It’s November, and besides burning effigies of anarchic Catholics on a bonfire, this means one thing to me as a twentysomething woman in the UK. Apart from the occasional trip to a swimming pool (made even more infrequent after a blonde-hair-turned-green incident two years ago), sex with someone new and/or especially judgmental, or some sort of British impossibility like an incongruously warm winter’s day, ‘shaving my legs’ as an activity can go fuck itself. I might still tolerate a bit of razor burn under my arms for the sake of social acceptance on the tube, but stubble on my legs is so out this A/W 2012. I’ll be rocking all my summer skirts in black tights and loving it. And you know what? The company who makes my razors just found out.
Yep, I reckon I’m not the only girl who throws caution to the wind, leg-wise, during the colder months. And as my leg hair roasts by an open fire throughout December, the hand-wringing meanies in Gillette Towers are getting angrier and angrier. They’d just socialised me into being so ashamed of my own body hair that I’d rather pretend I was taking a huge pre-sex dump than admit to the one-night-stander in my bedroom that I’d gone to shave my legs, and now I’m all let’s take a break until June. I wouldn’t claim to be so incredibly hairy and/or important that that would make a direct impact on the Gillette sales, but as I said, I’m not alone. I know a lot of other women who hang up their hirsute swords in November. How the hell can Gillette compete with the idea that once our woolly hosiery comes out the ‘jumper drawer’, we just couldn’t really give a shit?
So, this brings us to the new Gillette campaign: a reminder that if you don’t shave you might not be able to ‘get close to your man.’ This doesn’t mean close in terms of mere proximity, as one confused tweeter asked - because if your body hair is growing at such rates as to provide a palpable barrier between you and other human beings, I think we could all forgive you a winter shave or two. Presumably, it means a certain kind of physically close (sexually, in case you weren’t catching on), but it also carries heavy implications that it means mentally closer. On the website, you take a quiz about how to ‘use your personality’ to get close to your one and only. You choose ‘zen’, ‘sensual’, ‘adventurous’, ‘romantic’ or ‘natural’, and then get told that there’s nothing more *insert personality type here* than ‘touchably smooth legs.’ Besides the fact that I’m pretty sure ‘touchably’ isn’t a word, what happens if you’re so adventurous that you’ve been sleeping in a hammock in the Amazonian rainforest for the past six months? What if you’re so zen that you and your boyfriend have joined a naturist reserve where everyone celebrates their own natural states, literally warts and all? What if you’re so romantic with each other that he actually doesn’t care that much about whether you have hairy ankles under the 20-tog duvet or not?
Following on from the ‘personality test’, you can check ‘how close am I to my man?’ with a few relationship-based questions on the website. The idea is that you answer a prefix (‘sensuality to me means...’) with a picture of different activities or states of mind. Surprise, surprise, question number three is ‘My smooth legs make me feel...’ and none of them are bored people with massive tubs of counteracting moisturiser placed beside their bumpy legs as it snows outside the bathroom window. Of course, each sexy gal is in some gloriously happy state of mind (one is at a boxercise class, demonstrating that her liberation from ladyfur has made her totes fierce) and one is literally jumping in the air with the joy of a close shave. Entertainingly, the final question takes into account that some people just might not have used their Venus Embrace properly, as its ‘When he caresses my legs...’ offers flowers, satin, silk, etc, and, as an afterthought, a big scary cactus. Worryingly, question four seems to feature a couple’s tiff where the woman is holding back a man’s clenched fist and yelling at him. Seems a bit, er, horrendously dark for a razor ad.
Obviously, I took the test. My absolutely verbatim relationship advice was: ‘You are already close with your man. Make sure he can’t resist by making sure you have silky smooth legs.’ And of course, I’d be interested and astounded to find that anyone else taking the test got a different answer.
So, that’s it for me and the new Gillette Venus Embrace, then. Guess it’s back to keeping my yeti hairs under control with a kitchen knife (I’m ‘adventurous’ like that.) And incidentally, the original Venus, pre-Gillette, which you may or may not know as the Roman goddess of love, was one sassy sea-dwelling lady who knew her own mind. Would she be telling you to get closer to your man through the power of shaving in November? Would she heck. She’d be like, float off on your own clam shell of empowerment, girl, and if a Gillette salesperson comes past aboard a cruise ship of oppression, just cover up your hairy pins with your long red hair. She wouldn’t stand for this shit. And neither should you.