Happy Friday, Folks! Get ready for an odd yet beautiful adventure of learning to be comfortable with one’s body. 😀
A dear friend of mine (check out her aMazing shop!, by the way) shared with me a few years ago a unique article she had found about female empowerment. It was on coloring underarm hair, and argued that coloring one’s underarm hair was something every woman must do at least once in her life, and the author included her own adventure of growing out and dyeing her underarm hair. I was a bit iffy on it, but I listened to my friend and eventually read the article myself.
The idea seemed funny, and ever so slightly scary to me at first. I knew that society and culture would not approve of such behavior, and, therefore, by participating in such behavior, I might risk my experience of belonging to and being accepted by and being loved by many of those around me in life. Certain people would be no big deal – like my mom and my best friend – but I know a lot of people would struggle with wanting to be around me, if I were to pursue such a thing. Even my mom would accept me, I knew, but I also knew that she would dislike it and likely would complain to me about my hair on a regular bases. People just don’t approve of women having underarm hair, so having it would be taboo. Leg hair has been on the rise for women – think hipster generation – but the underarm hair situation is still too closely associated with dirtiness, uncleanliness.
Now, upon reading the article, these were the automatic thoughts I had, right?
Well, I had these thoughts, plus one other: I critiqued the way the author took on the task. Somehow, I can’t seem to view almost anything in life without automatically looking for a way of improving upon it, whatever it is. It is not that I disapprove of the person sharing or of the task or anything – I just have this inner aim always to do things in the best way possible… don’t do anything half-a****, you know?
So, anyway, my biggest qualm was that the author only suggested to grow out the underarm hair for a couple or few weeks, which isn’t very long for an area with such little hair. And so, her hot-pink-dyed underarm hair, rather than looking crazy and cool, ended up looking just kind of patchy and not-so-vibrant – more like a child had drawn on her underarms spottily with a washable pink marker, than that she had hot pink hair under there.
If you’re going to do it, at least do it right, I thought.
Do it for real.
Now, I believe that I had read this article before I moved to Japan. Fast-forward to my time in Japan. While I was living in Japan, for various reasons, my already loose desire to bother with shaving decreased to a point of being almost non-existent. It had all started in early, early Fall, after I’d had an accident at the beach, and gotten my legs all scratched up. I had scabs on my shins, and so couldn’t really shave them anyway. By the time I could shave them again, it was already winter weather out, and I wasn’t even seeing my legs very often (because it was so darn cold all the time), so I wasn’t exactly going to put forth the effort to shave, when I couldn’t even see the results more than in the shower… After that, after winter, I was just so accustomed to not shaving that it was the new norm for me. What’s more, my leg hair was light enough in the first place that most people couldn’t see it, except under certain circumstances (e.g. sitting with my leg within a foot or two of one’s face), and it was by propriety’s requirements that none of my work clothes exposed my underarms, no matter the time of year. So it was easy not to bother with shaving, especially considering my lack of interest in it in the first place. And so, in essence, I gave up shaving while living in Japan. (A good friend of mine laughed at me one day when I commented casually, “I’ve kind of given up shaving,” as though it were a bad habit I had kicked. But it was true, because I unintentionally had given up on bothering with it.)
(**Note: In high school, I asked my boyfriend if it bothered him that I didn’t shave my legs, and if he would prefer that I shave my legs – I did shave regularly my underarms back then, just fyi – and he told me that it didn’t bother him. I think I gave him an appraising look at the time, but I let it go. Eventually, of course, I uncovered this untruth when he said near summertime that he would shave his legs – something he had done usually for swim team every summer with his buddies, anyway – if I shaved mine… Not a good feeling. And not the only time he wasn’t open about seemingly small things that actually really bothered me… hmm… Anyway, that isn’t the point here. The point is that I would be fine shaving my legs if someone important to me wanted me to shave, but I haven’t cared to do it for myself for years now…. and almost ever, actually, since that first time or two of doing it, once at around age 12, just out of interest, and then again for a second first time near the end of high school… Anyway, moving onward…)
Before going to Japan, I had challenged my own fear of having underarm hair – I had wanted to be comfortable with my own body, and I knew that underarm hair was a point of extreme discomfort for me. My best friend shared with me how she would be present with her own body every morning in the mirror, just experiencing and accepting what her raw, unclothed self was. The idea stressed me, to say the least – I could barely consider how it might be to be so vulnerable, even to my own eyes. And so, I knew I needed to do some work on my level of comfort with my own body, with my own nudity.
Slowly, but surely, I did this work… I learned to accept and to see my body, undressed, and even to embrace what my physical composition and presence were in this world. And, one aspect of this work was allowing my underarm hair to grow – I absolutely did not want to have long underarm hair. But it was almost from fear that I avoided having the hair, and so I knew it wasn’t a positive situation as it stood, and it needed to change, to transform.
At first, I did a few weeks at a time, and then shaved everything off, typically to wear some outfit with short or no sleeves, and to revel in my finally-smooth-again skin. I always felt relieved when I had shaved my underarms, but it was less and less stressful every time the hair grew out again. I wasn’t showing the hair off in any way, but I had to be with the hair. I had to feel the hair and to see it and to know that it was there… all the time. And that stressed me out less and less every week that passed.
