Embracing My Hairy Arms Was the Most Liberating Thing I've Done

“Look at you, you’re a hairy ape!”

That taunt was as familiar to me as “Good morning,” when I was in grade school. I heard it from boys starting around second grade, and it soon inspired my quest to change what the universe, or at least genetics, had blessed me with: hairy arms.

To be clear, I wasn’t covered in hair from head to toe. There were no stray hairs on my chin or my chest; my back and stomach were also as hairless as most kids’ were. My arms and legs, however, were covered in soft, dark hair. I had come by it honestly—my mother suffered the same fate as me, so it ran in the family.

It wasn’t until those taunts began that I became aware of the offensiveness of this extra hair, but it didn’t take long for me to begin wearing long sleeves and pants as late into the spring and summer as temperatures would allow. I’d watch my friends come to school in tank tops and shorts, longing wistfully for that same freedom. In my mind, the hair on my arms made me less pretty, less female, and the fact that it was mainly boys who made fun of me only confirmed my suspicions.