It has been a long, hard, painful road to being comfortable enough to wear a tank top in public. Actually and ironically, it was by the end of summer last year. It hasn’t been easy dealing with and eventually loving the furry skin I was given (along with being gay, biracial and a little extra quirky, which I’m sure I will elaborate on at some point). I work out semi-regularly and I generally take care of myself but I was blessed with a considerable amount of body hair.
I became very aware that I wasn’t built like everyone else as puberty settled in. While other guys were only getting slight contouring on their chests and down their stomachs, I found my shoulders and back matching my front. Instantly, I became insecure, especially in gym class where the probability of being taunted and bullied is astronomical. Miraculously, I got out of those classes without hearing anything from anyone.
But being so unique didn’t come without constantly comparing myself to my peers as you do at that age. And it didn’t stop there. After all, what celebrity could I compare myself to? Who else did I have to look up to and see that aspect of my person in? All that was ever seen was mostly smooth chests, ripped abs and perfectly tossed hair, none of which I have ever possessed. It has gotten better over the years, or maybe I am reaping the wisdom that age tends to bring and I have learned to not care so much.
I remember the first time it dawned on me to something about my ingrown fur coat. I was a camp counselor and everyone was swimming in a nearby lake. Of course, all I was wearing was my swimming trunks. One of the other camp counselors said, “Have you ever considered shaving?” She wasn’t malicious about it but after telling her no, the idea was taken under consideration.
The first time I shaved my back and shoulders was a few days before a group of friends and family were going to a theme park. My well-intentioned cousin took the initiative to make me look like everyone. At that point, I couldn’t think of anything better. But looking back, it couldn’t have been more damaging to my soul. What that was telling me was that I was not enough as is and that’s all I ever really wanted.
As I went through college, I made many friends but trusted only a couple to the vulnerable truth of my “shameful” body, which they respected and they would help to reach the spots in my back that I couldn’t. Over those years, I have had guys tell me that they have never been with a guy like me before. Some were turned on by it, others never called back.
At 22, my world was forever changed by meeting Floyd and Michael, two bears. For those who don’t know, bears are men in the gay community who are more rugged looking, extra hairy and sometimes more heavy set. As they welcomed me into home and lives, it was the first time I remember being encouraged to be comfortable in my skin, body hair and all. I could simply be without judgement, ridicule or condemnation. I didn’t have to worry about my appearance because it was revered instead of being reviled. Although I was still impressionable and young and I allowed a lot of things to happen since then, I was always grateful that they came into my life.
From there, I continuously shamed myself for how I was made. I only tried Nair once and I was literally burned by it. It was more of a chemical peel than a hair removal. I would shave every so often to feel “normal”, like when went out to bars and clubs and I wanted to appeal to other guys. I thought that was what they wanted, which was rather dumb on my part because eventually the truth would have grew back out.
The last time I shaved was before a friend of mine and I went to Florida. As I walked around the beach and eventually the club shirtless, I felt uneasy and fake, like how I was presenting myself was a watered down representation of my person. I began to ponder the worth of it all versus my own self-worth. That experience of being uncomfortable being like everyone else taught me a great deal about being authentic and present.
Later that summer, everything came into focus. Other people’s opinions are no longer an acceptable reason to be insecure. I wasn’t going to water my self down to be “normal” and that includes not wearing cute tank tops for the sake of adhering to societal standards. And I own some amazing tanks and cut-offs!!! There are people who find the extra fur sexy, others may find it repulsive and some may not care either way.
But either way, what they think of me is no business of mine and it never was. The moment a person negates what makes them unique and individual for the sake of blending into the masses is the moment they decide to decay from the inside out. Once that epiphany became clear, my own skin became one of my favorite body parts. I love the idea of being different. And at this point, it is irrelevant to me who does or doesn’t like it. This is me and this is beautiful and this why furry is the new sexy, if for no one else other than myself!!!
Photo Source: Cyndi Marie McCalab