Pit Hair, Don’t Care
I press my arms stiffly against my chest for fear a hair may slip out between the crevice where arm meets shoulder. Sporting a spaghetti strap tank top–so little coverage–I fear the worst: that someone will notice I forgot to shave my armpits. As a middle schooler, there is nothing worse than showcasing your pubescence among your peers.
At school, I get through most of the day before my friends catch on. My awkward movements—the tense-upper-body-backpack-grab, the permanent arm-criss-cross, the inability to raise my hand above my head to answer a question—offer a conclusive "hint."
When my girlfriends see my stubble the teasing ensues. The gentle pokes and prods from my closest friends spreads like a virus to the boys sitting beside us in class. Boys I have crushes on. Boys who cough out “gross” and “ugly” when they notice the hairs sprouting from my underarms.
My embarrassment of exposed hair followed me through adolescence. I was self conscious about my prickly legs when I wore shorts, flustered when a boyfriend told me I needed to shave my armpits, embarrassed when a friend pointed out how the dark skin of my armpits looked like I had not shaved in weeks, even if I had razored off my hair that morning. I felt as though I could not win. Underarm hair—paired with everything else young women are often self conscious of—only added to my frustration of my appearance.
Though my shaving regimen is a mix between shaving/not shaving/buzzing, I have nothing against women who do or do not shave areas of their body. And I realize that some women feel compelled to shave–even if they'd rather not–due to a variety of circumstances. Often times shaving does save you the awkward stares, uncomfortable moments, evil energy, and more.
But damn, wouldn't it be nice to live in a world where women can shave/not shave if they wanted to? Without being shamed (aka wishful thinking)?
What about you? Do you shave/not shave? Why? Have any embarrassing hair stories? Let me know in the comments below.
P.S. For further reading, Bustle has this pretty great article on shaving ads throughout the last 100 years. Worth a gander.
It was not until college that I started to accept my natural hair. And, if I'm being honest, the reason why is because my hygiene absolutely-positively flew out the window.
While in school I would hop in to the shower forgetting where everything was. It dawned on me it had been days since I had last bathed and now my bathroom was a foreign land. This happened more often than I would like to admit.
Remembering to scrub myself down in between 18 credit semesters, part-time work, and hours of nightly homework was difficult enough—let alone remembering to shave my unsightly body hair.
I forgot to maintain my hair for so long I gradually got used to the idea of being prickly, if only for a bit. I was less embarrassed to go out in public with stubbled legs, I met women in school who did not shave at all, and learned about feminism and gender norms and Western beauty standards. At the time I did not realize exposure to such positive influences was quietly building up my confidence.
This year I decided to stop shaving my armpits—and this time it was not because I forget to shower. It was because my armpit hair made me feel confident and sexy.
I am not kidding—when I look in the mirror and see the plains of prickles nestled in my underarms I do not think of stiff-armed, middle school Grace. I think of all of the confident women out there—the ones I met in school, the ones I read about in history class—who decided what is beauty was for themselves rather than for others. When I see my nest of prickles I am reminded that this attribute I admire has rubbed off on me. I love that.
I grow out my armpit hair and buzz it down a bit when I like. I let my mini-mustache--mostly blonde with a few dark hairs--flourish and glisten in the light. I pluck nipple hair only when I feel it's too long. I shave my legs occasionally when I want to feel silky smooth. I clean up my bikini line when things are obnoxiously unruly down there. I do all of these things because I love the way it looks and feels. I can truly say it is not for others, it is for me. I no longer feel embarrassed to rock the hairs that commercials and Western society deem to be “unladylike” or “ dudely"–but it took me a long time to get there.
Society and modern media have taught us that women's hair, though natural, is unsightly. From Veet ads deeming women's hair as "dudely," to Shick campaigns claiming leg hair prevents women from "dancing" or "getting numbers," to articles as stupid as this, let alone the stares and rude comments from everyday people, it's no wonder many feel pressure to shave. I sure did.