Eventually, after several months of no shaving, I shared my project with a few friends. After warnings that they might not be able to see me the same way, I showed them my underarm hair – a seemingly silly situation, but they genuinely cared about the mental, emotional, and psychological project I was doing for myself, and so I was comfortable being open with them about it, despite my still not particularly enjoying having all the hair. They received it easily and well, and even found the humorous side of it all with me. 😛 They were enthralled at my project and empowered by my drive to pursue such an uncomfortable situation for myself.
After that, it was even easier for me.
By the time I moved to Japan, I already was past the project of testing, and instead just went through phases of shaving versus not, simply out of laziness. I was comfortable going most places in a tank top, even when I had some hair that would be visible if I raised my arms. I mostly didn’t wear tank tops, though – men could wear them and show their underarm hair, and so I felt it could be the same for me, but I also didn’t want to be dancing with a guy in a tank top who keeps lifting his arms in my face…, so I didn’t do that either, when circumstances would involve lots of arms being raised. Basically, if I knew my arms would be in the air a lot, I didn’t go the tank top route. Otherwise, on an average day, I was mostly okay with the tank top. Plus, in Japan, anyway, I knew I wasn’t fitting in in the first place, and I likely wasn’t going to cross most any of these people again, so it was extra no big deal. All-in-all it was an easy happening in Japan for me to give up shaving, without even thinking much about it.
(My mother hated it, of course, and never stopped complaining about it, but she clearly still loved me, so I was okay with it. She even teased me about it and made very funny jokes from time to time.)
Thus, months later, back in the US, these casual shots of me embracing my body and its natural occurrences (read hair):
**Note the lack of brassiere here. It was also a huge part of my learning to embrace my body and to be comfortable with it as it is naturally.
And so, thinking about this article from my friend post-Japan, and how the author just hadn’t done it right, I considered how I might go about doing it, if I were to do it.
Several months later, when my hair had definitely hit its longest point and had, for the most part, plateaued, I pulled out my long-since selected color, and got to work.
The color I had selected was going to be bland on its own, I expected, because my underarm hair isn’t quite as light as my head hair, and so ends up looking more brown-ish than blonde, when it is so compacted together. Seeing as how I was going for brightness by adding the color in the first place, I lightened the hair first, and then added the color, thereby allowing for a much brighter color than otherwise would have happened. I wanted a bit of pop, not a bit of washable marker.
And so, we have the results of a three-ish-year self-project gone silly:
And that was already almost a year ago, now. I did not stop working on myself and my body, and so have reached an even more beautiful point with things than I ever had imagined to be possible back then.
Where do things stand for me now?
I strongly encourage everyone to give it a go, men and women and + alike, both growing out the underarm hair past the point of comfort and then also coloring it.
I shave my underarms semi-regularly, because I end up going shirtless at the gym a lot, and, though I had toyed with the idea of laser hair removal for them for quite a while and didn’t actually expect ever to do it, when a super sale popped up a couple months ago at the laser hair removal place (bikini line and lower legs, you see), I accepted. I don’t shave my legs, except for the night before my laser hair removal appointment every so many weeks. It was the same with bikini line, but I’ve finished the treatments there, so I don’t even have that shaving to do anymore.
I am not afraid of my hair. I have found, however, that I genuinely prefer the skin being smooth and soft, and wiry-hair-free… and I hold the same feeling for men. I love admiring a man’s muscled yet shaved legs. Same with his underarms – the underarm hair is a distraction, not a benefit.
I do not require shaving, and I am not afraid of the hair – I just prefer life without the hair. Even on my own legs, I love running my hands on them when they are hair-free, be it for rubbing in lotion, rubbing sore muscles, or just for fun, and I love seeing the color of my skin clearly. When I began the laser hair removal, I verified that only the darker, thicker hairs would go away – I was informed that the baby blonde hairs would stay always and forever, and that was the point that sold me on the treatments.
And so, here I stand today, covered in invisible hairs, and unafraid of the darker underarm hair that I grow out entirely out of laziness. I am glad I won’t even have to consider it anymore, after the next year-ish, and I do not mind letting it go, now that it isn’t out of avoidance or fear, but out of preference.
I am comfortable in my body’s natural state, hair and fat and all. Though I have preferences of how I want my body to be, I am at ease with what happens naturally in my body. This does not mean that I don’t care for my body, because I very much do care for it and take care of it with exercise and wonderful eating. I finally am starting to treat my body like the goddess and temple that it is.
And I am so grateful for the experiences that have led me to this point, and that remind me that I am perfect as I am, hair and all.
So, thanks for the hair, God, and thank you for the growth* that came with it directly, as well as the transformation that has sprouted out of my desire to pursue that specific area of discomfort.
Yippee! And Happy Growing! ;D
*(pun and all) 😉
P.S. Special thanks to my lovely cousins A—- and J—- for helping me with the photos, as well as my wonderful friend N—-! Love you ladies!