According to Lucy Mangan, it’s officially Januhairy.
It’s officially Januhairy! If you didn’t know, this is the month we ladies are encouraged to cast our razors/epilators/hair removal creams/other variously painful, expensive and/or smelly means of depilation aside and embrace our naturally hirsute forms. It’s a campaign started by Laura Jackson, a student at Exeter University. Embrace it. Let your furry flag fly. And your armpits, legs, thighs, pubis, big toes, line from belly button to said pubis and other areas too shameful to mention.
Ah shame. Let’s talk about the shame. I am always reminded of when – after years of weirdness happening with my body - I finally received a diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome. My first reaction on hearing the news that I had a chronic condition that was affecting my fertility and could make me more prone to type 2 diabetes, endometrial cancer, high blood pressure and high cholesterol (which can raise your risk of heart disease and stroke) was one of relief. Why?
Because PCOS also (for various complicated hormonal reasons) makes you – though this isn’t quite how the doctor puts it – fat and hairy. And that made me incandescently happy. This is because it meant that those two things weren’t my fault. I hadn’t realised how ashamed I had felt of them, how much they had preyed on my mind and weighed (pardon the pun) on my conscience, until I felt the burden lift.
The fact that a reasonable diet had not been enough to keep me slim or that if distracted from my depilatory duties for one minute I could go on as Mr Tumnus the faun in any local production of The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe without requiring a costume was Not. My. Fault.
They were the product of A Condition that had been visited upon me by a cruel or careless fate! It really and truly – praise the Lord and pass the tissues so that I can wipe the tears of joy running down my jowly face – was my glands. My body literally could not respond to the efforts being made to alter it, for reasons that could have long-term effects on my health, quality and span of life and ability to bear children. Overall, a resounding hurrah for that!
That’s how deeply we internalise the negative messages we’re sent about being overweight, how unrelenting the barrage of distaste for the natural female form – which, cyst-raddled or not, always has some hairiness about it somewhere if left unpatrolled by blade, wax strip or thiolactic acids (the active ingredient in depilatory creams, fact fans!) – is. And, of course, how strongly we are made to feel responsible for changing it and morally reprehensible if we don’t, won’t or can’t.
It’s insane. But it’s all part of the idea we grow up with that our bodies are not our own. They are not secondary to ourselves as they are for men; not mere vehicles for the unique, interesting, complicated person who dwells within. They are ornaments to society, packaging that is worth more than the gift inside and need to be kept working and healthy primarily so that they don’t become displeasing for others to look at.
That’s what Januhairy is really about – making us look at the perniciousness of this message, instead of in the mirror to check that we’ve caught all those stubborn upper lip hairs, and begin the process of rejecting it. This new year, slash it to bits instead of your poor ankles. And I’ll see you in Narnia soon.