Four weeks ago, I took on a weird little personal challenge. I found myself wondering if having silky smooth, hairless armpits was something I actually chose for my life… or if I was basically screaming “I’ll do anything that western beauty standards tell me to do!” every time I bought a new pack of disposable razors.
In an effort to figure stuff out, I promised to go fourteen days without touching the peach fuzz under my arms, and when a few commenters pointed out that I was taking things too easy, I decided to push it all the way to a month. To get the big questions out of the way, no, having hairy pits didn’t have that big of a negative impact on my life, but yes, I did relish shaving them this morning.
Surprisingly, I found that walking around with a dark brown haze under my arms didn’t actually catch that much attention from strangers. I’ve had a lot of unfortunate run-ins with gross dudes in my city, and I can hardly walk to the grocery store in my area without getting some kind of feedback on my physical appearance from total strangers, but what goes on between my arms and my chest can apparently slide under the radar.
The only comment I received for the whole experiment came from my dad, who joked on the phone that he wasn’t a fan of my original post. (He’s a feminist, for one thing, and he can hush up and deal with it, for another.)
Even more surprisingly, this experiment taught me that I do, in fact, shave my armpits for myself. That fact that I’ve done it every day of my life since fourth grade is obviously a product of the culture I live in, and if magazines and TV and advertisements hadn’t told my mom and my grandma and her mom and her grandma that women are supposed to be hairless, I never would have gotten the idea to plow my pits.
That’s all true. But just like I genuinely enjoy wearing makeup despite the fact that I’m “supposed” to feel rebellious against it, I found that I also like being smoother than nature built me to be. Having body hair didn’t really bother me for the month that I tried it out, but shaving it away at the end felt really, really good.
Before I embarked on this awkward little journey, I thought that shaving my armpits was one of my least favorite parts of my beauty routine, but I guess you just don’t know what you have until it’s gone. (Or until it’s overgrown, I guess.)
Most importantly, though, is that this experiment taught me to always be skeptical and to take the time to challenge the “gender rules” that I follow in my daily life.
I happened to find out that I prefer the feeling of bare underarms to the feeling of prickly hair, but I didn’t know that until I really gave the hair a fighting chance. And let me tell you– taking a shave when you know it’s something you’re choosing for yourself feels a hell of a lot better than dragging a razor across your skin because you feel like it’s a requirement.
I’d be interested to hear if any of you guys have tried a similar experiment (and especially if you came to a different conclusion in the end), or if you’ve ever challenged your relationship with another part of your beauty routine! In the meantime, though, I’ll just be sitting here… touching my pits… and hoping no one notices.