So, I am extremely late on June's installment of #UnconditionalBodyBeautiful (so late that it's July), but this latest installment's focus was on body hair!  

Since I love fashion, and I'm first and foremost a style blogger, I have always taken effort to make each of the posts in this series as much about style as body image, using what I'm wearing to help tell the story of my changing relationship to my body.  While there are many ways to explore and develop our relationships with our bodies, I think fashion can be such an incredible gateway towards learning to see our bodies in a positive light.
Swimsuit:  GabiFresh for Swimsuits For All (Available in kiwi here)
Blazer:  Eloquii
With the focus for June on body hair, I thought what better way to discuss a part that almost literally covers our entire bodies than with a fashion choice that covers the least amount it (or at least the least amount of it that I would show on the blog!)?  So, the idea to wear a swimsuit for this post was born.  

This is my first EVER post on the blog dedicated exclusively to a swimsuit (and my first bikini on the blog).  I had actually been planning this post for several months, but life, poor weather, and a certain level of anxiety kept getting in the way of my photo shoots.
Heels:  Target
Sunglasses:  Calvin Klein
Earrings:  Prabal Gurung for Target
Since I was actually rather nervous about doing a swimsuit shoot (and had nixed a shoot I did last year), I decided several months ago that I didn't just want this to be any normal outfit of the day shoot. I wanted something a little more glamorous, a little more edgy, and a lot more fun.  Go big or go home, right?!  I came up with the idea to take pics on the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge that crosses over between Missouri and Illinois.  The bridge is now completely open to pedestrians and has some cool Route 66 signs and informational stands. 

Oh, did I mention, the bridge also has a car?!  The younger kids had fun getting in the car, pretending to drive, and having a mini photo shoot of their own.  Yes, the man and I loaded up four of the five kids in the family truckster (one was at a friend's house) to head over to the bridge, and we spent the bulk of the afternoon walking the bridge and stopping in various places to take pics.
I initially wore a dress over my suit (and flip flops), but as soon as I lost the dress to begin taking pictures, it stayed off.  There weren't a ton of people around, but there were definitely quite a few.  I expected to be super nervous about showing off my bikini bod in front of strangers, especially on a bridge where most people aren't strutting around in heels and swimwear.  After getting over the initial butterflies, I found myself feeling surprisingly confident and having a lot of fun with the shoot. 
I honestly just felt like I was doing something good - good for myself and for my own body image, but good for others as well.  I was happy to be a body positive role model to my kids - for them to see me doing my thing and not be concerned about the reaction of others.  My daughters wanted to wear their swimsuits on the bridge too, so as soon as we got out of our vehicle, they had stripped down to their swimsuits and flip flops and were joyously skipping and running towards the bridge. :-)
In addition to being a positive role model for my kids, I hope I inspired some confidence in others on the bridge with us that day - whether it was the totally in-shape runner, the thin teen girl, or the overweight harried mother desperately trying to corral her kids (I totally feel her pain lol), I would love if my actions in any way made their day a little brighter.  If seeing me posing in a swimsuit feeling and looking confident made them feel a little bit better about themselves, every bit of anxiety I had about doing the photo shoot was completely worth it!!  By that same token, if this post in any way strikes a chord with you, if it makes you feel a little bit better about yourself or gives you the confidence to try something new, then I am more than ecstatic about putting myself out there!
Speaking of you, my readers, boy was I nervous to post this.  But, at the end of the day, I figured what's the worst thing?  You see a little more cellulite than you're used to seeing from me?  I can live with that!  Besides, at the end of the day, I'm just a woman in a swimsuit, nothing abnormal or shocking about that!
The pictures turned out so well, and I had sooo many from which to choose.  Nothing is Photoshopped or edited in these photos, except for a bit of photo cropping and straightening.  What you see is me.  I have cellulite.  I have belly and back fat.  This is me, in all my glory. :-)
My fiance normally doesn't take my blog photos, but he took most of them for this shoot (my son helped some too), and I think he started having fun with it.  In total, I had over 1100 pics from which to choose - it was really hard to narrow it down!!

My man thinks he's quite the photographer, giving me all kinds of direction.  He soon made me forget how sweaty I had gotten while walking and taking the pics - because let's keep it real, it was hot and humid and I was feeling it!

Well, now that I relayed to you all the hairy details (see what I did there?) behind today's pics, let me talk about this month's theme - body hair!

