Experimental Hairiness

April 17, 2015 at 5:03 am

A couple of months ago I got a text from a friend. She said something like, “I stopped shaving my armpits as an experiment.” I laughed and texted her right back, “Me too.” Literally. We both, individually and without discussing in advance with each other, started the same experiment at the same time. Over the past month+ we have had quite a few conversations about our hairy glory, and eventually both of us expanded our experiments to include our legs as well. I died laughing when she texted me this gem: “An Open Letter to My Beloved Woolly Armpits.”

Last night I finally mustered the courage to talk about the elephant in the room with my husband. I ventured into this experiment without consulting him, and I didn’t need anyone’s permission, but I was slightly curious to know how he felt about it. This man has been my devoted, compassionate, and stalwart partner through some really tough stuff. Given all that I’ve put him through, I was confident that a little hair wasn’t going to send him packing. But I guess I just needed to hear him say the words out loud: “I will still love you, even if you never shave again.” I haven’t decided whether I will make my experiment permanent.


The lighting here makes it look blonde, but it’s actually not as blonde as I wish it was.

I have a lot of mixed emotions about my body hair. I’ve actually written (“Shaving, Showering, and Slathering“) and thought quite a bit about hair over the past several years. Intellectually and logically, I am totally and completely on board with all the reasons why shaving is a stupid waste of time and energy. Societal pressures around women and hair have gotten completely and ridiculously out of hand. It is becoming more and more socially unacceptable for women to have any hair beyond 1) their scalp, and 2) carefully-sculpted eye-brows. Particularly among porn-educated young males, any other hair is gross, nasty, repulsive. Society has declared a war against the very hair our bodies produce to signal sexual maturity and carry important pheromones and messages for successful and committed mate-selection. The minds of our young adults are being wired (particularly by porn) for arousal by hair-less genitals, putting more and more children at risk of sexual exploitation.

One of my primary motivations for this no-shaving experiment was simply to opt-out of the ridiculousness of it all. We’re mammals. We grow hair. Why are we so afraid of it? Don’t we have more important things to do with our time and energy? The constant up-keep of maintaining socially-acceptable levels of visible body hair eats up huge chunks of our lives. And for what? In the big scheme of things, how much does it really matter? When we die (I know, cliche, but it’s helpful to think about), will we say, “Wow, I really wish I had spent more time shaving and less time serving others.”

I remember seeing an acquaintance’s hairy legs peeking out of the bottom of her skirt when I was a newlywed. I was a little surprised, but I didn’t think it was gross. What I really thought was, “I wish I was that brave.” And just last week I happened to notice some hair peeking out of a female friend’s t-shirt sleeve, and I wanted to whip out my own pits, high-five her, and say, “Right on, Sister!” I didn’t, but I kind of wanted to.

hair quote

Another reason I wanted to try this hair experiment was to test out Yogi Bhajan’s claims. We have learned the yogic teachings about hair in my yoga teacher training. As I shared in this post, the forehead bone is porous to allow light to reach the pineal gland. If bangs are cut, this process is inhibited. Yogi Bhajan told a woman with bangs: “Wear hair like that, go crazy!” In addition, according to Yogi Bhajan, hairs act like spiritual antennae:

Hairs are the antennas that gather and channel the sun energy or prana to the frontal lobes, the part of the brain you use for meditation and visualization. These antennas act as conduits to bring you greater quantities of subtle, cosmic energy. It takes approximately three years from the last time your hair was cut for new antennas to form at the tips of the hair (Source).

I did some digging this morning, curious whether science had any evidence to back this up. I found mixed messages…

  • Science podcaster/blogger, Skeptoid (Brian Dunning), is (not surprisingly) skeptical: “With apologies to Yogi Bhajan, there are no physiological mechanisms by which hair makes you stronger. Hair need not be an antenna for collecting cosmic energy. Hair need not be a conduit for vitamins or minerals or solar power or cosmic rays or anything else.”
  • A teenager in Nepal, however, has invented a solar panel using… drumroll… human hair: “Milan Karki, 18, who comes from a  village in rural Nepal, believes he has found the solution to the developing world’s energy needs. The young inventor says hair is easy to use as a conductor in solar panels and could revolutionise renewable energy. . . . Melanin, a pigment that gives hair its colour, is light sensitive and also acts as a type of conductor. Because hair is far cheaper than silicon the appliance is less costly.”

So which is it? Is human hair a conductor of energy, or not? Does hair give us super-Samson-powers, or not? Personally, I have felt more emotionally stable since I stopped shaving. Coincidence? Maybe. There are too many variables to know for sure. But I am willing to suspend my disbelief for a few decades and see what discoveries might surface. What is “scientifically proven” changes pretty quickly as humanity gains access to better instruments for measuring and determining what is true and real and valid.

As telescopes became more sophisticated—including telescopes that could be launched into space—astronomers began to grasp a spectacular, almost incomprehensible truth: the universe is mind-bogglingly bigger than anyone had previously believed, and the heavens are filled with numberless galaxies, unimaginably far away from us, each containing hundreds of billions of stars.

In a very short period of time, our understanding of the universe changed forever. . . . Before mankind had instruments powerful enough to gather celestial light and bring these galaxies into visibility, we did not believe such a thing was possible (Dieter F. Uchtdorf).

I am willing to suspend my disbelief about a lot of things for this very reason. We don’t know everything yet, as much as we wish we did/could.  What was impossible yesterday could become possible in an instant. Things happen every day that current scientific understanding and logic can’t explain, but that doesn’t mean they’re not capable of being explained or understood via a science beyond our mortal perception. No doubt God’s science makes human science look like toddler-play. I’m going to go ahead and guess that God had a good reason for telling Samson’s mom not to cut his hair, and I don’t think Yogi Bhajan was making things up when he suggested that hair might be doing more than we realize.

Intellectually and logically and spiritually, I’m ready to burn all my razors and say good-bye to beauty salons and start a revolution toward embracing and normalizing our natural body hair. It’s really not much of a stretch from my already-embraced passion for normalizing home birth, babywearing, and breastfeeding. BUT… the truth is… despite feeling more emotionally stable, I do feel less attractive.

My spirit indeed is willing, but my ego-laden flesh is weak. I really wish I could love it, but I still visually wince when I notice my own armpit hair in the mirror. I wish I wasn’t programmed by society to feel this way. I wish my daughters could come to maturity in a society that didn’t set a ridiculous prerequisite of higher and higher degrees of hair-removal in order to be considered even remotely “beautiful.” It’s stupid, and it makes me angry. But I’m totally still a product of that society no matter how much I wish I wasn’t. I still think my hairy legs are kind of gross. Argh. I hate that I have been programmed to think my own body is gross.

Part of me wants to shave it all off and feel “attractive” again. But another part of me wants to grind my ego and all those stupid societal norms into dust (like the women in the Hairy Legs Club) and just allow my body to do its thing without restriction… and hopefully, eventually, without judgmental commentary from my negative programming. I think I’ll give it some more time and see what happens.