When I was at primary school there was a joke that I always found funny. It was, “how high does Fatima Whitbread go when she shaves her legs”? The punchline was “all the way to her bollocks”. Now if you don’t know or remember Fatima Whitbread it is of course a cruel taunt at a very good British Olympian who by definition of being a Decathathelete or something similar had a body not unlike her competitive peers. She also looked a bit like a man.
I raise this because a few summers ago I decided to embrace cycling to its fullest and shave my legs ‘like a pro’. If ever there were an introduction to how tough life can be as a woman, that is it. Every man in the world should be made to shave their legs. It would bring about a whole new level of respect but more importantly explain, without uncertainty, why women take so long in the bathroom.
First there is the removal of the ordinal thick layer of hair, which to my knowledge, has pretty much been there as long as I have. Fortunately, as someone who has a beard I possessed hair trimmers that were quickly and easily able to shift most of it. In fact, you can be under no illusions as to how much hair you actually had on your legs, because every single last one sticks to the white cotton towelled bath mat that we have on our bathroom floor. First tip, if you have hairy legs and you want to trim them, do it outside in the garden.
Once down to the prickly dark stuff it was time to get wet with the razor. The easy part if you like. Or so I thought. It is at this point you realise why women do Yoga. It’s not so that they can zen out and develop an inner strength for their core and their mind, it’s so that they can hold one leg up in the air above the water line, whilst simulataneously arching their neck & back forward in an ab-prep like position, all whilst carefully guiding a wet razor over a foamy and extremely heavy leg. After a few attempts and several fresh applications of shaving gel I was soon getting the knack of it and in fact feeling rather pleased with myself at the fluency of my actions.
Then I was faced with a challenge that genuinely made me stop and think about how to overcome it. How the hell do I shave the back of my legs? Calfs? Easy. Back of the knee? Bit more calculated but manageable with a bit of twisting and turning. But the back of the thigh? It’s like a blind spot, or better still, like trying to look at the back of your head in the mirror when you only have one mirror. You just can’t seem to turn around at the right angle and when you do you realise your whole body has turned with you preventing you from seeing.
By this stage I should point out that the bath water is now freezing cold, the interest in the whole activity well and truly passed and both the bath as well as the bathroom floor completely and utterly trashed with, stubble, dabs of red blood and hairy foam.
After finally feeling like everything was as smooth as a freshly shaved leg should be I present myself to the bathroom mirror to assess my performance. Oh I wish I hadn’t done that. I really wish I hadn’t done that. Regret is not a strong enough word to describe the feeling you get when you see, for the first time in your life, your soft girly looking legs, sat beneath a hairy pair of bollocks. Especially when beneath an even hairier and certainly much bigger wobbly belly.
The questions that go through your mind at this point are quite literally ground breaking. Should I carry on shaving and stop where my shorts or underpants would cover up? Do I go even higher and trim a kind of Speedo type pattern around my groin? Or do I pick up a new razor and go all-in by letting Right Said Fred out to play?
Approximately 90 minutes after I started, I leave the bathroom, dry myself down and contemplate what I had just done.
I’d love to say that is where it ended. But that’s the point, it never ends. Freshly shaven legs are dry and need moisturising – another 30 minutes. By now of course I at last understand, and more importantly respect Fatima Whitbread and not because she had to shave her body. But because she had the wisdom to stop at her bollocks.