Body Hair: Who’s Looking?

By Susan Tarshis

For those of you who know me or those of you who may follow the fact it’s me, Susan, who usually fills this first Friday of the Month space, it’s pretty obvious that what you have been getting here for the last number of months is Susan-processes-her-break-up-of-long-time-relationship-via-writing. I know that I could write about things that have distracted me or enraged me generally, there is certainly enough to go around. I have processed a few possibilities, but nothing seems as relevant as these things right in front of my face, or in this case, on my legs, in my arm pits and other places that I have spent time grooming the past.

To be frank, I’m on strike in the body hair department. What started out as, what I believed to be, depressive neglect, has morphed into something entirely surprising. I have not picked up a razor in about 4 months and you know what? I DON’T CARE.

I tried this experiment once before in my 20’s. I was in law school. My friends were lesbians and other sorts of radical feminists. I lasted about 2 months and then shaved it all off. What I remember most from those times was my own disgust at my body hair and I figured that if I was grossed out, then that was enough reason for me to choose to shave it. I still believe that, it’s my choice.

There is something different about this time though. Something about the quality of my disregard for my own previously held conventions. This time, the gaze of a particular other was removed and what was left was my own gaze. Let me be clear about this. What was left was My. Gaze. It was not a shadow of a longed for gaze or the shame of a lost gaze or the hope of a future gaze. It was just mine. Me. And I am indifferent to my body hair.

I am also indifferent to the folds of my belly and the sagging skin of my neck. I am indifferent to my aging hands and my drooping eyelids. I don’t mean not appreciative of. I just mean that I have only just recently become profoundly aware in a felt body sense that I no longer need to be looked upon approvingly according to a standard I didn’t set to feel like I am acceptable. I thought this was old news for me but apparently, it is brand new news, because I have been shaving my legs for 35 years give or take a few months here and there and always thought I was doing it for me. BUT I WASN’T. I was doing it for lovers, real and imagined, for others whose desire I understood was somehow hinged on my smooth skin. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. Maybe the political statement of hairy arm pits is a turn off. There is no question of its impact. Just think about the Williams sisters. What if they stopped shaving? I shudder at the sexist and racist upheaval of internet vomit that would ensue.

Perhaps I have stumbled upon another gift of my 50.5 years on this planet, an achievement unlocked. The rumour was, this sort of thing was linked to “letting one’s self go”. But what if that’s just what they tell you? What if, in fact, it is about “getting an actual hold of ONE’S SELF?” This is my body and I don’t want to shave it. I want to clean it, feed it, move it, love it. I even want it to be loved. But if the price of ever getting laid again is having to shave my legs, then forget it.


Just kidding, that’s ridiculous, I would never have to make that choice. Plenty of other people don’t link my leg hair to my sexiness.

I am not advocating for some kind of razor tossing hair growing revolution. I’m not telling you not to shave what ever part of you that you want to shave, or wax or thread or otherwise depilate. We are the agents and authors of our personal expression, as my recent asymmetrical pixie hair cut attests. Our outer presentation is one of the best ways for us to signal our identities and who we want to draw in around us. Maybe all I’m calling out for here is for us to really look at who is looking. What they are looking at and why? Are we showing them what they want for their sake or ours? Even if it is for some combination of our eyeballs and someone else’s eyeballs, let’s at least be mindful of it.

For now, I’m enjoying seeing what I’m growing into. I’m also aware it’s still winter in Canada so perhaps I’m all talk and no shorts and a tank top. I’ll report back in June.

Yup, it’s 55 year old Madonna (2015) rocking her pit hair. Also striking is the fact this picture is not airbrushed. This picture was originally from her public social media.

fitness · menopause · swimming · winter

Swimming in the cold, brrr!

I love swimming outside. But I hate being cold. Probably that means I should live somewhere else! Bora Bora was lovely. See above.

The other day this came through my social media newsfeed: The remarkable health benefits of cold water swimming. That article focuses mainly on the mental health benefits of swimming in cold water, especially helping with depression. But it’s also said to be great for relieving the symptoms of menopause.

It’s said to be all the rage: Why wild swimming in depths of winter is the new natural high. I love being outside. I love being in the water. But I prefer it if the water is hot! See Sam’s day at the spa. On my spa day I did dump a couple of buckets of cold water over my head after the too hot sauna but I couldn’t get myself to swim in the river. Next time I’ll try it. Promise.

How about you? Tempted to swim in the cold water outside?

charity · cycling

Fight for life. Friends for life.


I was so happy when this photo of Joh and me came through on International Women’s Day from the bike rally. Happy memories and good times ahead. This is Joh and me on a training ride for the last year’s bike rally.  This year I’m doing the one day version and Joh is doing the new three day version from Kingston to Montreal. 

Sponsor me here. Sponsor Joh here.

Thanks everyone!

cycling · fitness · training

March matters

Last March, exactly a year ago today, I posted to Facebook: “Feeling hopeful. Really hopeful. First time on the spin bike without any pain when pedaling while standing. No pain while using big gears either. Phew. There’s hope.”

This March I’m happily riding, indoors and out, and thinking about training for the summer ahead. March is very important training month for those whose summer activities start in June or so. I’m not racing but I do have a very serious cycling event in June, the Newfoundland bike tour.

Image description: Rust coloured hills, green meadows, cyclists on a blue road. Newfoundland’s scenic Viking Trail.

