Tia Christoffersen is passionate about exploring social issues through comedy and eating perfectly melted grilled cheese sandwiches. She is currently obtaining her Bachelor of Arts in English (Honours) while also writing fiction, plays, and a lot of to-do lists.
“Women don’t grow hair there!” my roommate squeals at her boyfriend in response to his thoughtful inquiry: “Do you shave your feet?” They’re standing close to one another in the kitchen while I slouch on the sofa, elbow deep in a family sized bag of nacho chips. I look at her from beneath a raised brow, wondering if she’s lying out of fear that he might find her less attractive. Judging by the number of times I’ve seen him breathe down her neck before asking if she wants to go “fold laundry,” his sex drive is not a problem.
“Are you sure?” he teasingly grabs the sides of her stomach.
“Yes, Clive!” she retorts with piercing pitch.
“Well, if I were a woman—or a swimmer—I’d definitely have to shave my feet. Look at these.” Clive hoists himself onto the countertop and slaps his size thirteen feet on the surface for Renée’s viewing pleasure.
“Holy shit,” Renée giggles gleefully as she leans down for inspection. “Hattie, come over here, you need to see this.” Reluctantly, I set my chip bag on the coffee table before walking to the kitchen.
“Feast your eyes, ladies,” Clive clasps his hands behind his head as he extends his legs towards me so I can get a better look.
“Have you ever seen feet this hairy in your life?” Renée asks me.
“Well, yeah,” I mutter, gazing at the dark mounds of curly hair that reside on top of Clive’s foot and each of his toes. “Haven’t you?” I struggle to believe she’s never seen her boyfriend’s feet up close before.
“I bet your feet are hairier than these,” Clive teases as he nudges Renée.
“No way.” She carefully removes her socks, then kicks her foot onto the countertop. Now there’s three bare feet on the surface where I put my food. “See?” Renée looks at her boyfriend, then at me. To appease her, I look down, expecting to see at least a few stray hairs. There’s none.
“I guess you win.” Clive smiles as he returns to the floor, sliding his butt across the counter as he does. I make a mental note to disinfect the kitchen.
“Smooth as butter,” Renée brags. Skeptical, I reach over and slide my fingers across her skin. Damn, that foot really is smooth. No hair, no stubble, not even any razor bumps.
“You really don’t grow any hair here?” I ask.
“Nope,” she says smugly. “Because I’m a woman.” She adds, as if her miniscule sample size yields results for every woman on the planet.
“And because you’re perfect.” Clive leans in to kiss Renée and I roll my eyes so hard that I feel a twinge in my temple.
“Does that mean you aren’t?” I ask him.
The couple peel their lips apart and turn to look at me. “What’s that mean?” Clive asks, while Renée stares at me with an intensity only an owl could match.
“Never mind,” I say, shuffling back to the sofa. Smacking sounds tell me that I only briefly interrupted their kissing.
“I like my men hairy,” Renée whispers, not quietly enough.
Renée’s laughable declaration sneaks into my mind as I crouch completely naked over my toes, tweezers poised and ready. I’ll be wearing open-toed shoes tonight and I don’t want to invite any judgmental leers from men like Clive or women like Renée. The long brown hairs poke out of my skin; they feel sharp to the touch, like quills of a cactus.
Gripping the metal tweezers, I pluck six hairs from my big toe and fling them defiantly on the bathroom floor. They’re probably too small for her to notice, but it’s a small comfort to me nonetheless. I move on to my second toe, the longest one by far. I fondly recall when the unusual length of this toe was the only insecurity attached to it. I wonder how Renée would react if she knew the last person I had sex with sucked on my unshaven big toe. On my un-plucked nipples, too.
The hair between my vulva and belly button is unruly and resembling brambles as always; I used to get a few pesky hairs there, but ever since I hit my twenties it has come in full and bushy and I can’t be bothered to maintain it. Whenever I catch a glimpse of my stomach hair, the term “treasure trail” lumbers through my head. Pubescent boys in middle and high school used to flash their budding trails to one another—and other unwitting onlookers like myself—proud of the implications of manhood.
