Chest Hair and Happy Trails

happy-trail-transgenderThe barrista recommended the Sumatra Mandheling Dark Roast. He filled up my thermos cup and I told him that “I like coffee that puts hair on my chest.” It’s true. I like coffee that has a little oil and a little sediment. At home I drink Mountain Java Supreme French Roast brewed in a French Press.

The idiom came out of nowhere. I’ve never uttered that line before. I haven’t even allowed myself to wish for chest hair since I was a child. At the time, I wanted a chest like my father’s (slightly pudgy, and hairy, but definitely manly).

There are other things I could have said. That I like coffee that could strip paint off a car. That I like coffee as thick as mud. Coffee that builds character. Coffee strong like bull. I half wish that drinking coffee would put hair on my chest. Or that eating spinach, would make my biceps bulge.

When I was seven I wished for a hairy chest. While the other girls were dreaming about being blonde and wearing a bikini, I was hoping for a happy trail to go down to the top of my (imaginary) navy blue swim trunks. I still thought it was theoretically possible, but I knew not to talk about it. Girls only talked about removing body hair.

I like my body hair. I like the hair on my legs, the hair under my arms, even my pubic hair. Getting body hair was the only part of puberty that I didn’t hate. It seemed more masculine than feminine. I wouldn’t have minded a little more hair. I wouldn’t have minded a little happy trail.

I never learned how to shave. I refused to shave my arms and legs. I had all sorts of excuses, but mostly I didn’t shave because American men (at the time) didn’t shave their arms and legs. It was one more thing to drive my mother crazy, but since I didn’t wear skirts, dresses, shorts, or tank tops, my unshaven body hair wasn’t visible in public.

Fortunately, body hair stops growing. I expected to end up looking like Rapunzel, but my armpit and leg hair both reached equilibrium. Excepting some random chin scruff (currently plucked) and a menopausal mustache (intact), my body hair is similar to what it was like when I was in high school. I’m not embarrassed by it. It’s natural.

I am, and want to remain, a low maintenance groomer. I shower, wash my hair, dry off, and get dressed (and put on deodorant, and brush my teeth). If I go on low-dose testosterone and grow more body hair, I doubt I will want to do anything about it. Body hair growth (within reason) is neutral to positive. I’m not crazy about getting any more facial hair, but even without T I’m considering shaving my chin and upper lip. I ruled out wax, laser, and electrolysis; I don’t like pain.

In the past I regarded all forms of hair removal, including using tweezers, as way too feminine for me. Right up there with wearing make-up and moisturizing. Then, while I wasn’t paying attention, younger men started to trim their chest hair, or go for the smooth and hairless look. Ordinary guys with ordinary bodies shaving their chests. Not a lot of hairy chests at the beach this summer.

If I was that seven-year old today, what kind of chest would I be dreaming about? Would I still want that happy trail? Or would I change that idiom to “I like coffee that will take the hair off my chest”?

Notes: Rebecca Herzig, in her book “Plucked: A History of Hair Removal”, states that as of 2005 over 60% of American men were regularly removing hair from parts of their body below their neck. This excerpt from the book, posted on Salon, is an introduction to how Americans got to where they are today. The entire book is available through the usual sources (I borrowed it from the New York Public Library), and is a good read.

10 thoughts on “Chest Hair and Happy Trails

  1. Lesboi

    I go more for a Columbian coffee but I do like it fairly strong.
    I was never hairy before T and I’m not particularly hairy now but I do enjoy the little bit of chest and belly hair I’m getting as well as my arm hair. I believe I devoted a whole post to my arm hair. I have a secret desire to have chest hair like my uncle that poked out the top of his t shirt. I don’t like the waxed Ken doll look the young guys are doing these days. Or the skinny jeans. I guess I’m old. I do like the buzz cuts and trimmed beards though. I hate a bushy beard.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I keep thinking “be careful what you wish for” – I’m not sure I want those tufts of hair sticking up out at the neck opening the way I did when I was 7.
      I don’t mind how the waxed belly looks, I just can’t imagine showing up every 4 to 6 weeks, getting waxed ripped off my chest, and paying for it. No way.

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  2. Kris

    Nature at least allowed me the happy trail. Plucking the chin hair too – too much baboonish and not manly. Dreaming of a beard still, but without T, a pipe dream. Take care, Jamie.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Glad you at least have the happy trail. The chin hair is weird – I don’t want to look like a butch witch, but I haven’t figured out a plan yet. Donna tells me to not to shave because it will come in darker and heavier – but that might be an old femme’s tale.

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  3. Emerson

    I recently realized that deep down inside I’m really jealous of my brother’s beard. And a couple of bearded male friends. It helped me cross the line from indecision to decision on the T front. I’m a little concerned about the potential for overall hairy-ness – my dad wasn’t (and isn’t) super hairy but my brother’s feet are like a hobbit’s (not at all helped by the fact that he’s a natural red head), but I feel more convinced that the trade off for a beard is ok by me.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I hope you get your beard! I want a voice drop and a nudge towards being seen more masculine. The whole body hair/facial hari/balding is a kind of dna crap shoot. So long as I don’t end up like Elmer Fudd I’ll be happy.

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  4. Liam

    I hate coffee, but if it could really put hair on my chest, I’d gladly drink it! As it is, my chest is still hairless, even though I’ve been on T for several months now. It’s still early days though, and I may still start growing chest hair somewhere in the future.

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  5. Zie the Boy

    I’m the opposite – I HATED my own body hair til I realized I was trans, largely because I over-performed femininity for a very long time to avoid admitting my transness. I’ve naturally got a line of hair from my belly button down, I’ve shaved it, Nair-hair-cared it, etc in the past, but I’m proud to say I haven’t touched it in over a year & am looking forward to chest hair on testosterone.

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