My girlfriend has suddenly decided, several years into our relationship, that she no longer wants to shave her legs or armpits. I’m trying not to be shallow, but this really gets to me. What should I do?
I hear that you’re trying to be sensitive but are really bothered by this, and that’s understandable. Fortunately, I think this is an issue you and/or time can resolve.
Step 1: Do not say a single word about this to your girlfriend right now. Nothing you say will be received well at this point. She will either start shaving again (but be hurt), or dig in her heels.
Step 2: Give yourself four to six weeks to get used to it. The only reason (and it really is the only reason) this bothers you is because it’s unusual. You’re not accustomed to seeing women with unshaven legs. I think you’ll find it bothers you a lot less as time goes on. [Alternate ending: it starts to bother her, she goes back to shaving and you are a non-shallow boyfriend who hasn’t had to spend any political capital on this issue.]
Step 3 (To be done concurrently with Step 2): Examine why this bothers you so much. You almost surely have more hair on your legs and underarms than she does; why is she the one who has to remove it?
We’re socialized to think women having body hair is gross. That socialization is powerful and runs deep. And it comes from sources like the Gillette company (which wants to sell razors) and the patriarchy (which wants women to think there’s something wrong with their bodies). But there’s nothing inherently gross about it; it’s just a matter of what you’re used to.
Now, maybe you’re thinking, “But I have to shave!” And you are expected to shave your face. But if you gave up shaving your face, you’d grow a beard, and no one would have a problem with that. If you skipped a day or two shaving and grew some stubble, no one would have a problem with that. It might be “unprofessional,” but everyone knows it’s really kind of rugged-mountain-man sexy. When women stop shaving their legs or underarms it’s “gross” or “unfeminine.” It’s definitely not coded as sexy. By asking her to shave, you’re suggesting that her body, as it naturally is, is gross.
Step 4: If, at the end of six weeks, it’s still a real issue for you, you can, in a nonjudgmental, and casual tone, ask your girlfriend if she’s happy and committed to not shaving. If she then asks your opinion, you can then say something like, “I preferred it when you shaved.” She needs to know that it’s something of a problem for you, so she can make an informed decision. The decision of whether to shave, of course, is hers. If she decides not to, you need to decide how much of a problem it is. Big enough to break up over? Big enough to hurt her feelings over? That will be your call.
Art on Display
I would like to exhibit some of my artwork at some of the local restaurants around like Heirloom Café or the Grit. Can you give me some advice on anything like that?
Flagpole Arts Editor Jessica Smith is the expert in this area, and she graciously provided a response to this letter:
The first step to securing a space to showcase your work is simply to call a business up and ask what their process for booking an exhibit is. Most restaurants, bars and coffee shops in Athens have a designated employee who oversees scheduling artists, but there are also a few places that get booked by outside curators. Ask to speak to them (or get their contact information if they’re unavailable), and be prepared to email several images of pieces you’ve already made. This will give the curators an idea of whether or not your artwork is an appropriate fit and will help convince them that you’re both able to provide a solid body of work and are committed to following through.
Many places book several months in advance, so spend this time wisely by working steadily up until your date. Take measurements of the wall space beforehand to determine how many pieces you’ll need to create to fill up the room, and make sure that all of your pieces are ready to hang before you bring them in. If you are offering pieces for sale, have the prices and your contact information within plain view.
Though getting started may feel intimidating, these businesses are generally receptive towards new artists and require less of a pitch than art galleries that depend on sales or visitor donations. For ideas of places to show your artwork, take a look at Flagpole’s weekly “Art Around Town” list.
Determined Former Tenant
You may remember that Determined Former Tenant was trying to get back a security deposit from a former landlord. A reader made the following suggestion:
If DFT's letter to the landlord gets no results, (s)he can try one other approach before deciding whether to go the small claims route. DFT can warn (more matter-of-factly than threateningly) that (s)he is going to notify the Better Business Bureau (in Atlanta—there’s not one here). If that attempt does not get results, DFT should send each a letter and include a copy of the letter sent to the landlord and a copy of the Flagpole letter and response from you.
I wish her success. DFT seems to be a very conscientious and thoughtful citizen with a legitimate complaint.