Hairy Legs: To Shave or Not to Shave…

DSCN8227In 1970 I went on a commercial raft trip down the Grand Canyon. There were more than 30 women on this trip and very few men, mostly river guides. Didn’t look like I was going to meet the man of my dreams this time. It was a ten day trip in July- broiling hot during the day. Because the canyon walls soaked up the sun all day, they radiated heat all night. Sleeping out in the open, a sheet, stitched together, is all one needed, basically to keep the mice and scorpions from walking across your bare skin at night.

This was the first year the Park Service required outfitters to have a toilet system. Years before that, people had been going  behind every rock and bush-right up to the canyon wall. No campsite was exempt.The TP and haufens  were still there, petrifying in the desert sun. An unquestionable scent still remained, wafting here and there, especially at night.

After several days on the river, I would see these women get up at the crack of dawn, heading down to the river- toiletries in hand. I thought they were bathing in the cover of darkness. But no. They were busy shaving their legs, perching on rocks as they dangled their feet into the water.

This was just after the ‘60’s, right? so I, who had burned my bra a few years back, thought, “How silly. They could be hiking up the river or sitting on a rock, feeling a cool breeze blow against their face, or watching the sun working its way down a canyon wall.” That time of day beautiful pinks and oranges appear and reflect in the mirrored surface of the river.

This got me thinking, what a waste of time shaving my legs was. I threw my razor in the trash and for seven years I just had hairy legs. And they were quite hairy. I loved the way it felt when a breeze blew against them. It’s such a soft sensual feeling. Men have been experiencing this and we didn’t know it. However, I wasn’t completely comfortable about their appearance. The only skirt I wore in all those years came down to my ankles.

I did, though, save a lot of money on panty hose.

At that time I was teaching First Grade. Dress standards were beginning to change.  It had just become ok for teachers to wear pants instead of skirts and dresses. Jeans were out but pant suits were acceptable. I rushed out and bought a new wardrobe of ugly two piece, polyester pantsuits, a pale yellow and a washed out blue.

Well, I know six year olds. Wearing my old dresses exposing razor free legs would get them started saying things about my hairy legs. They were already commenting about a few hairs on my upper lip, informing me, “Teacher. You have a mustache.” This alone got me to start a painful regimen of electrolysis.

I got out the Yellow Pages and looked under Hair Removal. There on San Mateo Blvd. near my school was Electrolysis By Sophia, convenient for an appointment after work. I went in looking forward to an unnoticeable mustache, not realizing how much this was going to hurt.

As I lay on my back she swung a powerful magnifying glass over my face. A bright light focused on my upper lip.  I was to hold against my chest a matchbox sized metal devise, covered with a wet rag and attached to a long wire. This was to ground me or zap me while she inserted a needle into each pore, frying each hair follicle. Wow. Did that sting. I gritted my teeth and shut my eyes as tight as I could, waiting for my 15 minutes to be up. My face was then swabbed with some astringent, which stung even more.

When I got into the car I pulled down the vanity mirror to see my new look. What I saw was little red pinpricks, some of which were bleeding. By the next day it looked like a case of the pimples. Now what were the kids going to say?

To continue with another child’s honest words, one morning during show-and-tell, Debbie, a shy first grader, got up and told us excitedly that last night she stayed  at the Blue Sky Motel and her parents were going up to a cabin in the mountains and they were going to get rich and they were going to pick her up after school and they were moving to San Diego.

Turns out the police found the missing, kidnaped Doctor. She was tied up in a cabin in the  Manzano Mountains. and a week or so later a couple from Albuquerque were arrested in San Diego.

I wasn’t going to expose my legs to that kind of truthfulness.


2 thoughts on “Hairy Legs: To Shave or Not to Shave…

  1. This reminded me that I was the first teacher in my elementary to school to break the dress code by wearing a burnt orange pant suit. My principal, a woman, got wind of my attire and stood in my doorway before the kids arrived and gave me the once over. Said, “Very nice” and walked away. Within a few years we, including my principal, were wearing jump suits (they made bathroom breaks an ordeal!!), denim pant suits and sometimes plain, old jeans. I even kept a pair of jeans on my dresser to throw on in case I got up late and couldn’t find something to wear. It was the early 70s after all. I figured there was more decorum teaching first graders in a pants suit than the popular mini-skirts and platform heels I was also wearing.
    And the cactus is a very appropriate photo!!!


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