How I learned to let it grow
We were very young when we first met. I was eleven, maybe twelve. It seemed they had only just entered the world. Back then, I was enamored by their delicate, sprouting innocence — almost translucent in their infancy. They made me feel that I was truly becoming a woman, an entity with broiling passions and urges I didn’t understand. I often found my fingers weaving through them during class, cheeks burning hot when the teacher looked my way and shook me out of the haze. They were a diverting fascination and a source of comfort when I needed it most.
But before we really got to know each other, there came the shame. The girls in the locker room who wore lacy thongs and underwire bras didn’t have them. Nor did my lady teacher or Jamie Lynn Spears. Nor my mother, whose intimate life I was most familiar with. Had she ever had them at all? It seemed the only women who chose to keep their company were the ones I’d seen in Woodstock footage straddling shirtless, mud-caked men’s shoulders, arms outstretched in reckless euphoria. I found their middle-parted locks and unfocused eyes unnerving.
My mind was made up: it was time to let go.
Stealing a razor from my mother’s shower, I cut loose the wispy strands with incredible ease. There was no remorse.
I know not when those few downy hairs became a cheese grater of dark stubble under my arms, but for the better part of twelve years, that scratchiness and the occasional agony of an inflamed follicle were the sole reminders that there had ever been hair there at all. Whenever I saw a girl with unshaved underarms, I was taken aback by the dark matter hidden beneath— as if it was something private and primal I wasn’t supposed to see.
Then, one day, there was a pandemic. Everything I’d ever known or taken for granted was changed in some way. There was no more driving to the office; no more running errands or going on dinner dates. As for shaving my armpits, there were no compelling reasons why I should undertake such a task, let alone change my shirt or take a shower. The only time another human being would ever see my pits is if I was carried out of my house, spread eagle, on a stretcher.
And that scenario didn’t seem too far-fetched. If I could drop dead tomorrow with the rona, why the hell should I shave?
The time had come to let it grow.
It wasn’t long at all before a lush, quarter-inch forest was budding within each deodorant-free pit. Honestly, it wasn’t what I had expected. It was better. All this time, I’d imagined it would be twisted and coarse like the hairs on, well, other parts of my body. It wasn’t that at all. Though much thicker than I remembered, the strands were still silky and straight and pleasant to the touch. I marveled at their resilience, quick and eager to spring forth, once again, after all these years.
I’d asked my boyfriend beforehand how he felt about me growing out my pits. Of course, he said he could care less what body hair I choose to keep, and even said he might prefer it. Since he was birthed by his mother in a kiddie pool and raised among river guides, I almost believed him. But he hadn’t seen them yet.
On a rare, forbidden quarantine date, I finally showed him my 548 new additions. By that time, the hair had grown at least another quarter-inch, constituting full-fledged hippie pits. I was a bit nervous during the reveal, and then annoyed when he had few remarks in response. I’m not sure what I’d been hoping for, but I was proud of my progress and had anticipated more shock and awe. It was clear that he didn’t particularly like it or was, at best, indifferent.
Lowering my arms, I resolved that I didn’t care what he thought. After all, my body hair is for my own personal enjoyment. Just as Wikipedia promised, my pits now feel better ventilated and less prone to chafing than before, when I used to drag a blunt razor, again and again, over that irritated desert of eternally weeping bumps. I feel a sense of irreverent glee whenever I lean back with my arm flung over my head, baring a furry pit in a McConaughey-esque power pose. Even now, as I type with one hand, I’m running the other over my bounteous fluff, soft and supple as a rabbit’s ear.
Now that the quarantine is ending, I fear that we may have to part again. But I will forever remember our rekindled love as one good thing that came out of this shit show.