Learning to Love My Totally Awesome Chest Hair

By Navneet Alang

It was a complete revelation to me when, a few years ago, I dated a woman who liked my chest hair. Naturally, the greater revelation is that there was a woman willing to date me at all, but let’s focus on the positive here. After a lifetime spent thinking that it was disgusting, somebody actually dug nature’s decision to leave me with a year-round, all-natural Chewbacca costume.

It surprised me so much because, like so many, I had come to associate hairlessness with attractiveness. Though I’ve always been acutely aware of how media deliberately represent unrealistic ideals, I swallowed them whole anyway. This is the funny thing about being human, and being a minority especially: you can’t simply think your way out of the ways you end up hating yourself.

Still, you would think that if a world of hairless white bodies rejected my fuzzier brown one, I could at least find respite in the culture I might loosely call “my own”. After all, South Asian men are often notoriously and conspicuously hairy. Surely of all places I could turn to Bollywood to find more appropriate, personally relevant ideals of Ron Jeremy-like body thatch, right?
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The Hair Issue

Of all the beauty issues fraught with ethnic baggage, could hair be the heaviest burden to carry? This week on the Ethnic Aisle, we discuss hair – facial hair, body hair and yes, even head hair.

Navneet Alang has learned to love his totally awesome chest hair: “In the time I was busy developing complexes about how I was an impossibly unattractive yeti, Bollywood had hopped on the “ripped, hairless chests” bandwagon.”

Jaime Woo is a Chinese guy, yet he can grow a beard. Weird. “In gay culture, men have decided to flee from the swishy, polished look of the late-90s and early naughts towards beards and tatts. I’m lucky, I guess, that my laziness happened to time in with the trend towards a more traditionally masculine look.”

Denise Balkissoon tries not to laugh as her hilarious Brazilian esthetician Perla Porto waxes on about Canadian shyness while waxing off her errant eyebrow hairs. Watch the video here.

You want to talk about curls? Let’s talk about curls. Renée Sylvestre-Williams has found the hairdresser of her dreams and Caroline Shaheed is no longer going to try and “tame” her Egyptian tresses.

Canice Leung has got pin-straight hair, the kind Chinese girls are born with, and the kind they pay lots of money to get. “It always seemed to me a bit like Hudson’s Bay traders selling beaver pelts back to the natives.”

Kelli Korducki longed to be blonde so that she could star in her own telenovela. “Blondeness wasn’t exactly required. It was more like the silver bullet that could make even the most marginally negotiable amount of onscreen charisma sufficient for stardom.”

Navi Lamba had her first haircut at age 15, only to learn that she didn’t have white girl hair. “I didn’t have the Princess Diaries moment I had hoped for and was left with something a bit shorter and much puffier, with the odd curl protruding from of my head.”

Jef Catapang’s hair isn’t just thick, it’s thick enough to pierce skin. “Tools high school homies needed for cutting my hair: tweezers, baby powder, and poor rock-paper-scissors skills.”

Scaachi Koul worries that her arm hair makes her unfeminine. “Leg hair removal felt unavoidable, and socially required, but I figured arm hair was okay to take to the mall. I was wrong. ‘Why do you have that?’ a male classmate asked, pointing to my arms. ‘You’re hairier than I am.'”

Bhairavi Thanki thought being hairy was awful, until she found out it was lucky. “My parents once told me that they were fortunate to have a hairy daughter. It brings good luck they said. Excuse me, what?! I thought they were trying to make me feel better after one particularly gruesome waxing session.”