I’m fairly effete and always have been, so the sight of me with a full beard by age 13 was quite an absurd one for all to see. This outward sign of my testosterone fuelled teens seemed like a paradox as I merrily whistled along to Madonna and made up new Shirley Bassey show routines in my head. I always felt that my early puberty was a complete curse and the bane of my life. I wanted to grow up glamorous and fey with a sculpted set of smooth abs, not be a virtual werewolf by 20.
By the age of 15 I had legs that looked like they’d been carpeted, a fetching golden-red beard and a chest wig worthy of a 1970s porn star. I wouldn’t have minded so much if it had matched. Instead I had blond hair, dark brown chest chair and a ginger beard.
I was terrible at shaving, always gouging chunks from my face and turning up at sixth form college covered in plasters and dabbing delicately at my face with blood stained tissues like a Victorian hysteric. Often I’d give up on the whole idea, adopting the ideology that if I continually ignored the hair sprouting from every quarter, then it might go away.
It didn’t go away. I had to choose: depilation and regular shaving or find another way to carry the look off. As I wasn’t prepared to plait my back hair or adopt a Floella Benjamin beaded look, then painful, irritating hair removal was the only option.
I’ve endured loss of skin through depilatory creams, nicks and rashes, waxing burns and sprains and strains from contorting myself round to reach the tricky bits. A long term partner preferred the hairless look so I spent hours each month painfully erasing every trace of hair growth on my chest and shoulders.
I experienced an epiphany in recent years as I realised that at my advanced age (let’s just say I’m over 35) I can choose what I like. My preference on a man is for body hair as long as it’s not beyond the pale. I don’t expect any man to present me with a Mexican style handlebar moustache in his trousers. That’s just absurd. I actually find well tended body hair quite attractive.
So, I accept my body for what it is now and that’s that it’s hairy. It comes that way. If I’ve got the time, I trim and prune. Otherwise, I don’t actually care. Now, ear hair and my straggly eyebrows: that’s a whole different matter. That may take another 40 years to come to terms with.