Archive for February, 2010

The wonder food.

No, really, am I the only person who loves hummus this much? I know I’m not, because my entire family is nearly as obsessed with it as I am. We eat it by the bucketful. And, believe it or not, I had never made it. Never! Me! I’ve only ever eaten store bought hummus, except I think my aunt made it once when I was younger and I can’t quite remember.

Anyway, so I was going to a party on Valentine’s Day, and had to bring some food, and forgot to plan anything. Which is unusual, but things are a bit busy lately. And without question, there are always dry beans in the house. And… somehow… I decided on hummus.

Now. Hummus is a fairly simple thing to make. In theory. All it really is, is chickpeas mashed up with some other stuff, usually oil and garlic and sometimes seasoning and things. If you aren’t familiar with chickpeas, they are also called garbanzo beans- they are those lovely little tan things that you sometimes see on salad bars. They are possibly my favorite bean ever. They are so versatile. You can use them in stews, you can use them in curry, and chili, and stir fry, and just about everything else. And hummus, of course! You can’t have hummus without chickpeas.

So I put my chickpeas in to soak overnight, and while my taster had gone off to get out of the kitchen, I boiled them, as you do when you’re using dry beans, and wandered around the house. I added an entire head of garlic (I only have one left! No idea how I’ll get through the next few months- next summer I’m hoarding four times as much). When they were soft enough to squish, I drained them, added a ton of oil, a splash of soy, a decent amount of lemon juice, water, a touch of cumin and a little more than a touch of cayenne. Oh and some salt. And with my magic immersion blender (oh my god I LOVE my immersion blender!) made this:

The amount of garlic was right, but it was a bit dry, and I kept adding water. And it was good right off (if maybe a little short on garlic, but then again, garlic is like a drug, the more you eat it the more you want, and I’ve been eating it in spades for years), especially while it was still warm. Maybe could have used more spice, but that’s just me and my addictions again. It does not refrigerate particularly well, I’ve discovered. It loses almost all the flavor, and keeps getting drier and drier. But of course I made a vat of hummus, and here again is my classic dilemma: there’s only one of me. God, I can’t wait to live with someone who will actually eat my food (I’m sure I’ll be biting my tongue when I’m living with a hoarde of people who will not only eat my food, but everything else in the kitchen so I can never get my hands on anything).

I guess I’m used to grocery store hummus (oops- yes, well, it’s good, and one of the few things from the grocery store that are). But you can open it and it’s still good a week later. This is probably because of preservatives or something. Mine- well. All I can conclude is that I need to have more people around to eat my hummus. You would think a party would have been enough.


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The same applies for farming. As I’ve been working toward starting my farm business, I have been told time and time again that I need to concentrate. I can’t be going off about farming vegetables and fruits and chickens and sheep and mushrooms and herbs, that’s just too much for a person to tackle at once. No, I need to pick one thing, establish that, and move on to the next one.

The trick is, this is why farms fail. Ok it’s not the only reason farms fail and I would be a pretentious idiot if I pretended to know why most farms fail, but it is certainly a major issue. The orchard, yes, will be at the heart of it, but I need those chickens. When I met with the business advisor last week he again admonished me to cut back on the number of things I wanted to do at once, and I had to explain that the chickens weren’t just there because I wanted to sell eggs and have something to carry us through the winter. They were there because we needed them for pest control in the orchard. Otherwise I would need to be buying literally tons of chemical pesticides, organic or otherwise.

The mushrooms were another necessity, and one for which I really need to give credit where it’s due. While sitting at the organic apple workshop at NOFA, listening to the first speaker, he clicked to a slide of a morel mushroom. If you are not familiar with this mushroom, it is highly prized by cooks because it is flavorful and cooks up well, and is also fairly rare. They only grow in forests, you see, and usually with deciduous trees. No one has successfully figured out how to grow them commercially, because they only seem to grow well in the company of trees. Morels are fricking expensive. And when you find them in the forest it’s time for a major happy dance.

Now flash back to this speaker, who flicks to a powerpoint slide of a morel and says, completely casually, “oh yeah, these pop up in our orchard all the time.”

I think my jaw nearly popped, it fell so fast.

Yes, not only did morels grow happily in his orchard, but so did any number of medicinal herbs, and he encouraged them wherever he could. He left compost to mature along the side of the woods, hoping mushrooms would colonize it before he spread it in the orchard. He made compost tea and sprayed it on the trees. If he could get particularly colonized soil (colonized with mushroom rhizomes, meaning) he would plant it with the new trees. And all of this was done to improve the health of the trees so they could fight diseases on their own, without the additional inputs of chemical sprays.

