My heritage is southern Italian. All my life, I’ve struggled with too much hair. Those cute dark curls I had as a little girl became increasingly problematic as I grew up. My brother quickly learned my weak spot and could bring me to tears with just a few words: “Cousin Itt”, “unibrow”, “mustache”. By the time I was in high school, I was doing daily battle. It was the late 60s and I wanted hair like Mary Travers in the folk group Peter, Paul & Mary (long, straight, optionally blonde). Instead, I had hair like Alice the female engineer in the Dilbert comic strip (wavy and wide like a pyramid).
I set it on huge rollers. I ironed it. I sprayed it stiff. With much effort and some luck, I achieved a style being worn by the girl groups, such as The Shirelles. I was thankful when the Afro became popular. I teased out my frizz and called it an Italian Natural…until that became unfashionable. Soon afterward, I opted for convenience and got it cut short.
Of course, my legs and underarms were also a source of angst. Despite the advances of feminism, hair on a woman’s body, although completely natural, has rarely been considered attractive by western standards. There are some cultures that accept it — you can find them in National Geographic — but I never thought giving up indoor plumbing was worth it. Over the years, I had tried it all: smelly, sloppy depilatories; painful waxing with its requirement of unsightly growth between treatments; and ineffective electric razors. I even tried a do-it-yourself electrolysis device. I found that regular razors always gave the smoothest result and they became my mainstay. There was just a short time after my husband died when I decided that I didn’t need to shave my legs any more. After a few weeks, I found that the stubble on my legs acted like Velcro and when I turned over in bed the sheets came with me. It was an awful feeling. I gave in.
Then, several years ago, I discovered laser hair removal. Painful and expensive, but a god-send. It has saved me huge amounts of time. Before, it would take me either 20 minutes to shave and 10 minutes to stop the bleeding or 10 minutes to shave and 20 minutes to stop the bleeding. Now, I am ready to meet the public in a flash. My life has changed. I can choose to wear a skirt, shorts, or bathing suit without planning ahead. My hemoglobin count is up and most of the scars have faded. As for a hairdo, the shorter the better and a flat iron is always in tow.