In which I take my hairy legs for a walk and do not go up in smoke

Graphic of a young woman with a book, the quote "I'm a feminist, now what?"

This weekend I did a scary-brave thing, for me. I woke up, fended off the excited ministrations of Gracie, threw on a skirt over my bike shorts, slipped into my flip-flops, and went outside. Together Gracie and I went to the dog run, walked all the way to the 9th street bike shop to buy a bike pump (G is so used to any oblong object purchased in a store in which she is allowed belonging to her, she kept trying to carry it home), and then we walked home.

What’s so scary about that? I haven’t shaved my legs since… since… since…. Honestly? I have no idea. Probably since my first day of work at my current job, which the last time I wore a skirt without tights or leggings. Which was in October. So. It was kind of a big deal for me to step outside, where all the sunlight is, and walk down the street like I didn’t care what anybody thought of me.

This task is made more difficult by a specific piece of misinformation. Essentially, that I believe my unshaven legs look like this:

furry, shaggy legs

In reality, they look like this:

My hairy legs. Spoiler alert, they're not horrifying. QUELLE HORREU—…. wait. Granted, you’re seeing them in the washed out glow of a ceiling light and a laptop flash, but there is nothing in these bodacious gams that would make someone run away screaming, amirite? It took me three tries to come up with something to say besides “not that bad.” These are my LEGS. This is how they are SUPPOSED TO BE. They get me where I’m going and quickly. They are awesome.

I’m not as badass as Monique yet – you won’t see me hiking up my skirt on the red carpet (for um, several reasons) – but I made it. Not without my share of doubts though.

At first all I noticed was the cool, fresh breeze, and the glow of sunlight, and that unique spring feeling of being alive amid thousands of other living things, not least of which was the bouncing puppy at my heel (who also has hairy legs and cares about as much as Helena Bonham Carter does about anyone who tries to give her fashion advice).

Then we stopped at a light and a guy looked down as he walked by us. Was he smiling at Gracie? Was he staring at my legs? Was he resentful that I’d seduced his eye below my hem and then betrayed him by not delivering a hairless offering of flesh for his gaze? Was he recoiling? If I turned around would I see him twitching on the sidewalk like a dying roach?!

I didn’t look back. I kept my head up and kept walking, suddenly feeling delighted at the idea that I was willfully defying societal expectations of what a woman does to “prepare” for a skirt-clad day. I mean, we all know women are “supposed” to shave but… says who? Besides Gillette? And the bitchy girl who looked at my underarms and suggested it was “time to start shaving those pits”  in 6th grade?

There is no supposed to.

Gracie and I went to the dog run and she played and goofed around. I joked with the other dog owners, I joked with the bike shop proprietor who sold me the tire pump Gracie tried to eat on the way home, I joked with a guy sitting outside church with his incontinent bulldog who watched Gracie practically get her head stuck in the railing in her enthusiasm to say hello.

I could wind this story up with the guy who said “Hello, hello, oh very nice! Very sweet” to Gracie and “Oh and you too” to me, as he walked away but this is not a story about how a Feminist Went Outside With Unshaven Legs In a Skirt and Still Got Male Attention. Male attention rarely has anything to do with me when I get it, and everything to do with the fantasy version of me that some dude just created and decided to react to aloud and publicly

This is a story about how I went outside and had a lovely afternoon, just as I was. I didn’t pluck, shave, blow-dry, conceal or curl. I’m going to do it again soon.

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5 Responses to In which I take my hairy legs for a walk and do not go up in smoke

  1. sybbys says:

    I’ve shaved my legs twice in the past ten years – once for my wedding, and once for my grandma’s 80th birthday. My legs are pretty similar to yours – I love them. They have helped me hike hundreds of miles, and they move me around nyc. I like wearing skirts & dresses, and still carry that bit of concern around w/ me – will this person notice & care? Will this affect me professionally? And then I come back around to the fact that this body is Mine and mine alone. What I do with it is no one’s business.

    • MKP says:

      Thanks so much for commenting!
      I’ve told this story before, but a big changing point in the story of MKP and Her Legs came when a tattoo artist told me “those are some powerful legs”. Growing up I’d played soccer and basketball and been on swim team, but I lost touch with that sense of body-power as I hit middle school and high school and suddenly it wasn’t ok to be my size, whatever size that was.

      • sybbys says:

        Oh, I so hear you. I was really athletic as a kid/teenager – karate, basketball, volleyball, biking everywhere… and yet was really hurt by my dad calling them “thunder thighs” and my grandma calling me “sturdy.” (all while HS boyfriends insisted my legs were sexy)

        I went out West for the first time after college, and several summers of hiking and backpacking have made me love my legs again, love my whole body, actually, for what it is able to do and the places I’ve seen under my own power. Wouldn’t trade that for anything, and won’t be wearing high heels for fear of messing up the works.

      • Kimmy says:

        you need to smile more, if guys are reacting to fantasies and not to you.
        True beauty comes from a brilliant smile. (true narcissism leads to being a fashion model).

      • mkpheartsnyc says:

        I don’t mean that people I know in real life are living with a fantasy of me, I mean that anonymous male street attention has nothing to do with who I am. And I don’t need to smile more for those guys.

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