Body Hair, Hirsute Women, and my Mother — by Elaine Miller
I shave my legs. I trim my bikini line when I feel like it. And my armpit hair grows in a luxuriant way, unfettered and unclipped.
I’ve had it for 12 years, that armpit hair. I’ve enjoyed it every step of the way. Sometimes I dye it different colours. It’s soft and fluffy, wavy and friendly. It makes me look balanced when I gaze in the mirror, naked. My lover likes it too.
But I didn’t always have it blowing in the breeze that way. It first sprouted when I was 12 or 13, and I hailed it as a sign of oncoming womanhood, and shaved it off. That’s what women do, They shave it off. And keep shaving. And keep shaving.
A few years later, as an innocent 18 year old, and all around me were straight vanilla folk, I had the following thought process:
“Gee, the stubble in my armpits sure looks stupid. Why do I shave my armpits? And these little red bumps that never have a chance to go away… Why do I shave my armpits? And it hurts, kinda, when I am doing a lot of moving with my arms if I’m sweaty. Why do I shave my armpits? And I can never get a real close shave, I always have stupid-looking black-stubbled, red-spotted armpits. Why do I shave my armpits? Why do I shave my armpits? Why do I… wait! Why *do* I shave my armpits? Why?”
The insight was so simple and delicious that I stopped shaving right then and there. At that point in my life, I was the only woman I had ever seen or known with armpit hair. I got unbelievable amounts of flack for this, from strangers on the street, people on buses, some of my friends and lovers… But the funniest was my mom.
“You should shave that hair under your arms, dear.”
“You just should. You need to shave them!”
“But really, Mom. Why should I shave my armpits?”
“Um… well… um… Well, because it’s not *natural*.”
She said that.
“Not natural”, she said.
I’m still giggling.