This blog may contain TOO MUCH INFORMATION for some of you. If you don't want to read about shaving habits and armpits, just move on.
I mean it.
OK. Don't say I didn't warn you!
I shaved my armpits yesterday for the first time since December. Yes. That December. Yes. Three months ago. I thought I'd feel sleeker, cleaner, better. When I look in the mirror, I certainly feel more attractive. But I don't feel cleaner; I feel sticky, poky, uncomfortable.
I don't really know what spurred me into growing hamsters in my armpits. I think it had a lot to do with raising girls and my tendency to question why we do the things we do. Why should I teach them to shave their 'pits when the time comes? WHY do American women DO this? Is this the best thing for our health? If not, shouldn't we educate our girls about the importance of maintaining 'pit health in the interest of their overall well-being? Is popular culture more important than personal health?
OK, so I get the whole cleanliness argument. It SEEMS logical that if you shave, there will be less hair to trap bacteria and the stink that arises from them. But that only seems logical because it's the way I've been taught, what my forebears believed. Others claim the 'pit hair draws moisture away from the skin, thereby reducing the moisture in which bacteria can grow. The hair also relates to pheromones, the chemicals we associate with scent but which are also related to sexual attraction, among other chemical signals. (Even the scents have been studied.)
So: hair = cleaner skin = cleaner pit, right?
Not so fast.
There has also been quite a bit of talk in recent years about the the relationship between 'pit health and the health of the lymph nodes. One hot topic is the debate over the health implications related to using antiperspirants (which, by their nature, are intended to keep the 'pit from doing its job as nature intended) versus deodorants. It seems to me that if my body is intended to cool itself and otherwise release chemicals through the 'pits, I should let my body do its job.
But it looks terrible, you say.
I couldn't agree with you more. I was raised on Western culture, where sleek, fit, young women are the bomb and fat, hairy girls are, without question, out. Why? Because that's what marketers of whatever description decided: actors, directors, models, consumers, the whole kit 'n caboodle. When was the last time you saw a hairy model or actress portrayed as a beauty in Western media? Or even as above average?
So, between the fat and the hairy, I've certainly been living on the wrong side of the tracks in the beauty village. This winter, however, only three people saw my pits, all of them living in this house, two not yet affected too greatly by popular culture. None of them seemed to mind. None mentioned it. If we were in most other parts of the world, I would have fit right in. Hell, with this much 'pit hair, I might even have been revered! (I had no idea how hairy chick 'pits could be!)
I thought I could buck our societal norm of the shaven 'pit. I did. But only in my private little world, the winter world where long sleeves, or at least sleeves, hid my hairy little secret. Now summer's coming and while I realize that I've been avoiding the pool for lots of reasons, it wasn't just my slow swimming and poor physical condition, but ultimately the 'pit hair that kept me cloistered. WHAT would people say? Would they avoid me? Would my friends there be repulsed? (One could then ask, of course, if they're really friends if something as simple as 'pit hair could get in the way of good company.)
Today was it. I couldn't hold out any more. Maybe it had something to do with recently aired television commercials, which several friends have mentioned without knowing about my dirty little secret. Maybe it was a lifetime of cultural education. Maybe it was vanity. Certainly it had something to do with vanity. Whatever. I grabbed that razor and in second undid what took weeks to cultivate.
I fit in with my friends and neighbors. But I feel sticky and stinky and filthy even minutes after showers.
So if you must look, prepare yourselves; the hamsters are very likely to take up residence again.
Photo courtesy Alva under Creative Commons License.
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