Basically, he treats his orchard the same way I finally learned to treat my body. If your body is healthy, it will have the power to fight off most any disease on it’s own. If you give it all the things it needs, and especially healthful bacteria and enzymes, it will fight off pathogens like mad. And the same is true of trees. Instead of growing one crop, all by it’s lonesome in a field, he was growing a forest, complete with many species of trees, plenty of plants in the understory, birds in the branches, animals rooting around underfoot, fungi growing in the roots of the trees- an entire ecosystem, which just happened to produce fruit and herbs and mushrooms and animal products.

I had heard of this concept of using animals in with crops several years earlier, but mostly in the sense of replacing conventional inputs (fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides) with animals, and conveniently getting several additional products out of the deal. Now the last pieces started to fall into place. It wasn’t just about replacing pesticides with chickens. It was about creating a functioning, healthy whole- a body that consisted of many individual parts- that, when given the strength through proper nutrition and care, would naturally fight off those diseases which have always been the plague of orchardists. It was a homeopathic approach to farming.

It works something like this, whether in an orchard or a body: pathogens (diseases) are able to breed best in sterile environments. Imagine a sterile table, wiped clean of everything- bacteria, microscopic creatures, everything. With the table wide open, there’s nothing preventing just about anything from pouncing and making its home there. But if instead you cultivate healthy bacteria, say, if in your stomach you cultivate the kind of bacteria that help you digest food, then there is a healthy culture of bacteria already there, and when the pathogens come along to invade, there will already be a crop of healthy, thriving bacteria there to fight them off, and probably win. If your body was sterile, you would die. There’s already evidence that overuse of antibacterial hand sanitizers is producing super resistant pathogens, because by constantly dousing our hands in antibacterial liquids, we kill off our own healthy bacteria that are there to fight off the bad ones (in addition to killing the bad ones, and forcing them to mutate into something bizarre and even harder to fight off).

Think about it this way: immunizations are designed to inject tiny bits of diseases into your body so that your immune system kicks in and produces antibodies and so forth to fight off the disease. It makes you stronger, by exposing you to a little of the thing you need to be protected against. Mother’s milk does this as well. Breast milk is full of pathogens, as well as the enzymes you need to fight them off. We know all these things. And yet we still pretend that you can fight diseases, not by strengthening your body so that it can fight for itself, but by trying to wipe out the diseases. We take the same attitude toward farming. Sterilize the soil (that’s what herbicides and fungicides do, people) and then expect plants to be able to grow in it, and resist diseases? What a ridiculous concept.

Plants, just like people, need proper nutrition, and they can’t just get it from vitamins (neither can we, by the way). They need healthful bacteria, they need healthful fungi, they need rich soil full of microorganisms that will produce nutrients for them (as bacteria in our bodies produce nutrients for us, out of the foods we eat). It’s not rocket science. It’s actually fairly common sense. And it takes a lot less energy to promote the health of an organism so it can fight disease itself than it does to produce lots of allopathic remedies to destroy the disease from the outside (plus it’s far more expensive to do the latter, as demonstrated by my six month long battle with the doctors. Eating well and getting enough sleep hardly cost anything).

So why do we keep trying to do things the hard way?

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Last week my mom and I decided to have a girl’s night and headed out to the Olive Garden. Though I am sure they are full of all kinds of horrible preservatives and other fake ingredients, those breadsticks are pretty damn good.

I can see why people in general like the Olive Garden. It was certainly crowded as all hell, and we only got to eat at a reasonable time by snatching seats at the bar (where, incidentally, we almost got killed by flying pieces of broken glass that managed to catapult themselves OVER the bar. It was a Corona bottle, and I have always observed that they really smash spectacularly (I stepped on one once). It must be the glass). The food is pretty cheap, if you consider you get endless soup and salad and breadsticks AND an entrée that’s big enough to feed at least three people (at least I ate it over three meals). It’s an awful lot of food. I personally ate only my bowl of soup and a few breadsticks- by the time my entrée came I was so full I only ate two bites and took the rest home.

The curious thing is that apparently many people come and eat not only their entire entrée, but several bowls of soup and salad. The bartender told us she had once seen someone eat 13 bowls of soup. These are not small bowls- they are about the size of a bowl of soup I would eat as an entire meal at home. And some people eat THIRTEEN of them.