I'm part Armenian.  We're a fairly hairy people.  My grandfather had hair everywhere except on top of his head. LOL  My hair tends to grow extremely fast both on my head and on my body.  Since my hair is fine and not super dark, this tends to not be overly problematic for me, but that wasn't always the case.
When I was a young girl, about 9 or 10, I would often try to shave my legs when my mother wasn't looking.  I was self-conscious about the hair on my legs and wanted it removed.  I thought my mom was being mean to me by not letting me shave.  I simply hated being told that I was too young.

Once I started shaving my legs and underarms, body hair no longer seemed like a major problem.  I have a tendency towards a unibrow on my face, which I sometimes shave, sometimes wax, and sometimes leave alone.  It was always a source of jokes between a friend and me, as she would joke that I "saved the rainforest by letting it grow between my eyes."  It was good-natured ribbing, and I laughed with her.  Honestly, body hair has been the least of my concern for the most part.
In college, as my social and feminist consciousness grew, I decided that I was no longer going to shave my legs.  I continued to shave my underarms simply because I don't care for underarm hair on anybody - just not my favorite thing.  This decision not to shave my legs conveniently lasted for several months over a harsh winter that was spent in jeans and tights.  Once spring hit, I started shaving my legs again.  The idea that women should shave their legs was so ingrained as a beauty ritual that I honestly didn't think I could handle not doing it if my legs were going to be shown publicly.
Since that time, I've continued to shave.  Again, I'm a hairy gal, and I usually have 5 o'clock shadow on my legs before the day is over.  Due to lack of time and sheer laziness (shaving can really be quite a tedious task), I've taken to skipping a day of shaving, letting small hints of stubble show during the warmer months.  If anything gets too hairy, I rely on pants as back-up.  During the cooler months, due to dry skin and again laziness, I usually go several days without shaving.

While I may not like to be too hairy in public, I have never had a major problem with it in more intimate situations.  My partners have all cuddled up next to hairy legs and furry pits from time to time and not one of them seemed to have a problem with it.

To be perfectly honest, while none of my partners has ever seemed to mind a little excess hair, I do feel sexier or more kempt when I'm clean-shaven.  I like the look and feel of smooth legs, and again, society has dictated that women remove hair from their legs and underarms.  It is one of those ingrained rules that has been quite hard to break.  I relax it and push the boundaries from time to time, but I never full-on break the rules and bare the hair.

Speaking of societal rules, during my college years, the removal of public hair started to become a trend and then the normative expectation for women.  At first, I wholeheartedly rejected this idea.  While I couldn't argue that it was any less logical than removing other body hair, I think that I initially found the demand extremely oppressive and offensive.  I felt like it was promoting an ideal of prepubescence which I found very pedophilic.  The culture already polices and regulates so many aspects of women's bodies.  I thought how dare anyone try to tell women that we are less desirable or worthy with pubic hair. 
I still believe this.  We are no less worthy or desirable with full bodies of hair than we are with smooth, hairless bodies (and vice versa).  I remember being rather insulted when the PACU nurse, removing surgical tapes after an emergency C-section, laughingly apologized for any pain she was causing (in pulling out hairs) while also pointing out that this isn't usually an issue for most women.  By the time of my C-section, I had been in labor for several days.  I could have given a rat's ass less about some pubic hair! LOL
That said, now I can see both sides of the coin, and find that removal of body hair anywhere on the body can be ritualistic, relaxing, liberating, personally gratifying, even sensual.  I don't place any judgment on other women's decisions to keep or remove their body hair.  I've been intrigued by this recent trend of dyeing underarm hair (it makes a statement, but seems like way too much trouble for me to want to personally try it).  I reject the notion that in order for women to be beautiful or feminine they must be perfectly plucked, waxed, or shaved. We can and should do whatever feels right for us.  As for my pubic hair, that's for me, my man, and my gyno to know. :-)

Do you have any concerns about body hair?  Do you remove body hair or let it grow? 

Woohoo! Yay for bikini bodies in any size - or whatever YOU want to wear on the beach!

Want to catch up with the first five installments of #UnconditionalBodyBeautiful?

Here they are:
Part 1:  My Body and I from the Beginning
Part 2:  The Heart (Bust)
Part 3:  My Journey on My Legs
Part 4:  My Belly and Me
Part 5:  My Buttocks

Also, don't forget to check out this month's other participants in #UnconditionalBodyBeautiful!

Katherine Hayward, The Glitter Notebook

Zadry Ferrer-Geddes, Curves a la Mode

Josephine Lee, Josofab Curvesity's World


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