My body is a temple

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Each week I adhere to a strict maintenance regime so thorough, it would probably leave Nigella feeling inadequate. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice to say the staff at Priceline, Aēsop and Lush all know my name.

Sitting on my bathroom shelves – amongst the lotions and potions, creams and cleansers, masks and moisturisers – is my electric razor. That Phillips razor has trimmed hair from my cheeks to my toes, and in a lot of other places that few have dared to venture. But nowadays, apart from before the casual drag performance, my razor just collects dust.

There are huge societal pressures, norms, and expectations on men to groom themselves… so why do I no longer participate in the “manscaping movement”? Like any good story, mine begins in O-Week.

I was a free spirit in a new city, living up the single life. Of course, O-Week was the catalyst for an assortment of fleeting hook-ups, one-night stands, and various other decisions, which I later came to regret.

My sexual liberation and self-discovery had begun. I started to shave my body and pubic hair, I shopped online for sex toys and underwear, and I had more frequent sexual health check-ups.

In a seemingly natural progression, I soon jumped into the murky waters of semi-anonymous hook-up platforms, like Grindr. But as debauched as my lifestyle may have been, I came to realise just how toxic Grindr was – the ignorance, casual racism and body shaming were pervasive and insidious.

By and large, there was an expectation for you to look like a porn star, and anything less than a hairless body and flat stomach could result in an outright rejection. It took me a long time to realise that Grindr seriously eroded my self-esteem.

When I started to date someone shortly after deleting Grindr, my thoughts were plagued with self-doubt. Paired with a major lack of confidence, and no real sense of self-worth, the relationship floundered.

So how did I turn this around?

First, I learnt to love my body and love my hair. It was hard, and it took a while, but eventually I stopped shaving myself for other people. Gradually, I rebuilt my temple and started to look after myself again.

Then, some months later – having reclaimed a healthy mental state – I found a partner, and after a discussion we both decided that there was no need to regularly mow the lawns.

We were tired of the shaming we had both experienced when single, so we agreed that everything was a-ok, as long as we weren’t missing our trees for the forest.

At the beginning of this new relationship I thought about a lot of things. A regular reflection was how relieving it was to escape the pervasive body hate, and harmful expectations that exist on apps like Grindr.

I’ve been told that my morning routine is excessive, but at least I am doing it for me and for my own pleasure. My body is a temple, my body is my own, and my body is beautiful as it is.

Changing how you look, or altering your mentality for other people, in any way, is an unsustainable and unhealthy rationale. After all, if you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love somebody else?