Hair is desirable on the top of the head (duh) and of course it is one of life’s ironies that so many men lose hair where they want it and gain it where they don’t. Facial hair on women can be socially debilitating. The Fonz on Happy Days had a singular objection to moustaches on women (but not to women with twin sisters as I recall). Any culture that uses cell phones eschews facial and body hair on women. It’s considered unfeminine, and indeed can signal on a primitive level, an androgenous hormonal balance. In North America, hairy underarms in women is also undesirable, so much so that famous actresses sometimes find their photographs in tabloid magazines if they raise their arm and reveal body hair. At least it’s better than photographs of cellulite.
An aversion to body hair is nothing new. Renaissance paintings by the masters, contained in the vast collection at the Louvre, rarely portray body hair on women, or men.
Consequently, shaving legs and armpits is part of the maintenance ritual of being an American woman. Most women shave their legs at least twice a week and would be embarrassed revealing hairy legs. Many women pluck facial hairs daily. Countless hours are wasted in this task that has no redeeming value. Hair follicles in the beard area in men and bikini area in women may become inflamed (“folliculitis”).
Again, supermodels embody our society’s ideals, even exaggerating them (It seems legs and necks cannot be too long.) After all, supermodels have one purpose – to sell their appearance. You don’t find any body hair on supermodels. Or on Barbie for that matter. Their skin is smooth as silk and unblemished.
What about men? Men may have to shave twice daily to avoid the 5:00 shadow, or avoid taking off a shirt because of embarrassing body hair. Many men have told me they feel self-conscious about their body hair when they are shirtless on a beach, or playing with their children. The Austin Powers look is decidedly out, along with crooked, yellow teeth, sideburns and gold medallions. Among all the actors to play him, there has been only one hairy-chested Tarzan. None of the men on the cover of Muscle and Fitness magazine have hairy chests. George Carlin half-joked that he thinks of an ape when he sees an especially hirsute male.
Hairy groins and inner thighs are also frowned upon. Bikini waxes are part of the pre-program before tropical holidays for most women. As essential as the pre-holiday diet.
So what to do about it?
Any one who has seen Steve Carell’s facial reactions in 40 Year-Old Virgin has some idea of the pain involved in body waxing, a sadomasochistic exercise if there ever was one.
Some women have a syndrome characterized by polycystic ovaries and body hair – polycystic ovarian syndrome. Their hair growth is similar to a man's and they have no option but to shave daily.