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ode to the return of armpit hair
(and other signs of resurrection)
What if your armpit hair is a love letter? No, seriously. What if your armpit hair is a love letter to resurrection?
You were at church on Easter when the Reverend said, “Resurrection is natural.” It’s not all miracles and tombs and bodies back from the dead. It’s also bulbs pushing through and carpenter bees burrowing into holes and the dark prick of your underarms that persists no matter how you slice it, smooth it, snub it. The Reverend did not say all this. But you do not think she’d object. You prefer thinking of resurrection this way—feral and ordinary.
You were eleven or twelve when you first started shaving. Your older brother was playing basketball in the driveway with his two best friends and they needed a fourth so you agreed—okay, begged—to guard the short one. The short one was also, not coincidentally, the cute one who would grow up to compete on American Ninja Warrior and appear on an episode of Queer Eye that you’d pause and rewind excessively. Hi, Andy.
So there you were, waving yours arms in Andy’s almost famous face, when Charlie called foul: “Yo, sis…” This is how you imagine you talked to one another in the mid-90’s. “Why does only one of your armpits have hair?” It might have been a honest question had he not said it with that bro-y smirk you took to mean you’re only of us until I say so. Red-faced, you promptly ran into the house and picked up your first razor.
This went on for the next twenty-five years. It was not all bad. You liked the ritual of patting foam over your prickly slopes. Shaving your armpits was a breeze compared to other body parts, minimal effort and instant payoff. Even when you tried waxing, you left the armpits untouched, the daily ritual yours alone. “Don’t get me wrong, I think hair is beautiful,” the esthetician said, “but skin is beautiful, too.” You agreed.
And then you forgot your razor on the trip you took with your kids last week. And then you watched a movie where Kiersey Clemons leans back and reveals a luscious patch. And then you turned thirty-nine and woke up a little bit tired but no less feral and decided to keep growing and see what happened. Your mom said she misses her body hair. You do not want to miss your hair, your life, however it pushes through.
There’s another reason you refuse to shave at this very moment. You didn’t know it until a reader asked, “I’m in the thick of parenting and have no option but to see it through but how exactly when you’re in the weeds?” You put your hand to your heart and say, “Me, too.” You say other things, nobler things.
But then you hear yourself say this: “And if you can’t find brief moments of beauty amidst the banality, then find brief moments of eff-you’s.” Find the things you do have agency over and revel in your tiny, sexy rebellions. Against the patriarchy. Against all you are supposed to be. Be lopsided. Be prickly. Grow your armpit hair.
You are overwhelmed. You are under water. But you are not under ground.
Look, even now, your last breath is becoming your first.
This is resurrection, too.
P.S. Someone Other Than a Mother is almost a year old! For those who love not parenting and those who aren’t in-love with parenting (and plenty of folks in between), may I suggest it makes a good gift. (And a good alt-Mother’s Day gift.) Order yours directly from me at a discount.
P.P.S. One year later, what are we learning about the nature of our childfree and childfull lives (and friendship)? Join me and my longtime conversation partner, Rev. Lisa Yebuah, for a Zoom event on Thursday, May 4th at 7pm ET with the Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South. Registration is free but required.
P.P.P.S. Truly, I am overwhelmed and under water right now and maybe you are, too. If so, a road map from my therapist: (1) Stay in your body. (2) Text someone you’re swimming. (3) Follow signs of life, especially the grimy back-from-the-dead kind. We will not abandon you here.
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