"The Night I Shaved My Legs" by Gloria Boss
In English class writing exercises were an important part of the curriculum. It was taught, if you want to learn to write, you should begin with what you know. The following is a personal experience narrative about one of the controversial recommendations made in the Personal Dynamics class.
This is a true story.
The names have been changed to protect the innocent because we are guilty, but we’re guilty of a good thing. At least, I thought so. Let me start from the beginning.
On January 3, 1967, I had my first interview with my personal dynamics teacher. As I sat down in her office, I was not nervous because I had long awaited this interview with great anticipation. I had a lot of questions to ask about ways of improving my appearance. The teacher answered most of my questions and told me whom to consult on the others. She had a chart she used to keep a personal record of each girl. She asked questions from the chart and then filled in the answers. Toward the end of the interview, she asked that one question I had prayed she wouldn’t ask, “Gloria, did you shave your legs?”
Well, I had to answer truthfully, “No, I haven’t yet. See?” I held my poor, hairy legs up for her to see.
She then told me how to go about shaving the hair off. I listened carefully, but I was so scared when I thought of putting a razor to my legs. I didn’t particularly like the hair on my legs, but I thought it looked okay with stockings. And, anyway, this one guy said it looked nice. Well, his opinion had to be forgotten this time. I had to shave it off.
I always feared removing the hair from my legs because I thought of what had happened to the Biblical character Samson when the hair on his head was cut off. I thought of how he had lost his strength. I was so scared I would lose mine, which is not much, but I get by.
I told Mrs. Rodi I would have it shaved off by the next day and would show her.
Well, that night, as I took my bath, I remembered, “Oh! I have to save my legs.” So, I got out the razor and put in a new blade. For the longest I stared at that razor. I was really very scared. My heart started pounding fast, and I felt myself get weak in the legs. Over and over in my mind I said, “I can’t do it. I can’t do it.”
Well, a knock on the bathroom door broke my concentration. “Gloria, hurry up?” That was my poor little brother who is always last to get in the bathroom. “This is my excuse,” I said to myself. “I didn’t have enough time.” So I put the razor away with a smile and left the bathroom.
When I got to school the next day, boy, did I do some dodging. I didn’t want to give that excuse. Every time Mrs. Rodi came my way, I went the other way. This happened twice.
The next day I didn’t have to go to Charm class so I forgot about shaving for a while. But only for a little while. I had to go to her the next day after that. So that night I had to face that razor again.
About 9:30 p.m. I began. I opened the drawer containing the razor slowly and closed it back real fast. Finally, I said to myself, “Oh, why make all this fuss? I am just going to shave the hair off my legs.” I started humming some silly little tune. Who was I fooling? I was scared, and no time or anything else could cover that up. I had to be done.
Everything was all set. I lathered my legs very carefully. (It must have taken ten minutes.) I held the razor to my leg, and my heart started pounding again. Finally, I started shaving. It has taken about half an hour to finish one leg. (I remember Mrs. Rodi said to be careful not to knick myself.) Boy, was I careful!
At last I was finished. It wasn’t so bad, and my legs did look pretty nice. After I put everything away, I walked to the bedroom, or at least I tried to walk. I couldn’t move at first. My legs felt so weak. (Samson, I know how you felt.) Well, I made it to the bed and took my time getting in. As one of my legs touched the other, I felt as if they belonged to someone else. I don’t know how I fell asleep, but I made it.
Nest morning the fear had gone. I was proud of my legs and I bragging about them. “Guess what, Ella? I shaved my legs!” “So what?” my sister said, “Big deal.” Of, if only she know how great the deal was.
Well, the hair is growing back, and sooner or later I will have to shave again, but at least I know now what it’s all about.
The first day I shaved my legs will be one day I shall never, ever forget!
Secretarial Training with Business Speech – An Experimental and Demonstration Project; Final Report; September 12, 1966 – September 25, 1967; Adult Education Department; St. Mary’s Dominican College
The concept of asking women to shave their legs was controversial and had a cultural impact on some of the women. Do you have any thoughts on any changes that you were asked to make to fit in more with the business world?