On the priority list of pregnancy-specific physical indignities, the newly darkened coffee-colored line emerging down my stomach seemed well placed at the bottom. It wasn’t hurting me or the baby, it was perfectly normal, and it would go away after I gave birth, my friends, doctor, and the internet assured me.
The so-called linea nigra, or line caused by hyperpigmentation during pregnancy, was another indicator of the massive hormonal changes my body was undergoing to grow a baby but by far one of the more benign manifestations. How could I be vain about a little line in the face of curdling nausea, pelvic pain, constipation, and sleepless nights—not to mention a patently healthy pregnancy anyone would pray for? Well, I shall answer here.
To start, my linea nigra expertly aligned with the rectangular cluster of stomach hair I’ve been at war with since puberty. Body hair has always been a preoccupation of mine, one that I can directly trace back to an insult lobbed at me by a boy on the eighth-grade bus. He pointed out something I’d already half consciously wondered about: Am I hairy, and does this hairiness make me undesirable or objectionable in some vague middle school way? (This was during the mid-2000s, when Britney’s dolphin-smooth body was the beauty standard.)
Hairiness was a birthright of sorts: My grandfather and dad both had unibrows and veritable rugs on their chests, which unsurprisingly was not a salve at the time. The boy’s cruel barb about the black hair on my mid-pubescent arms was all the confirmatory ammo I needed, and thus began a loathing of my body hair.
Since then, I’ve shaved, plucked, waxed, lasered, threaded, and bleached. I’ve obsessed about my attractiveness, measuring it by the hair that always came back, thicker and stronger. But I grew up. Big eyebrows came back into fashion. I came to recognize that alongside robust body hair came a great head of hair. I came to believe that there was something fundamentally misogynistic about society’s insistence that a female body look like a hairless cat—and also that it was a woman’s personal choice to deal with their hair however they pleased. I learned which hair removal regimens I wanted to adhere to and which other parts of my body I’d simply leave alone.