I’ve taken to writing down words I like in the margins of whatever notebook is closest to hand. I just came across a small pile of them in a now-defunct diary. They were stacked like a turmite hotel and read like this:
I will try to use them in a sentence today.
Both of my cats have tics and this means I’m not allowed to love them now. This also means they might actually start liking me with the enforced “treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen” game plan I am compelled to follow. We found six of the monsters perched like a line of ants on the tips of ginger cat’s ears on Friday night. I picked them out with relish and an unsteady hand after prosecco-heavy Aperols, splicing them with the samurai sword of my thumbnail. It reminded me of the headlice bounty hunts of my childhood; hours spent dissecting strands of my sister’s blond hair in the hopes of finding meaty black buggers, drunk on blood, swinging Tarzan-like from her roots. I used to bribe her with out-of-date sweets I’d bought on some long-forgotten holiday just to get the opportunity to have a go at her hair. She would squirm as I took on the persona of mad scientist or crazed surgeon, craning over the forest of her beautiful golden mane, painstakingly separating each layer of hair with methodical precision that definitely bordered on the psychopathic. In the way some people dream of popping spots, I fantasise about uprooting lice colonies.
And that, my friends, might just be my darkest secret. Apologies to all of you now scratching your head and reaching for the tea tree oil – I’m right there with you, guys!
Am I now known among the elite sect of my readership as walking hairy vajay-jay woman?
Since beginning these diaries, I’ve discovered a passion of mine is describing the most disgusting aspects of the human condition. Is this gross, is this gruesome? Am I the only one to find a despicable, indulgent pleasure in reading accounts of scatology or the general disintegration of our bodies? Two of my all-time favourite literary passages are about constipation and in-grown hairs. The constipation is all of the philosophical wonder of Beckettian prose – hilarious and visceral and palpitating as he squeezes his cheeks apart and describes in scrupulous detail the art of excretion. The in-grown hairs was a passage from Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-formed Thing when she perfectly encapsulates the festering itch of tights and polyester school uniforms and their collusion in chafing thighs to agitation in the dampness of a November school bus. I loved the grittiness of it – the realness. I so vividly remember the grainy itch, the raw and pricked skin of secondary school conformity, and the subsequent relief of seeing it written in such sympathetic prose.
Meanwhile, my sister stopped reading my diaries since I went into potentially too much detail about the growth of my leg-hair and the subsequent sex dream my wolf-like pins conjured. She says she has PTSD and keeps having nightmares about it. I tell her she’s a bad feminist. Then again, she had thought I was describing my vagina (which I absolutely wasn’t, I’m not that crude (and vajazzle all the way – AM I RITE LADIES)) which might explain her aversion. This makes me wonder though….did everyone think I was talking about my vajay-jay? Am I now known amongst the elite sect of my readership as walking hairy vajay-jay woman? More importantly, do I care?
And then the stubble reappears and we are back to our bodies going cold and goose-pimpled in the shower as we contort ourselves into impossible angles, mowing away an inevitability as we try to groom ourselves to an aesthetic impossibility.
I find it exhausting. All of it. But particularly the fact that since I wrote about my attempts to wax my legs (which I did to relative success, much to the relief of family members and household pets who had taken to mistaking me as one of their own) the hair has already begun to reappear and the whole vicious cycle has begun again. Does anybody else sometimes feel helpless and overwhelmed by the relentlessness of life? Of these insipid and frivolous routines we lock ourselves in, waste precious minutes and worries to every single day of our lives, and that bring only a brief respite of joy? We shave our legs and feel a fleeting 1.5 days of smooth-skinned, supple contentment, a frisky openness to life and whatever encounters it may throw our way. And then the stubble reappears and we are back to our bodies going cold and goose-pimpled in the shower as we contort ourselves into impossible angles, mowing away an inevitability as we try to groom ourselves to an aesthetic impossibility.
Or I spend twenty minutes putting on make up to feel good only to then spend twenty minutes taking it off again that night, world-weary and annoyed at myself for partaking in such a wasteful and patriarchal exercise. And then the next morning I reach straight for the foundation and float on air for the rest of the day when somebody compliments my lipstick.
I know the answer – if it’s bothering you then just quit your abusive relationship with grooming. Let the leg hair grow long and luscious, leave your face unadorned of muck. But that’s like saying, “just stop worrying about how many croissants you ate today”. If you’re going to stress about it, then don’t eat the pizza for lunch or go for that run or start that diet. But we CAN’T, can we? WE ARE PROGRAMMED TO CARE AND NOW BEING PROGRAMMED TO DISS OURSELVES FOR CARING. In a shocking turn of events, women the world over are presented with a lose-lose situation. I know, I didn’t see this coming either.
We can’t divorce ourselves from the indoctrinated ideals of our society. I can’t pretend I look better without a cheeky bit of blush, a quick rub of foundation, who knows, maybe even a light dab of highlighter. I can’t pretend I don’t feel unattractive when I am unwaxed and wild, that I lose an element of confidence and femininity integral to my identity.
I don’t know, I’m not someone who’s very good with the basics. I leave dud light bulbs in lamps and light candles instead. I never iron any item of clothing so half of my wardrobe is withering in creased abandonment. I once spent three weeks sleeping in a sleeping bag on top of my mattress because I was too lazy to make my own bed. I never handwash my delicates, reducing my underwear collection to the constant rotation of “period underwear” (comfortable, cotton, demonstrable Granny-ish) at all stages of the menstrual cycle.
If someone could please explain why I’m sharing all of this with you, on top of my weird headlice fantasies, I would be most grateful. Although, let’s be honest, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. Relished it, actually. It feels cathartic to be gross and despicable when everyone else around me seems either perfectly hairless or perfectly hairy. What about us half and halfs, eh?
Basically, in summation, to conclude, in my closing address, what I’m saying is, I need to wax my legs again and will probably ignore it for three weeks and will hate with a pulsating rage almost inhuman the societal pressure to do so but will ultimately give in because I want you to think I’m pretty and, more and most importantly, I want to believe I’m pretty too.
AND I’VE JUST LOOKED UP AND THE SUNSET IT BLOODY GLORIOUS.
My day was bloody lovely today so my three pieces of joy will be a trite breakdown of my morning, noon, and evening. Because I am a #grateful goddess.
- Morning: Delicious oaty coffee, PB and Jam toast, blankets on the floor, David Sedaris’ Theft by Finding diaries.
- Noon: Sweaty, stretchy exercise; a long, rambling walk; Louis Théroux’s Grounded podcast in which he interviewed Jon Ronson (So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is one of my favourite non-fiction reads); a sea-swim with sister; a lunch of leftover’s from my favourite restaurant feat. a hunk of sourdough, fresh salad, and oat-smoked potatoes.
- Evening: The most soul-filling catch up with the one sister missing from our lockdown bubble. A lot of unnecessary heart-sharing on my part and a lot of patient listening and gentle guiding on hers. An equally lovely catch up with a friend, made even sweeter by conducting it from the balmy metropolis of my garden. A crisp glass of white wine to toast the evening still to come. Writing this.