It makes me wonder. I mean, I know obesity is a huge problem in the US, and with meals like that, I can see why. It’s not exactly like Olive Garden food is low fat. And with the temptation of endless bowls of soup- well, I would have been tempted to eat a second one, just to get the most out of the deal, if there was any way I could have eaten it without exploding. And I wonder- how much portion size and “deals” like the endless soup and salad draw people into eating more than is really healthy (or sane). It certainly makes the Olive Garden a lot of money, I’m sure. The place seems to always be packed. But can we hold Olive Garden responsible for contributing to obesity? Or is it more that people somehow have never learned self restraint? What is it that causes people to be more interested in getting the most for their money, than in taking care of themselves? Especially considering that it will end up costing them more when the health care expenses for all the complications associated with obesity kick in.

I can only imagine advertising must have something to do with it. After all, we’re brought up to believe that money is everything- and getting a deal like “endless” soup and salad is just too good to resist.

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I used to use tissues. Can you believe that? I have a hard time wrapping my mind around it. Tissues. What with my nose, the endless faucet of doom, I somehow managed to use tissues! I have vague memories of going through box after box of tissues during the worst of the sinus infections, and having horribly painful chapped skin in the general vicinity from how often the tissues were scraping my nose raw.

But then, one day in Germany three years ago, I had an awful cold/ sinus infection/ allergy attack/ thing. Apparently I was allergic to Germany, because for almost the entire week that I was there, my nose was running non-stop, I was hacking my lungs up, and I was generally miserable. I went through a pack of tissues in about two seconds, and my dear cousin, the infamous click clack, offered me a handkerchief. I had never used a handkerchief. I found this to be fairly suspicious. After all, wasn’t the point of a tissue that you used it, filled it up with snot, and threw it away? With a handkerchief, it was all just… there.

However, I gave it a shot. Better than carrying around endless boxes of tissues (and cheaper. And without all the waste). And I quickly discovered that, although I was going through handkerchiefs at a fairly rapid rate, I could simply wash them out in the sink and use them again. For someone who had already been using cloth pads for her period for years, this was extremely logical. I am no stranger to washing things others would find disturbingly disgusting.

The best part of all is that you don’t get the sore nose. I mean, at this point, three days into a particularly irritating sinus infection, my nose is getting rubbed a little raw, but for the most part I far prefer a nice soft piece of cotton to a weird scratchy piece of paper that just falls apart and gets little white bits of things all over the place. That’s another nice benefit. You never have to worry about leaving a tissue in your pants pocket and finding every item of clothing you own covered in a fine white fuzz. Leave a handkerchief in your pocket, and it just gets washed, which you’d be doing anyway.

My favorite part is that it’s one less thing to buy at the drug store. When I went in the other night with my mom, I wandered around for a while trying to think of things I might need, and other than contact solution and toothpaste (the later of which I could make if I took the time), there wasn’t much of anything. When we cleaned out my grandmother’s house, we found an entire stash of handkerchiefs made by my great grandmother, all edged in her particular brand of crochet. I hesitated to use them, because, after all, they were technically heirlooms, but then I thought, well, why would she have made them, if they weren’t to be used?

And so I happily blow my nose (well, as happy as you can be when your nose won’t quit running), and think of my great grandmother, and how she certainly wouldn’t have been caught using tissues.

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I’ve been having trouble writing this one, even though I’ve been talking about it endlessly. I’m trying to write about how at NOFA I went to a lecture on growing organic apples, and how as I was sitting there listening things started going click click click into place. That happens when you’ve been thinking about something for a long time, trying to figure out how things fit together. It often takes someone else pointing it out for you to make it go “click.”

Over the past seven months or so I’ve been struggling with pain. It’s a weird pain, and when it started I actually ignored it because it was in such a weird place. I thought it would just go away. It didn’t. It got worse, and then I stopped being able to pee. I realize this is kind of personal and all, but it is one of the most horrible feelings in the entire world. You do not realize how amazing it is to be able to pee until it just stops. Believe you me.

So there I was, crying and frustrated and immensely uncomfortable, and with this horrible stabbing pain that came and went and actually made me let out these little screams every now and then because it just hurt so bad, plus it snuck up when I wasn’t expecting it, when I’d be just standing there talking to someone or sitting at my desk at work. And I went to my regular doctor, and she did some tests, and they all came back negative, and then she sent me to a women’s specialist, and he couldn’t figure out what was wrong, but was figuring maybe cancer, and in the midst of this I asked him what to do about the fact that I couldn’t pee, and he said, well, if it gets too bad just go to the emergency room and they’ll put in a catheter. And he walked out.

