To Shave Or Not to Shave

To Shave Or Not to Shave

So, OK, I was a walking contradiction, a feminist fatale, with my hairy legs and my fixed-up nose and an occasional, ironic swipe of fuchsia lipstick. And that’s how it went, for years. Until last Saturday. There was a family wedding, a fancy affair at an Atlantic City casino hotel. I planned to wear a strapless dress — tight velvet bodice, a rustling taffeta skirt ­— and I planned to dance.

Here were my options: Wear a different dress. Wear the velvet-and-taffeta number, leave the armpits alone and risk mortifying two generations (parents and teenaged daughter) in one hairy swoop. Or shave.

It required a very long shower, two razors and half a bar of soap. “I need a lawnmower in here,” I yelled to my partner after the first five minutes. “No, forget that; I need an herbicide. We’re talking major defoliation!” When I was halfway done, I eased the shower door open and looked in the mirror over the sink. My right pit: naked as a babe’s. In my left, it looked as though a small Syrian hamster had curled up for a nap.

With every stroke, I remembered why — aside from feminist critique — I’d quit shaving. Armpits curve. Razors don’t. Also, the skin is sensitive, not keen on being scraped repeatedly with beveled metal. After 25 excruciating minutes, my underarms were indeed hair-free … and stinging red.

At the wedding, I cried, ate sushi and danced with my partner to Katy Perry’s “Roar,” hands thrust overhead, swaying to the beat. My underarms felt itchy and cold, a little bereft without their usual cushion of hair. My mother smiled approval: “You have nice armpits. I never get to see them.”

If I’ve learned anything in middle age, it’s this: I care so much less what people think of me, but I care a lot more about how my actions make them feel. My cousin Jonathan was marrying his beloved Rebecca. I didn’t want my armpits to steal the show. There’s a time (nearly all the time) to challenge stupid, sexist codes of beauty. There’s a time to pick up the disposable razor and get to work.

But, Mom? If you were thinking this shaving thing might just be a phase, you’re right. The hair — I learned this a long time ago — always grows back.

Originally published on Purple Clover

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