Split Ends

A Brush of Fresh Hair or How
Pubic Curls May Save Your Life

Few things resemble more our evolutionary pedigree than body hair. Culturally, having a ‘full head’ of it means being young, beautiful, healthy, even powerful. Until it departs on its own, we spent years combing it, cutting it, shaving it, dying it, and parting it with aplomb.
It’s another story with hair growing elsewhere but on top of our head. A reminder of how fast we went from furry animal to naked ape, we’ve set strict social codes to dealing with ‘excess’ in certain parts of the body. We’ve only got contempt, though, for ear and nose strays.
The inconvenient truth about hair is that it’s easily matted with sexism, racial intolerance, and political and religious oppression. It can get greasy with prejudice, scorched dry with the dust of old traditions, and offensively malodorous, reeking of staled rites and bad blood.
In other cases, the way we look at hair or lack thereof reveals the huge gap between our general perception of what each gender is supposed to be about, and what evolution has determined was the best way to cope with changing climate and environmental conditions. We adapted and changed to survive, but we often still carry the phantom of an obsolete, long discarded psychological association.
Chest hair, for example, long thought to be a symbol of manhood and testosterone dominance, has recently been found to actually be a deterrent for potential female mates. Scientists long knew that women’s preference for hairlessness may have been a way to avoid lice and other tiny mites that would enjoy the comfort of chest hair in unkempt males of yore (read, all males born some 10,000 years ago).
Even though that’s hopefully no longer the case (as hygiene habits have evolved), the pattern is still present: a new paper, published on the Archives of Sexual Behavior journal, shows that women still prefer ‘relatively hair-free guys,’ over hirsute types, even in areas where that kind of parasite is not a realistic threat to humans. Would skinny Williamsburg hipsters chuckle at this notion too?

At 12, Natasha Moraes de Andrade had never had a hair cut, and its 5ft 2in in length, just an inch shorter than she is, caught the attention of international tabloids. An impoverished dweller of a Rio de Janeiro’s shantytown, her hair was likely to be her most marketable asset, and she couldn’t wait to sell it.
Even being far from the Guinness record holder, China’s Xie Qiuping whose hair measures 18ft 5in, she went ahead and got about $5,000 in the sale. With that, she managed to accomplish several things any 12-year-old may take it for granted, like riding a bike, or not having to spend a few hours just washing and combining one’s own hair.
But for Natasha, who reportedly wept during this very first haircut, something more important was at stake: money to buy a house. Again, she’s still far from the amount needed, even for the ‘favela carioca’ where she lives. But she proved that hair may come and go; it’s the ability of using what’s deep underneath it that really counts, all the way to the split ends of it.

Despite all the cliche and the stereotyping, the Japanese are indeed one of the most polite people one can ever meet. And their culture reflects that fact in ways that both startles us and teaches us some lessons too. For who else could’ve come with a way of discreetly inform people that their nose hair is, well, slightly overgrown, and may we suggest, shouldn’t you trim it just a little bit?
In not so many words, that’s what’s behind the idea of Chololi, a Web-based service that allows you to fill a form and have a tasteful notification card to be sent to that friend who’s been behind in his or hers self-grooming tasks. With the great selling point of giving you the comfort of anonymity.
Nothing more understandable. People are increasingly busier, trips to the bathroom not always include the luxury of monkeying time in front of the mirror, and it certainly beats the mean-spirited twitter, open to the world, exposing the person to a lifetime of shame. Unless, of course, you’re a troll and a douche who enjoys doing just that, in which case, you don’t really deserve your friends.
Through the service, which you need to identify yourself in order to use, you may even chose the ‘tone’ of the warning you wish to send your friend, assuming that he or she will remain so, even if they one day find out that it was you. They obviously must be able to take a joke, of course, and the site is keen at pointing to that fact.
There must be a disclaimer somewhere, in case you wind up murdered because of what you did, but one assumes that your privacy is paramount in the terms of service. Which, by the way, you must be committed to follow in all its rules and regulations. Unless, of course, you plan on sending a mean-spirited message, in which case, you’re a douche, etc.

One of the most baffling social conventions adopted over a century ago is shaving. But not even shaving is done equally: somehow, we’ve decided that, while men is free to shave or not their faces, women must shave their armpits and legs, no matter what. With time, it came also the very elaborated ritual of waxing other parts of their bodies, in order to wear bikinis.
At its inception, shaving may have been part of the 19th century drive to extricate at all costs the new, clean-cut, civilized modern men, from the literal 800lb furry creature of its past. But the convention could not help but to speak volumes of men’s domination over women, gender objectification, and all that tiresome but relevant discussion we’re still having about gender and social mores.
Most theories attempting to justify shaving can’t disguise their original, archaic prejudice. Chief among them, hygiene. Even medicine jumped on the wagon, and shaving before surgery became standard practice. Well, either we’re cleaner now, or they were all knowingly wrong even then.
New research shows that pubic hair is actually a protection, not the other way around, curly as they may be. Or rather, shaving it may cause cuts to the skin, expose the follicles to germs, and make the body more susceptible to infections.
In the U.K., physician Emily Gibson has been leading the charge to change people’s mildly negative perception towards the ‘bush.’ Besides, of course, it’s a huge waste of time: while the skin suffers with the relentless razor action day in and day out, hair always grows back and ultimately wins.

As for extreme waxing and the high value we place on hairless, smooth bodies, it’s a matter that belongs more to the pathology of esthetics and physical attraction, than to the multibillion dollar industry that caters to the obsession. As with plastic surgery, it’s hard to determine when it stops being a tool for self-acceptance, and becomes harmful to the individual’s psyche.
Being pragmatic about it, it’s unlikely that waxing for ‘entertainment purposes,’ i.e., for wearing a thong, will be considered unacceptable any time soon. No matter how many doctors may advise against it, citing study after study about how beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, we’re still bound to go to great lengths eliminating any signs of our past as apes before our mates.
Some may believe that women, as usual, got the shorter end of the stick in this bargain, for men are ‘required’ to only shave their faces, in our unwritten social contract. But when you have stats showing the increased amount males have been spending in personal grooming products, full-body waxing kits included, even that notion gets blurred.
Notice that we’ve avoided other disgusting implications about our preference for hairless bodies. You, the reader, however, are free to connect the dots on your own. We can’t help thinking that the more we invest in our appearance, and pursue an impossibly classic ideal of physical beauty, the more we show how terrified we’re getting of sexual intimacy and getting closer to each other.
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