Another week or two of that, and a cat scan and an MRI later (expensive), and they finally ruled out cancer, but I still couldn’t pee, and it still hurt. So I tried an urologist, and he gave me a pill so finally, finally, I could pee, and you can’t even believe how amazing that feels, after weeks of not being able to go unless I drank over a gallon of water at a time. But the pain didn’t go away. And he did more tests, some fairly uncomfortable and even rather painful tests, and tried me on a couple different drugs, just to see what happened (nothing) and finally he said, well I don’t know what to say, but you can try this experimental drug if you want, it’s for a condition that I’m 99% sure you don’t have, but maybe it will do something.

I have no doubt it would do something, that’s for sure. But as he couldn’t say what I said no. And through all of this, I felt like it was my fault. The tone they took, these doctors, when I asked desperately, on the verge of tears, can’t you please, please, please make the pain go away, was that I was making it all up. They couldn’t figure it out, so I must be making it up. They couldn’t figure it out, and I was a silly ignorant girl for persisting in my desperate pleas for help. One of them snidely told me to go to John’s Hopkins if I still wanted to figure out what was wrong (which, for you non-MD people, is where they do a lot of experimental medicine). To top it off, all the doctors were on the Western Shore, and none of them seemed sympathetic to the fact that it was over an hour drive to get to them, and sitting in the car was the most painful part of the whole experience. And the doctors did not seem interested in say, trying to consolidate my visits, or to arrange them at times that would be in any way convenient for someone with an hour drive in each direction, who could not sit in a car for longer than ten minutes without screaming.

Finally, after this had gone on for over two months, I decided, at the urging of a friend, to try acupuncture. The concept was strange, I mean, just sticking needles in your body? How in heavens name is that supposed to fix this pain that a host of doctors haven’t been able to address or even identify?

And so I went, and finally I felt like someone, if nothing else, was at least listening to me. Every doctor I went to barely even paid attention to the things I said, cut me off before I was even done listing my symptoms, and kicked me out of the office as soon as they possibly could. They didn’t have time for my crying concerns that something awful was wrong with me, that I was going to die, that I would never be able to pee again, that I might not be able to have kids whether I wanted them or not. They simply had too many patients. But the acupuncturist- she listened. I cried my eyes out for about two hours, and she said we could try and fix it. She didn’t know what was wrong either, but we’d at least strengthen my body so that it could work on healing whatever was wrong itself. I finally felt like a person again.

And after about two months, it started to get better. I still had bad days, but most days I could at least get through the whole day without crying out in pain. I stopped taking the medications the urologist had given me (which were ridiculously expensive). I started working on sleeping better, not driving myself to insanity with work, and eating regularly. And the pain started to go away.

Then, out of the blue, it came back again like mad. I had aggravated my old back injury and I could barely move, my back hurt so bad, and bizarrely enough, the pain (which was not in my back) came back full force. And something started to click. I went to a chiropractor, and he at least helped with the back issue, and he, another caring, listening soul, agreed that maybe the pain had something to do with my back putting pressure on nerves that led to strange places. I started keeping tabs on when the pain spiked, and it was always after I had been doing something to strain my back. At long last (now a good six months later) I figured out what was causing the pain. And I figured it out all by myself. Even better, I now know how to manage it, and it involves taking care of my body, my WHOLE body.

The problem with those conventional doctors was that they could only look at one part of me at a time. The women’s specialist refused to even address the fact that I couldn’t pee, because it was outside his area of specialty. He went straight to cancer, because that’s what he specialized in. The urologist assumed the pain must be from some obscure urological disease, because that’s what he specialized in. Never once did a single one of those doctors ask about my lifestyle, or other things that could be going on with my body (such as lack of sleep, or past back injuries). Modern doctors, modern people in general, are trained to only see one little part of the whole. That’s an allopathic approach. But you can’t only treat the symptoms. You can’t only treat someone with AIDS for a cold. You can’t only hand someone with chronic pain the strongest pain medication you have and send them off without trying to ascertain the source. Everything, and I mean everything, that happens in our bodies is connected. And you cannot possibly to cure the part without curing the whole.

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This is Part 3 in the three part series on things I so rarely talk to people about. And now I’m putting them on the internet! Modern life sure is funny. Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here, if you missed the beginning.

I once, when I was young, and very, very depressed, took the better part of a small bottle of Advil. I knew this wouldn’t actually kill me. Though I couldn’t have articulated this at the time, I just wanted to physically feel the same way I felt inside.

