Sunday, December 18, 2011

Unsightly

It's Catalog Season in our mailbox, and the other day we received a Hammacher Schlemmer catalog - we probably purchased a single gift from them three years ago or something and are now on their holiday list ad eternium. As is the Schlemmer way, they had a lot of cool stuff in there, but something that particularly caught my eye was a home electrolysis...thing, a little machine about the size of a lady's electric razor that did permanent hair removal after numerous repetitions of swiping the thing over your unsightly body hair.

At first glance, I thought, YES, this is like a zillion times cheaper than salon electrolysis would be, and yes I'd probably have to swipe for several months in a row, but NO MORE SHAVING MY UNDERARMS, thank God, sign me up.

Then I thought about it some more. I thought about the idea of actually having no hair under my armpits. Ever. Again. Or on the tops of my toes; the little golden hairs that have grown there since I was in middle school are deeply humiliating to me (which is why I'm telling the whole internet about them). Or...well, no, those are the only two places that have hair I'd like to be permanently rid of. I'm kind of conservative that way.

The more I thought about it, the more I was bothered by the idea of forever removing that hair. I never let my underarm hair grow out for more than a day or two, in part because I don't like to show hairy pits to my students when I'm teaching and I teach a few times a week. But the idea of it gone forever was very disconcerting.

I think it's because I've never quite reached comfort about the amount of hair removal women are societally requested/required to do, and which I go on and do in order not to be frowned upon in femininity. Every time I see a woman with publicly fuzzy pits, I give her a little mental fist-bump: way to not conform, grrl. I wish I had your fuck-'em-all attitude. But I don't. It's not a step I feel comfortable taking, and that kind of bothers me, that I'm not gutsy enough to let my armpits be what they are and to hell with anyone who'll disdain me for it.

There's always the "I want to be as awesome as Patti Smith" defense.
Which, you know, is a thing.

I can't think of any occasion in the future where I'd want my armpit hair to grow, nor can I think of any kind of life situation I am likely to experience in my remaining years on this planet where I won't regularly "need" [want? have?] to remove it. But that hair is a part of me, the real me who sweats during exertion and gets crud under her toenails and relieves herself via urination and defecation. These are human things, and the way that our society paints over them with obsessive hygiene and creams and powders and soaps and unguents of every possible configuration, consistency, and aroma, is something that I'm often grateful for (on subways, etc.) but I'm also often kind of dubious about. It smacks of a lack of acceptance of our essential humanness, and it leaves us all with a shade of illusion over the bits we most genuinely have in common, for better or worse.

So although there's a big part of me that can only think of how awesome it would be not to have to scrape my armpits raw every day or every couple of days, there's another part that's warning me no. Don't ditch that unsightly hair. Our unsightly parts are the parts that keep us grounded and whole, the parts that prove that under the most expensive perfume and the most perfectly coiffed hairdo, we are still beautiful animals with feet of clay.

Or, as the kids say, everybody poops.

4 comments:

maleesha said...

This may be my most favoritest post by you. It may be the fact I have hairy toesies as well.

Katharine Coldiron said...

Aw. Thanks.

twinkly sparkles said...

Katharine--you sound hair-curious. Go for it. Dare you to try growing out your armpit hair just once. It is you and your body and the old, the primal, sex.

Or don't, but I say let it grow, just once. Then shave and be done with it. At least you'll know you could. Find your power!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmbPLazulGc

Katharine Coldiron said...

Okay, so Patti Smith may be a good goal to shoot for, but I will never, ever be as cool as Amanda Palmer. Thank you so so much for posting that link. Thoroughly awesome.

Even when I was a student at a women's college, and there was no one around to give a damn, I still didn't feel comfortable letting my arm hair grow out very much longer than the point of stubble. Not even in the winter. Maybe when I move to California?...