Unlearning Dislikes

I grew up learning about a lot of things that, given an absence of cure in religion and medicine, I have never seen and might never be able to see. Smiles, winks and other facial expressions, dimples, moles and other facial features, collarbones, curves and camel toes are all some examples. My experience of bodily puberty was no exception to this paradigm of ‘unseeable learning’. And the situation went out of hand when Puberty impregnated me even before my teacher got the opportunity to temporarily divorce her holy matrimony with Biology only to have her ‘unholy spouse’ home-worked by us. Is everyone else also getting hair up here and down there, on the plateaus and inside the pits was a question that I would ask my hairy-self. But this was a question that only sight could answer. So I asked my mother “Does Taha have as much hair on his arms as me?”. “No honey… he has unusually less hair… and according to general standards, you are a hairy kid.” And back then, I did not like being unconventional.

I grew up realising that the reason why I kissed my mother more than my father was because my mother did not keep a beard. Over time, I somehow came to the conclusion that the presence or absence of body hair connoted specific values; the absence of body hair was representative of a concern with cleanliness, hygiene and fragrance whereas the presence or abundance of body hair meant being stinky, dirty and unhygienic. So, quite early on, I decided to shave myself. My sibling resented the proposition because they wanted me to inherit the legacy they had imbibed from a ‘wise cousin’ – the preservation of body hair is the quintessential identifier of masculinity. But because the area of my body that clothes cover was under my sovereign jurisdiction, I did not have to completely comply…

Taha was the first person that attracted me. The nature of this attraction was superficial and confined to the domain of the body. The hair aspect of this attraction went on to determine my romantic preferences. For some years of my life ‘I was a somewhat shaven man looking for other shaven men’.

But this aversion towards body hair was to be jettisoned. During High School, I had classmates that openly discussed intimate and tabooed subjects. Feminine females, while calling out on those that needed to be waxed, also expressed their instinct to thread my unibrow. They would also often talk about the unshaven arms of ‘faithful’ teachers. Then I entered college. My new friend circles came to admire some fellow students that identify themselves as feminists and did not shave themselves simply because they did not want to submit to the societal imposition of femininity. Till now, my sexual interactions have coincidently happened with people that embraced their all natural bodies. And I was to seek another experience that was to modify my reception of the erotic.

It was a recreational trip to a water park. There was a specific ride that the fellow nomads were too afraid to approach. So a cousin dropped me till the queue and promised to find me after my turn.  As I solemnly waited, I started to observe the body that fronted me. It stood sideways, mine to its right.  It was moist, smelt of chlorine water and was covered in unsteady droplets. It’s left arm was stretched forward and held a poll unveiling the soggy pit where tiny curls sprouted. A thin hair line ran from the belly button till between the relatively flat chests and beyond. The chest hair was stylishly tailored with patches of light hair, heavy hair and no hair simultaneously soaking in a riveting habitat. The person had embraced their hair to an extent that they seemed unconscious of the neighbouring gazes admiring them. The view was titillating!

With all this, I gained a glimpse into non disabled eyesight. Now I could surmise as to how much can the sighted see of what they can see. And if it is so common to have and see body hair, why is its preservation abnormalised? And whenever and wherever it is normalised, why is it considered gross? Is the combination of hygiene and hair all that incompatible? Or is the coexistence of no body hair and hygiene all that obvious? And what does the phrase ‘hairy beasts’ even implicate? This time, even sight could not answer my question.

The result was a fundamental shift in my perspective. From a time when I ardently advocated shaving, I have come to embrace the way in which my body manifests its hair going on to be interested in some degree of experimentation. And from a time when I thought I can be lured only by shaven bodies, I have simultaneously come to find hair quite sexy.

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A daily connoisseur and an idealist who is appreciative of the Cosmopolitan culture around him. I am a reader, writer and speaker with overwhelming passion for fiction, queerness and intersectional feminism. I am a history aficionado and believe that literary interaction is the source of social revolution. I believe in the subjectivity of human identities and that we are all snowflakes.
Rakshit Malik

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