It worked, and I spent three days in bed with various flu like symptoms. Oddly enough, it didn’t make me that sick- I had at that point gotten used to taking up to five or six Advil at a time whenever I got my period in order to get some sort of effect, so taking about twenty wasn’t that much of a leap. But it was about that time that I started to be suspicious of pills.

I didn’t actually quit until I was 19. I had been convinced that I would never be able to tolerate a period without pain killers, and doctors had always confirmed this, and it wasn’t until I read (in Cunt) that without pain killers periods would eventually become less painful that I had the audacity to try.

And, to my surprise, it was true. Instead I treat my periods with hot tea, a heating pad, and sleep (and more recently, diet and acupuncture, both of which are miraculous). Buoyed by my success (and amazed by the amount of money I was saving, never ever taking pain killers), I started to look at the other pills I was taking. I had been on allergy medication since I was maybe 7 or 8. I had to change my medication every few years, when my body became immune to a certain type of pill from overexposure. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how much of the medication had built up in my system. And I was afraid- because at this point, a few years later, I was about to graduate college, about to go off my parent’s health insurance for the first time in my life, and I could not remember a time without medication. But if I was going to be without a job, and without insurance, or much in the way of income, I wouldn’t be able to pay for the pills that had sustained me for years. At least two or three different allergy pills at a time, plus an inhaler, and antibiotics typically about three times a year.

Scratch afraid, I was terrified. Terrified, and determined to never be so dependent on something in my life that I couldn’t live if I didn’t have money. To prove myself to those who were convinced I could not live without pills (or health insurance), I went to an allergist, rattled off the lengthy list of pills I had been on since childhood, and told him I still had about the same symptoms and the same number of sinus infections. He agreed with me- it couldn’t hurt to try going without.

The first time I got a sinus infection without my medication, I thought it was going to be worse than ever. I had had infections that lasted for two or three weeks, leaving me bed ridden with blinding headaches and unable to breathe, my asthma triggered to the point where I would need my inhaler several times a day. But I stalwartly refused to take antibiotics. And my infection was gone in less than a week.

Now, they last about three days (if I get them at all). The one time I have taken pills in the past few years (aside from when I had mono- the sore throat is unbelievable) was a round of antibiotics when I had a puncture wound that the nurse at the hospital insisted would get infected otherwise. I threw up the entire week and swore never to do antibiotics again without serious cause (losing a limb, perhaps, or being bitten by a poisonous spider).

90% of the stuff that we buy, we purchase out of fear. I include medication in that grouping, as most of us are flat out terrified to medicate ourselves. If a doctor says we should take a pill, we take it. We do not ask questions. We do not ask why we need to take it, we do not ask what effects it will have on our body, and we do not ask if there is another way.

There usually is. Our bodies are remarkably resilient, if we are doing all the things that actually help our bodies to function at their maximum capacity: ie eating well, keeping active, and getting enough sleep. It isn’t until we disturb the natural defenses of our bodies, weakening them with junk food, lack of exercise, bizarre sleep patterns and the rest of it, that we are so susceptible to the many things that plague us. Given the right conditions, we can fight off almost anything. Except, of course, the diseases that we give ourselves, cancer being the primary among them. Cancer, in most of its cases, is caused by exposure to one of the many things living beings should not be exposed to, that we also love to expel into the air, into our drinking water, and into our food. Good job, us.

But even my allergies were caused by human action. I grew up next to a coal power plant. And just about everyone who grew up around me had the same condition- allergies or severe asthma or both. And so we all grew up on pills. The only way I was able to properly get off them was to move away, to the countryside, far away from power plants and industry. When I return to the city, especially on a hot day when the air pollution is high, I find myself using my emergency inhaler over and over again. And that pisses me the fuck off.

But apparently that’s what we’re all about, this civilization of ours. We destroy ourselves, we fill ourselves with fear, and we learn to trust no one but the “experts,” who will tell us what to do to stay alive- buy buy buy. You know why we haven’t stopped doing all the things that cause us cancer? It’s because if they cure cancer, what will they make money on? It sounds like a conspiracy theory until you’ve watched a few people go through cancer treatment. Not once is it mentioned that diet has an enormous effect on our bodies’ ability to fight cancer. Its kind of like the irony in 1984- we may as well start up a Ministry of Health, designed to keep us all sick and dependent, at all times.

All I know is, quitting our health system has left me healthier than ever before.

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This is Part 2 in a series of stories about growing up and realizing that to feel right with myself, I probably was never going to feel right with the vast majority of people around me. Or something like that. Part 1 is here.