Admittedly, I was shaken by Renée and Clive’s talking about women’s body hair a few days ago, so I’m doing a full-blown hair removal before I go out tonight. From eyebrows to toe knuckles. With legs and armpits already shaven, the next area to tackle is my breasts. Who knows if sex is even a possibility tonight—karaoke birthday parties aren’t the most arousing meeting places—but I don’t want to take any chances. Besides, a nip slip can be suffered at any moment and I would hate for some rogue nipple hairs to add to my embarrassment.
I take up my trusty plucking position: hand cupping and lifting the bottom of my breast, nipple pointing towards my face for maximized visibility, and tweezers gripped steadily in my opposite hand. I locate the first target, a sharp hair emerging from a red bump, an ingrown hair which always comes back to vex me. The ends of the tweezers surround the hair, ready for duty. I squeeze the tool together and, at the exact moment I yank the hair out, the bathroom door opens.
I jerk my head up to see Clive, staring with a slackened jaw at my nude body, mid-grooming.
“Get the hell out!”
“Sorry, sorry,” he spins on his heel, slamming the door shut behind him.
All the blood in my body has relocated to the space between my ears. My fingers go limp, the tweezers clatter to the floor. How could I forget to lock the door? I snatch my towel from its hook and wrap myself tightly, as if that will somehow erase the last forty seconds from mine and Clive’s memories.
“What happened?” I hear Renée ask Clive, probably worried by the slammed door and his stupid, gaping mouth. Unable to hear his response, I press my ear to the door. “Naked” is the only word I can catch from Clive in a flurry of whispers.
Then Renée: “Her nipples?”
Fuck. Is she naturally seal-smooth there, too?
A long silence passes before it’s punctuated by muffled snickers. What are they even laughing about? Clive has littered our toilet seat with at least a hundred and fifty pubes.
I watch my tears splash the tile floor. And then, inspiration strikes, as if from angels.
I lock the door, drop my towel to the floor, and keep pulling out every hair I can see from my breasts, upper lip, and stomach, with rage-induced precision. Then, I carefully place each hair on a square of toilet paper I’ve set next to the sink. Once I’ve gathered a satisfying pile, I fold the paper up and re-wrapped in my towel, sneak to my bedroom with my miniature parcel.
My time living with Renée finally ended two months post-incident, and I now live happily alone in a one-bedroom apartment where I can complete my hair removal process in total seclusion. Since the moment Clive walked in on me, I’ve developed a routine which involves that same careful collection of my “unseemly” body hair.
Every single hair that has apparently defied the laws of gender—especially the ones borne of my toes and tits—I have collected and saved. I keep them in a sealed bag inside of a shoe box at the bottom of my closet, unscrupulous to friends, family, and lovers. What looks like the original packaging for a pair of sneakers I threw away a long time ago actually contains my plan of revenge. I continued to build my collection for months, until I amassed enough discarded body hair to fill both my hands.
I gaze fondly at the contents of the box, sad to be parting with my hard-earned treasure.
“All of you hold a special place in my heart, but you’re destined for something much bigger than this.”
On my desk, next to the hair-box, is an envelope. I slowly transfer the hair from its plastic bag inside the box to the envelope. Bits of my hair cascade to the carpeted floor, but I don’t mind. I’m happy to hang on to just a few from my collection. I’m sentimental that way.
Once the process is complete and the envelope is stuffed like a down pillow, I seal it with my saliva. A couple hairs stick to my tongue, which I scrape off before leaving for the post office. I hesitate in front of the outgoing mail slot, holding the precious envelope, stamped and addressed to Clive and Renée at their new shared address. I bare my teeth as a low, guttural laugh leaves my lips, and I slide the envelope through the slot.