In order of events, it’s the 5 boro bike tour, the Newfoundland Bike Tour, the 1 day version of the Friends for Life Bike Rally, and then the Tri-Adventure. See here.

Chris Helwig, my former cycling coach posted to Facebook the other day about why March matters for cyclists: “March is here. In my humble opinion this is the most important month of the year for anyone racing road or MTB or even athletes just wanting to ride faster for group rides or in general. This is the month that sets you up for the rest of the spring and summer. Even if your winter so far has been mediocre, having a good volume and quality March can assure you have a great season. So clear your social calendar, dig into those trainer rides during this cold spell and get it done!!!”

There’s still a lot of snow on the ground and it’s cold. I’ll commute to work but training rides are indoors still.

This Saturday Sarah, Ellen and I met up at the Bike Shed to ride for a bit. I think I might just leave my bike there for the month and ride lots.

What’s your plan for the month of March?

accessibility · Aikido · fitness · injury

Aikido Sundays

I recently blogged about my inability to just walk away from Aikido. I still love it. I miss it.  I found myself back on the mat Sunday morning when the opportunity presented itself. Of course, I logged it in the 219 in 2019 group. I wrote, “Most of an Aikido class including some partner techniques, not just basic movements. Still trying to figure out what I can and can’t do with my knee in this condition.”

It’s not like running. I’ll never run again. I can’t. Even if I got new knees, I couldn’t run.

Obviously, I can’t kneel and some of the breakfalls are off limits. But I found I was able to practice some of the falls which made me happy because with the stiff, sore knee I’ve been more worried than usual about falling on the ice this winter.

And the thing is if I met someone with a knee like mine, I would tell them that Aikido is worthwhile. All the things I love about Aikido remain the same as when I wrote about it in 2012.  I love how gentle it is. I love the rhythm and ritual. I love learning to fall. I love the age range and the diversity of the participants. I wish there were a class with modified movements where I wasn’t the only person who couldn’t do all the things.

The question is, can I keep my ego on the shelf and not wish for the knee I used to have? I think maybe I can.

I think, come fall, I’ll visit the Aikido dojos here in Guelph.

accessibility · advertising · gender policing

Dream Bigger, not “Crazier” Please Nike

We haven’t shared the new Nike women’s sports ad on the blog–much as we love almost all of it–because we’ve been nervous about the “crazy talk.” The “Dream Crazier” ad for the “Just Do It” campaign features women throughout history breaking down barriers in sports. The commercial, narrated by Serena Williams and featuring an all-female cast, shows women in sports ranging from running to tennis to boxing being celebrated for their passion. And that’s terrific, right? Mostly yes but it’s complicated.

The ad lists the ways in which women have been called crazy for wanting to participate in sports. It’s a long list. But instead of criticizing the use of crazy-talk as ableist the ad tries to take back the language of “crazy.” It urges women to be crazier.

Sometimes reclaiming language is a good thing but I am not sure it works here. Why? See my older post Let’s Stop the Crazy Talk .

It’s time to end the “crazy” talk. Why? It’s ableist. See the following, social justice and ableism.

“Disability metaphors abound in our culture, and they exist almost entirely as pejoratives. You see something wrong? Compare it to a disabled body or mind: Paralyzed. Lame. Crippled. Schizophrenic. Diseased. Sick. Want to launch an insult? The words are seemingly endless: Deaf. Dumb. Blind. Idiot. Moron. Imbecile. Crazy. Insane. Retard. Lunatic. Psycho. Spaz.

I see these terms everywhere: in comment threads on major news stories, on social justice sites, in everyday speech. These words seem so “natural” to people that they go uncorrected a great deal of the time. I tend to remark on this kind of speech wherever I see it. In some very rare places, my critique is welcome. In most places, it is not.”

What do you think of the ad? Of using “crazy” as metaphor?

accessibility · disability · fitness · walking

Assumptions about disability and reflections about visibility

During my recent visit to Spain and France I wore my knee brace a lot. I’ve been noticing how differently I’m treated when I wear it than not, even though my knee condition is the same.

Here’s some examples:

  • I was offered a space on the motorized wagon that drives passengers with mobility needs to the gate. (I declined.)
  • I was offered a seat on a bus. (Yes, thanks!)
  • I was told I couldn’t sit in the exit row of the plane for take off and landing as they needed a non disabled person in that seat because of the responsibilities that come with the bonus legroom. (I followed instructions.)
  • I sat rather than wait in line standing at hotel check in when someone pointed out the table. (See pic below.)

The things is I can walk lots with the knee brace but it’s when I am wearing the knee brace that people assume I can’t. Without the knee brace I might have wanted assistance getting speedily to the gate. Likewise, with the knee brace I think I would be a pretty capable person to have in the exit row of a plane but it’s only when I am wearing it that I am asked to move.

I’m not sure what the solution is but I’m pretty sure it’s going to involve me being more outspoken about my needs and asking for help.

Image description: A can of Spanish fizzy water and a glass full of it on a table with a sign with a disability symbol. Check in waiting area at Hotel REC Barcelona. After two flights, one bus, and a walk, I was grateful for the cold water and for the seat.

Image description: Sam taking a selfie in the hotel lobby mirror in Girona. She still hasn’t mastered the art of looking at the mirror instead of her phone. She’s dressed all in black except for bright orange running shoes, and beautiful scarf bought in Barcelona. Oh, also she is wearing her knee brace for walking around Girona.