character-based ones. At the end of each year, I would sit down for my annual ego boost as I checked off resolution after resolution. And then came 2020. The year of absolutely no control. 

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Why Unpaid Internships Shouldn’t be Overlooked

The search for summer internships this year was anything but easy. Last year, I was lucky enough to be hired for the only internship I applied for, and it just so happened that it was my dream position. This year, however, my luck very much shifted. Like many college students, I applied to more positions than I can remember and didn’t hear back from 90% of them. It was extremely frustrating to spend hours and hours researching different organizations, writing countless cover letters, and not knowing when/if there was an end in sight to the search. By the beginning of May, I gave up and became set on working at a fast food restaurant instead to make some extra spending money. It wasn’t the ideal outcome, but I became more content with the idea of it as the days passed by. I was thus very pleasantly surprised when I got an email from the customer service representative at the Pennsylvania Prison Society, explaining that my email somehow went to their spam folder and that they were still looking to fill some internship positions. I very much felt conflicted after reading this email – do I write yet another cover letter that they very likely won’t read? Do I pour a bunch of effort into this application when I’ve already accepted the fact that an internship is likely not in the cards for me this year? Why do I even want an internship so badly – Is it experience that I genuinely want to gain, or is it the toxic work culture that begins building the moment you step into college?  What’s the point of wasting all that time when I could be studying for finals or spending some last-minute quality time with my friends as the semester winds down? At the end of the day though, I decided to bite the bullet and send in that last application. The more I researched the organization and its mission to help the incarcerated and fight for just prison reform, I knew this was a group I would genuinely enjoy volunteering my time to. 

I interviewed with the representative the next day, and the interview went extremely well. When I got hired a few days later, I felt a real sense of peace about the upcoming few months. I knew the once-a-week commute to the Philly office would be a challenge at first, as I had never walked the Philly streets alone before. I also knew I wouldn’t be earning anything, as the organization is a non-profit and cannot offer compensation. Most importantly, I knew that committing to a full-time position for the very first time would require a huge learning curve. Nonetheless, I had a gut feeling that all of those challenges would be worth it, and I was very much correct. 

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My Train Ride with a Capitol Attacker

Amtrak has become a huge part of my life over the past few years. Though it’s often quite pricey, it gets me from college to home and vice versa safely and soundly. I used to be quite scared of sitting on the train alone for 7 hours, but after a couple of solo trips, it became a pretty natural process for me. Those 7 hours give me the space to catch up on a good book, process the things in my life that I’ve been too busy to give real thought to, and get ahead on work or school. The alone time does me wonders, and it’s something I was really looking forward to as I stepped onto the train to Richmond last week. 

The train was fully booked, so our seats were assigned to us. I made my way down the aisle, eventually finding my seat – D14. In the seat directly next to mine was a middle-aged white man. He offered to lift my huge suitcase onto the overhead compartment, and my noodle arms were quite thankful that he did. I thanked him, sat down, and remained quiet for the first two hours of the train ride as I typed up some articles for my internship. Most people on the train weren’t talking unless they were sitting with friends or family members, so the lack of conversation between me and my seat-mate did not surprise nor disappoint me. As I chipped away at my work for the week, I noticed him taking pictures of the scenery that we were passing by, just as I often do when I am blessed with the window seat. When we were pulling up to the 30-minute Washington D.C. stop, he turned to me, explained that it was his first time taking Amtrak, and asked if it was a bad idea to leave his belongings on the train while he finds the bathroom. I told him that it’s a pretty safe train, but that I usually take my bags anyway. He thanked me, and we talked briefly about our respective destinations before getting off the train. 

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My Mental Health Journey

Mental Health Awareness Month has been at the back of my mind for the past 28 days, as I contemplated whether or not it was worth it to share my own journey and insights on the topic. I feel slightly wrong commenting about the struggle when I’m still in the middle of it, and I was quite worried that this post would only add to the stigma behind mental health. Nonetheless, I know that there is no better time to take the risk and open up about this part of my life than during a month dedicated to exactly that.

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How Strava Destroys the Love of Running

Ever since I graduated high school and stopped running competitively, my relationship with the sport has changed for the better. I’m not able to run a 5k in 21 minutes anymore, but I am able to avoid physical therapy, gain pleasure from my runs, and feel energized instead of drained from my workouts. Though I loved being a part of my cross country team more than anything, I knew that I needed to chill with my running when I got to college. Joining the club running team at William and Mary allowed me to schedule my runs around my other commitments, and not the other way around. After quarantine started, running became the thing that got me away from my zoom screen, allowed me to clear my mind, and pushed me through some really hopeless days. The endorphin release was like nothing else, and whether I was running a quick two laps around my neighborhood or a long run in the park, I was able to find so much clarity and joy from my runs. I would track my mileage and set goals for myself, but never get bogged down on running slower than I wanted to on off days. Though my runs wavered when school started up again in the fall, I’ve been running 4-5 days a week for the last two months, and it has been the best form of self care I could ever recommend. I think I’ve found a really good balance when it comes to my relationship with running, and I believe this gives me credibility in talking about the toxicity of a certain part of running culture. 

A few months ago, I saw someone post about the app Strava. For those who have never heard of it, Strava is an exercise tracking app with the additional aspect of social media. You can post your mileage, distance, and how you felt on any given run. Cyclers and other athletes use this app too, but I’ve stuck to examining its aspect on the running community. As a big fan of running, I found this app really exciting, but the more I heard about it, and the more I analyzed this kind of exercise mindset, the more I was appalled by the app’s implications. 

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The Search for Meaning in Brandon Bernard’s Death

Who was Brandon Bernard and what did he do?

Coronavirus has killed more people this week than ever before, taking more lives than Pearl Harbor in single days. It is impossible to watch the news for long before hearing a Coronavirus death count update. People sick with conditions unrelated to Coronavirus are dying because they are too afraid to enter hospitals- virus hotspots. Moreover, suicide rates in our country are higher than ever before, for many people truly cannot deal with the isolation and hopelessness of this pandemic. Not to sound too existential, but it really feels like this disease is making the concept of death much more of a tangible threat to all of us. The saddest and most enraging part of this whole tragedy to me, however, is the audacity of the federal government to do what they did a few nights ago: deliberately choose to take an additional life. I cannot and will not ever be able to wrap my head around how the government, and specifically President Trump, found it permissible to carry out a federal execution during an era already filled with so many unjust deaths. 

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