We don’t ever get to see armpit hair peeking over wedding gowns. It’s been banned from polite society for being unsightly, despite being exactly as natural and normal as facial hair.
I contemplated this while preparing for my wedding dress shopping appointment. I was genuinely thrilled about the process, and I read everything I could about it. Bridal shop employees have published guide after guide of how a customer should conduct themselves during an appointment. Be courteous to the staff, keep an open mind, shop early: these all made perfect sense to me. I’ve worked retail for years, and especially now that I’m out of the industry, I strive to be model customer.
But often, these guides also begged me not to subject my poor bridal consultant to my natural body. The writers would state how disgusted they were by customer’s visible pubic and leg hair.
I had the choice: Do I shave the hair that I have been letting grow naturally for years now, or risk horrifying the shop staff?
Hair is Hair (Right?)
Would it be rude to let the clean, sweat-free hair make contact with the sample gowns? If it is rude, is it rude for a practical reason, or is it rude in the same way that some people think breastfeeding in public is rude, i.e., because it makes them uncomfortable and our society prioritizes the public’s comfort over the comfort of a woman?
A woman’s armpit hair is absolutely no different from a man’s armpit hair, yet men don’t give a second thought to suit shopping without shaving. Suits are heavy garments with multiple layers. It’s the perfect recipe for sweat: heat, tight-fitting fabric, and the accompanying nervousness of purchasing an expensive, custom outfit.
Yet men are not scolded for daring to show up to haberdasheries in their all of their natural, hairy, musky glory. It is routine. It is expected. It is not worth a second thought.
Meanwhile, as the days ticked by and my appointment grew closer, it was constantly in the back of my mind. I bought a razor for the first time in three years.
It wasn’t just the reactions of the employees that worried me; it was my family. My appointment was an opportunity to include the women I love in a major milestone of my life. My relatives’ potential reactions didn’t give me anxiety, but I had also invited my fiancée’s mom, who had no idea that I kept au natural. Was this the time for her to find out?
To shave or not to shave
The night before the appointment, I lathered up and held the razor in my hand. No matter how ridiculous I thought the issue was, it didn’t feel like a battle worth fighting. I could reveal myself as the hairy, angry feminist that I am some other time. Some time that wasn’t the frilly, giddy, girly dress shopping experience that we were all so greatly looking forward to. The next day would be untainted by my disbelief that something so inconsequential was up for public debate. I would edit myself and my views and make everyone else comfortable, just for one afternoon…
“Bullshit,” I said to myself, staring horrified at the blade I had nearly brought to my sensitive skin. “Bullshit,” I told my cat, who has an inexplicable draw to the shower and always waits for me on the other side of the curtain. “What fucking bullshit,” I said as I scrubbed my still-hairy pits with soap.
It’s just hair. It’s just hair! The overwhelming majority of adults grow hair on their armpits. Some choose to remove it, and that’s dandy. I remember what it felt like to have silky smooth pits. It rocked. But you know what didn’t rock? Spending extra time every day maintaining that hairlessness. Nicking myself with the razor. Worrying about whether I could wear a certain blouse because, oh man, I didn’t get a chance to shave last night—what if people see the stubble?
I don’t edit myself when legislators want to take away my right to make choices about my body. I protest and make calls and write letters and show up at the polls to vote those assholes out of office. Why in the world would I edit myself for the comfort of a stranger and the people who love me unconditionally?
Flow it, Show it
Do you want to guess how my appointment went? It was great. It was awesome! If anyone cared about what my pits looked like, they never said a word. Because let’s be real, what rational person would do that? How unkind would you need to be to make a comment like that?
My mother-in-law-to-be is as kind and wonderful as she ever was. She reached out to me later that day to let me know how much it had meant to her to be included, and how excited she was to see me walk down the aisle. My hair didn’t scare her off.
And if it ever does scare someone off? Then good riddance.