I got new passport photos the other day. I had them taken in a camera shop, rather than the usual chemist. The difference was interesting. She took my photo on a digital camera, showed me the photo to see if I liked it (I'd never been asked for my approval before), then put the disk (or whatever you call them) into a computer and zeroed in on the face to get the image to exactly the right size and frame. It was a much faster process than in the chemist.
On the digital camera, it looked like quite a nice photo. I was smiling with my mouth closed (you're no longer allowed to smile with your teeth - something to do with terrorism.)
But when I got the finished product, the small close-ups, there staring back at me was my father. Oh god. The older I get, the more I look like him - and I don't really aspire to look like an old man with bushy eyebrows. Actually, I also look like his mother and his aunt - who were old women when I knew them, of course.
In the close-ups, I also had a noticeable sunglasses mark - the area around my eyes was whitish whereas my cheeks and nose were red. Why do noses get red as you get older? I'm sure there's some physiological explanation. (Co-parent told me I was imagining all this, by the way.)
I had my hair cut two weeks ago by the same woman who's done it the last couple of times, with very pleasing results - the last couple of times were pleasing, I mean. This time is not. That seems to be some law of hairdressing - the first two or three haircuts by a new person will be wonderful (unless they're awful) and then they decide to experiment and mess it up. In my case (I have thick curly hair), this usually involves using thinning scissors, which leaves my hair lank and frizzy. This time she didn't do that but she did do some kind of tearing technique on the hair framing my face - so that hair has gone lank and frizzy. In the past I've had a couple of truly awful thinning-scissors experiences so that these days if a new hairdresser so much as reaches for them, I say "stop!" But this time she did the tearing at the very last minute and was halfway through before I could say anything - so I didn't. So I'm stuck with it.
This week has been hot in Sydney - even though today's the last day of winter. [Insert worry about climate change here.] Apparently we're in for some cold weather next week, but even so, I've become slightly apprehensive as we approach the season in which I have to display my hairy legs.
I've never shaved my legs. I did de-hair them for a short period as a teenage, using that revolting-smelling cream, but I gave that up pretty quickly. I don't have particularly hairy legs and for about 27 years, the thought of shaving them never crossed my mind. I never felt self-conscious about them. In fact I felt faintly pleased with myself and found the sight of denuded legs a turn-off.
But something's changed in the past few years. I've given this a lot of thought - and some discussion with close friends. Most of the women I know who have quite hairy legs, including co-p, started shaving about a decade ago. There's been a definite trend towards hairlessness as the preferred option in western societies. There's a focus on smooth hairless skin in a way that wasn't there in the 80s.
The other thing that's changed is that I'm older. As one friend pointed out to me, it's easy to look like rebelliously attractive feminist in your 20s and 30s, but when you're a 50 year old with hairy legs, you just look like an old woman who's not making an effort any more.
The past couple of summers, I've found myself very self-conscious about my legs (and my legs aren't my strong point anyway - and are also becoming varicose-veined, just in time to dovetail with the 'decrepit older woman' look.) When I do yoga, even though it's an all-woman class, I have to look at my lower legs (that's where your eyes go in many poses) and I find myself thinking about how ugly they are - because of the hair.
Why is a male hairy leg attractive when a female hairy leg is repulsive? It's an interesting lesson in internalisation of social mores. I watch myself watching myself.
I doubt very much whether I'm going to shave my legs this summer - I just can't be bothered and I hate the stubble feeling (on other women). But I've found myself considering bleaching the hairs blonde. Maybe that's the middle way.