A while ago I was accused of being a feminist. At the time I thought it sounded like an insult, but now I quite enjoy telling people about this episode of formulaic labelling and, on occasion I engage in a little feminist behaviour; just because I can. It got me thinking about physical manifestations of feminism and I thought, what better way to exert my newly adopted position than by living the cliché. I decided to grow the hair in my underarm region.
At the time it was an ironical little experiment of the wink, wink type. I was going to allow my armpits to become grossly unattractive, I was going to become grossly cynical of social norms, and I was going to give them a big, fat middle finger. I was going to gather the believers together and find support in my fellow liberated and free-thinking maidens.
Alas, it was the men who murmured vague utterances of respect and the women who wrinkled their pretty little noses in disgust. Only old women and the French do not shave their armpits. But the real issue that alighted was that there was no real reason why we should be disgusted by the totally natural hair that grows in our armpit region. In fact, the more I pondered my newfound freedom, the more I realised that there are many benefits to those puffs of curls slowly lengthening under my pits.
I sweated less, for one. I didn’t have to engage in superhuman feats of lathering deodorant on newly shaved sensitive places without flapping around the room in agony. No more blocked pores, ingrown hairs and swollen sweat glands (the latter having happened to me before). And I am sure that some study will prove that I will have healthier, cancer-free and totally normal armpits in no time. But there was one problem, it felt grossly awkward.
I was constantly and irritatingly aware of the curly bits rearing their black little heads every time I vaguely lifted my arm in a general northerly direction. I found myself explaining this abomination to every women I met who may or may not have noticed the darkened pit as I lifted my arm a few centimetres from my side. All I received in return was a look of open-mouthed wonder at my audacity and not much support at all.
I lasted all of three weeks and my little wink, wink experiment turned into a despondent feeling of betrayal. I felt betrayed by society because, at some time while I was on my long, dark road to puberty, I was told that women should shave their armpits. In the bid for normality, and possibly beauty, I set about shaving and, over the next decade, the hairs set about hardening. I soon realised that these little fluffs of wonder are not as soft or wonderful as their masculine counterparts. My armpits had become safehavens for a hard, black and very obvious alien species. I could no longer stretch my long, beautiful and sweet-smelling armpits in any direction, especially while lying in bed with my lover.
I feel condemned to a lifetime of Gillette razors and armpit flapping. Although, with winter in a rainy city just around the corner, I think I may just attempt my social experiment one more time. The only person who has to live with my grotesque and hairy pits is any potential lover, who will be booted out of the door if he does not accept my feminist wiles, and myself. I will just have to get over any notions of conformity and possibly find beauty where there may not be any. In fact, I think I will be flashing more than just a big, fat middle finger; a big, fat hairy pit, for instance.