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What It’s Like To Live As An Indian Woman With A Condition That Makes My Body Hairy

You refuse to wax now, but you know you’re going to have to get all that removed for your marriage. Your makeup won’t stay otherwise and it will just end up disrupting the whole setting.”

This is what I was suggested for my facial hair by someone (yes, I do not even know her name) at this place where females are supposed to get groomed (I intend no pun) when I was 19.

A few months later:

I can weave plaits out of them, you know.

These are the words of my own cousin, laughing about my hairiness in the presence of two other women – again at a parlour. The topic of my hairiness was discussed for several minutes, before and after the said comment was made.

I have just laid out just two out of the countless moments where I am reminded, mocked, suggested remedies and what not for something I am very well aware of.

I have Hirsutism which means I am excessively hairy. My body naturally produces male hormones (androgens), just like any other women or men. They just happen to be present in a higher amount than they usually do in females. Yes, I am still a woman, I feel like a woman. I just am the woman who when looks around in the metro at any given point, has some heads turned towards her that stare at her, not for the much prevalent perverted reasons but to look at something else. Apparently, women being so hairy is such a bizarre phenomenon that they feel the urgent need to scrutinize it thoroughly and decide it for themselves whether I am “feminine” enough for their liking. I am not leaving women (young or old) out when I say “heads”. It’s more than just the metro though. It’s in my classroom, in casual meetings with friends and even at home. I can follow the movement of your eyes, I know you look no matter how intrusive you know you are being. It is such a common reaction to encounter that I am beginning to believe that it is close to being reflexive.

Needless to say, I get angry but that makes me flaunt it all the more, and unapologetically no less. Because that is how I am, whether you like it or not. It does not give me a reason to be proud of it because of the unusualness but at the same time, it is no reason to hold myself back; it’s something that requires acceptance. Sometimes I am reluctant to put my hair up in a bun because it exposes more hair underneath my chin, but most of the time—and increasingly so—I am stubborn. Why should I not be? Maybe I’ll satisfy your curiosity to such an extent that you won’t feel the need to gawk as much at the next girl who’s just like me. Why should I not look back at you, see you eye to eye, and give you a clearly annoyed face that lets you know that you’re humiliating me every day, and force you to look away?

I have read people calling it “gross” or “unhealthy” when women don’t shave or wax their bodies but it’s baseless; there’s nothing unhygienic about it and men, you are hairy too. Those conversations I shared at the beginning ended in silence when I answered with my gynaecologist’s statements or simply with logic. Waxing on the face irritates the skin, it may also trigger hair follicles and result in the creation of more. Epilation does result in coarser, darker and more hair coming back. And to those who are like me: keep your body and its health above its appearance; be wise about this. Care for your skin, it does much more than just produce hair.

More often than not, when you point out a feature which is very prominent in another person, they must have obviously thought about it and you are dealing with a person who knows more than what you can suggest unless you are also going through the same. When you continuously suggest remedies we did not ask for, it makes us feel that we need to fix something that is not a mistake. The epitome of removal methods everyone advocates for are: electrolysis and laser treatments are an extravagance and require numerous sittings. They don’t work the same way for everyone and they aren’t permanent solutions either. I have been asked to take contraceptive pills regularly among other “solutions” (this is medically recommended by some) because it controls ovarian androgens but I have chosen not to. I am 20, I have Hirsutism and I have stopped hating it. I do not encounter any other effect of the condition in my body, the only impact is external: that it disturbs you, not me, and I am not going to take birth control pills for you.

Seriously, I am not the problem, you are.

Note: The image used is for representational purposes only.

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