When I was about 12, I went to environmental camp. This was where I first learned that I was supposed to shave my legs.

Kind of ironic, if you think about it.

It’s not that I didn’t know girls shaved their legs. I had seen my mom do it plenty of times. I just didn’t realize I was supposed to. After all, I was a blonde: all I had on my legs was some whitish fuzz that was barely visible, like the hair on my arms. But the other girls at camp were all talking about who was shaving their legs and who wasn’t. I escaped their notice, as I don’t think anyone could have figured out I wasn’t shaving my legs without being within a few inches of them. But some of the other girls, with much darker hair, fell under their scrutiny, and I heard them talking in the bathroom and on the porch when they didn’t think anyone else was listening- about that girl- I don’t remember her nationality now, possibly Indian- who didn’t shave her legs.

When I got back to school that fall everyone seemed to be talking about it. I told my mom I thought I should start shaving- everyone else seemed to be doing it, and I didn’t want to fall prey to the same scrutiny as the girl at camp. My mother warned me, telling me if I started shaving my legs I would regret it, because I wouldn’t be able to stop. The hair on my legs would get dark and rough and if I didn’t want nasty stubble I’d have to chain myself to a razor for the rest of my life.

My, I wish I had listened.

It wasn’t until I was 19 that I thought about quitting. I hated shaving my legs. I hated it. HATED IT. I would avoid it at all costs. I remember many times sitting in class my freshmen year of college, glad it was dark (Art History) and that no one could see the stubble on my legs.

Then I read a book called Cunt. And though I barely remember the details of the book, I remember that it completely changed my life. As a lifetime environmentalist of epic proportions (I would chide my parents for not recycling from the age of 6 on, I started my first environmental club when I was 10), not to mention a thrifty maniac (I hate spending money unnecessarily), it suddenly occurred to me I was spending money every month on three things I absolutely did not need: pads, razors, and pain killers.

The razors turned out to be the hardest to give up. Though I hated shaving my legs, and hardly did it anyway, I was terrified of someone seeing the stubble. So I started in the winter, when many girls opt for “winter legs” anyway. I had a boyfriend at the time, and warned him of what was to come. He seemed skeptical, but I let a lot of his little quirks slide, so it only seemed fair. I continued to shave under my arms, at his request, and this seemed like a good compromise.

When summer came, it was more of a challenge. Lying on the beach with my now hairy legs displayed in the sun, I was certain everyone was staring at them. And wearing short dresses garnered the sort of attention I had always dreaded. But not from guys, who rarely seemed to notice, and who, I had been convinced, we had always been shaving our legs to impress.

No, it was definitely the girls. One of the girls I worked with stopped me one day with a wow, Tara, really letting yourself go- and many of the other girls I knew followed- girls who I had considered good friends, and who apparently thought it was in the bounds of our friendship to point out the error of my ways. Gross, unhygienic (still haven’t figured out how that works), and just plain wrong- and when I asked them why they bothered to shave theirs they would respond with “you’re supposed to.” I had met a total of two other girls who didn’t shave, and they gave me hope- until one of them gave in and started again, because she liked the way it felt.

In fact, I only met one guy who had a problem with it (or who expressed a problem, at least). He waited until our third date to ask if I was going to shave. And when I said, no, why?, he answered with the usual “you’re supposed to.” However, this was the same guy who had just been arrested for pissing on an officer while intoxicated, so I wasn’t prepared to trust his opinion.

Five years later, and I still get nervous about my legs. Not very often. Mostly I forget that I have hair and no one else does. But every once in a while, especially around adult women, I get a little nervous and wear tights, even in the middle of summer. And I hate that I do it- but something of the fear of criticism still gets me. It doesn’t help that every summer my family likes to ask, “You’re still not shaving your legs? I don’t know why you do that.” Of course, they also like to wave turkey legs under my nose and say, “Don’t you want some?” Even though I’ve been a vegetarian for ten years.

I love it though. I discovered, when I stopped shaving, that I no longer needed lotion, because my legs no longer got dry. I don’t have all those nasty stupid cuts. I haven’t bought razors or shaving cream or much of anything else in the female “hygiene” aisle in five years, and don’t intend to ever do so again- saving myself god only knows how much money. And, and this is best of all, I love the way they look and feel. Shaved legs, in my opinion, look naked and wrong. They feel creepy- so slick and slippery. When I’m with a girl that shaves her legs, I feel almost like a pedophile. Little girls don’t have hair. Grown up ones do.

If only I had listened to my mother.

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