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dating coach for smart, strong, successful women Evan Marc Katz
I’m 25 and have been dating a man who is 34 for the last 1.5 years. There is a lot to like about him – he’s smart, kind, caring, and dependable. He is almost the elusive ‘alpha male nerd’. He likes taking charge and being ‘the man’ in the relationship, but he is also sensitive and loves to spend hours reading on the couch next to me. We have a lot of shared interests and generally get on like pals. He constantly tells me how beautiful I am, and how amazing he thinks I am as a person. But here is the caveat:

He is repulsed by my leg hair. I’ve never been one to shave or wax my legs very consistently. Over the winter I’ve been known to go for 6 months without grooming. But last year decided that this whole hairless thing was kind of silly (and kind of sexist…not anyone’s fault just the jolly old patriarchy and all) and definitely not worth the time and money it took to keep my legs smooth.

My boyfriend was not pleased about this. All of a sudden the man who told me he couldn’t stop loving me even if I gained a hundred pounds and wanted to have sex twice a day now doesn’t have much interest in having sex with me at all. He told me recently he doesn’t even like cuddling anymore because he can feel the hair. Yet he is still happy to accept oral sex from me…

So I know this could technically be exchanged for any other body part. What if my boyfriend didn’t like my short hair cut or my pubic hair, etc. But leg/armpit hair seems to be unique. It is such a widespread and visible practice that I think many men just automatically associate furry legs as manly, and assume that all girls magic themselves hairless without much effort. My boyfriend has said he’s tried to get over this but can’t.

I am at a loss for what to do. On the one hand, even though the thought of having to groom all over for the rest of my life seems terrible, it’s not the worst compromise to make for an otherwise great man. On the other hand I’ve found something that makes me feel great about my body. I know it sounds crazy but not shaving has made me feel more powerful, more human, and oddly more feminine. And something feels kind of gross about taking the razor to that for a man.

But I know you like numbers, and I know that more men are going to find smooth legs attractive than men who will find hairy legs attractive. But I also know there is a fair amount of men who don’t really care.

At the moment I’m feeling really hurt and unattractive and that’s not how one hopes to feel in a lifelong partnership. Yet I know he feels hurt too. Even though we’ve had long conversations about my reasons for doing it and how I don’t mind doing for him occasionally but not every day and how I want to find other ways to be ‘sexy’, he still feels like this is a really easy and nice thing I could do for him. Though when I asked him to shave his legs for a month just to see what it was like, he refused. I feel especially hurt because I’ve accepted him for exactly who he is, and have never asked him to change anything about himself (appearance or otherwise). He’s average height, a bit overweight and balding. But I chose to get over those things because he’s an otherwise great guy and I’m still sexually attracted to him as a whole. I am a 25 year old yoga instructor. I don’t mean to sound conceited but I know I look pretty fab. Yet he can’t get over a bit of body hair…

So what do I do? Do I get over it and just shave my legs or risk losing this relationship as well as potential future partners who will be grossed out by my leg hair?

Or do I leave the relationship letting him find a new pair of legs, and moving on to hairier pastures?

Sincerely,
Kayla (aka Chewbacca)

I’m somewhat surprised that I haven’t been asked this question before, and somewhat surprised that I don’t have a ready-made answer.

Your boyfriend isn’t asking you to undergo a personality transplant. He’s asking you to something you’ve done before, something you did before you met him, something that is widely accepted as standard practice for women.

But your question is so well-written, Kayla, that it seems like you’ve already thought of this from most angles. First:

It is such a widespread and visible practice that I think many men just automatically associate furry legs as manly, and assume that all girls magic themselves hairless without much effort. My boyfriend has said he’s tried to get over this but can’t.

You kind of nailed it right there.

I can see why it’s frustrating to you, but attraction is not something you can logic your way into. It’s why you can’t force yourself to be attracted to the nice guy who brings you flowers on the first date, or force yourself to be attracted to the bland CPA who will probably make a good husband for someone, just not you.

We can go back and forth and negotiate WHY you’re not attracted to him — and while we may even make some headway in figuring it out, what does it change?

Unless the CPA were to undergo a personality transplant, you’re still not going to be attracted to him.

And that’s where your situation is different. Your boyfriend isn’t asking you to undergo a personality transplant. He’s not asking you to try polyamory. He’s not asking you to quit being a yoga instructor and get a desk job.

He’s asking you to do something you’ve done before, something you did before you met him, something that is widely accepted as standard practice for women.

Here’s an entire New York Magazine article about it from last summer.

So you can blame the patriarchy and choose to rebel against it.

Or you can shave your legs and armpits like 90+% of the population, because it will mean that your boyfriend remains attracted to you.

I know that sounds insensitive — like I’m putting his needs before yours.

I’m not. I’m acknowledging what you wrote.

On the one hand, even though the thought of having to groom all over for the rest of my life seems terrible, it’s not the worst compromise to make for an otherwise great man.

You gain far more from a lifetime with this man than you lose in the 10 minutes a week you spend shaving.

This is really what it comes down to. Your issue is body hair. Other couples may quibble about money or fitness or cleanliness or family.

But it’s all the same question: Would I rather compromise to make my partner happy, or would I rather find a different partner?

No one in the world can answer that for you. But I would suggest, given how hard it is to find the “elusive alpha male nerd”, that you gain far more from a lifetime with this man than you lose in the 10 minutes a week you spend shaving.