Lockdown has changed lots of things but shaving my body hair or more accurately not shaving it, in this case my armpit hair has been an interesting exploration of how I feel about my body and what I feel comfortable with.
“I wonder how people decided that women were supposed to shave their legs and armpits”
~ Natalie Portman
Earlier this week I was sitting on the edge of my bed after my shower looking at my phone. I glanced up and caught sight of myself in the mirror. What I saw pleased me and I set about trying to capture what I saw in the mirror in my phone. I didn’t move from the position I was in but took a few shots from a couple of different angles. Flipping back through them this was the one that caught my eye. It was the one that was most like the reflection I had seen in the mirror. I really like my body in this. It is exactly how I am, the little lines, the swell of my breast, that curve of my back and hip. I was about to send it to someone and then I noticed the armpit hair and I stopped.
My initial reaction was that the armpit hair spoiled the picture. In the mirror I had not noticed it because my arm had not been raised but to get the picture that was not the case.
“Urgh, that is too much. I think I should shave” was actually what I find myself thinking.
Luckily it was post shower and so I left the picture on my phone got dressed and got on with my day. The following day when I was getting ready for my shower I was on the phone with someone and I mentioned that I was thinking it was time to shave my armpit hair. That is was maybe all getting a bit too much to which he responded
“Well don’t do it on my account. Only if YOU want to. It doesn’t bother me.”
I went on to tell him about the picture I took and my reaction to it. He asked to see it and when I sent it he made a soft little sigh noise and muttered something about beautiful and then said;
“The hair is fine but if you don’t like it then get rid of it but why don’t you like it?”
It was actually a really good question and it got me really thinking about why. Could it be that I didn’t like it because society has taught me that it is unsightly? I don’t know for sure but there are a few things that make me think that might actually be the case.
Firstly I have enjoyed not shaving my arm pits (I am still shaving my legs, just not as often as normal) Since not shaving they are rarely ever itchy. At times the skin would often be a bit dry and definitely itchy. That has completely gone away.
I like how it feels. The hair is sooooo delicate and soft. It’s not like any other hair on my body. I really like the way it feels when I touch it, both how it feels to my finger tips but also how it feels when I stroke and tug on it. It’s a really nice sensation.
But I felt shy sending that image to someone. There really was a part of me that feared it might turn him off. Not that he had ever given any indication of that. It was definitely something I was projecting onto him. I told him I was going to write this post and he said it was a good idea. I didn’t tell him that I was telling him to force myself to do it because otherwise I had a fairly strong feeling I would never share the image even though I liked so many things about it. Somewhere inside me I feel a slight fear about sharing it and maybe almost a slight twinge of shame. What fucking bullshit is that; being ashamed of my armpit hair? I am literally shaking my head at myself for that and yet it is there lingering inside me.
Societal conditioning around bodies is powerful, really very very powerful and also stealthily in it’s power. You don’t even know you are internalising all these messages for years and years until suddenly something changes and it’s creeping power is suddenly unveiled in all it’s discomforting glory.
I have already written about my pubes. Yes they are still very much in residence. I used to love being shaved but I have loved letting them grow I like the way they look. I don’t seem to have the same worry that someone will see them and think urgh that I do with my armpit hair.
For now though, the armpit hair is staying and I am going to try taking some more images and see how I feel about it. I don’t know if I will keep it or not but I want to be sure that if I shave them I am doing them for me, that it is my preference and not because society has taught me that armpit hair on women is grim.