Fun Fact: 1 in 4 women don't shave their armpits.

Pits & Hammers


In 2020, I shaved my head and stopped shaving my armpits. My head because why not. I have certain dreams of my hair, most of which will never be realized: thick, red curls? no way; long, black and wavy? uh, the silky part I got, everything else, no way. My hair is so fine and straight and thin. My hair shafts are like a polar bear’s — translucent, so that when I am in full direct sunlight, instead of reflecting white, my hair reflects invisible. 

I had no problem shaving my head, but I was surprised at my shyness. My scalp on full view. My skull is normal bony matter with small divots, little imperfections, with the exception of one section, south from the crown of my head. Here there is a deep valley, running along the sagittal suture, just north of the occipital bone. It is as if my bony tectonic plates met and, instead of growing a mountain or holding steady for a plain, chose the collapsed majesty of a vale. It’s approximately two inches wide and three long. There’s a whorl of hair contained within the depression, like a gyre, like an eddy.  

Not many people know about this indent — my family, hair stylists, lovers, acquaintances I tell around a bonfire bowing my head forward and saying, “Go ahead, touch it.” 

Fingertips asking, “Did you get dropped on your head when you were a baby?”

“Not that I know of,” I always reply.

The following I pulled from an essay I wrote a few months after I first shaved my noggin: 

I’m surprised my sister K doesn’t have an identical mark on her skull from when I hit her in the head with a hammer. We were playing house in our unfinished basement, my three sisters and the neighbor boy, J. He and I were the Drunk Painters hired to spruce up the interior walls with a fresh coat. We were young enough to not know entirely what “Drunk” meant (and it would be years before J became an alcoholic).

I loosened up my muscles, slurred my words, and turned belligerent. Kim, playing the matriarch of the house, got annoyed, and told me—Drunk Painter #1— to leave. 

“Ice gon stay righ huh,” I slurred, pulling a hammer out from my belt. I swung it overhead like a mace. 

By that point, I was no longer pretending. I had become Drunk Painter #1, the tool belt heavy on my young hips. I had come to this house to a job, a damn good one, and by golly I wouldn’t leave until it was done! I waved the hammer some more, babbled incoherently, and spun in a circle. I didn’t realize how heavy a hammer could be in a Drunk’s hand.

It’s head greeted the top of my sister’s with a dull thud and like I had tapped a button, her face crumpled inwards and she began to wail. Maybe my skull crumpled in sympathy.

My boyfriend shaved my head in the afternoon. We had just gotten home from a trip to Paris, where I constantly batted my grown-out pixie from my eyes. I had had enough of hair. 

My armpits were a different story. I was getting ready to go the gym, rushing because I was running late. I grabbed a tank top, put it on and then immediately took it off. I can’t wear this, I thought. I didn’t shave my armpits. I spent an extra two minutes I didn’t have to find a t-shirt. 

Later, I remembered the first women I saw with unshaved pits. She was a substitute teacher for my 7th grade math class. She had two thick long dark braids, glasses, and when she lifted her arms overhead, two bushes poked out from her short sleeves. I’m sure my eyes widened, jaw dropped. I’m sure she saw all those pubescent eyes immediately snap to those two mounds. 

Not shaving my armpits wasn’t an impulsive decision like my hair. I considered it. Thought about what femininity meant to me, what armpit hair said about me. I didn’t want to feel shackled by my body hair, self-conscious at my always visible armpit hair stubble. 

But my self-consciousness here didn’t feel tied to me in the way that my shyness at my scalp did.  I don’t care if my armpits are hairy. It’s actually much more comfortable for me.  This was (is) entirely tied to other people’s perceptions and judgements of me. Would people think I was dirty for not shaving my armpits, less attractive? Did I care? Or maybe more accurately, did I have the strength and self-possessedness to NOT care? 

Vogue reports that as of 2021, 1 in 4 women don’t shave their pits (which women from where, I don't know!). I read articles in Bustle about how the media  and colonization forced women to shave post-Victorian era. Gilette called armpit hair an embarrassing personal problem in the late 1910s. Around the same time, short and sheer sleeves came into fashion. While all that’s true, people in so many cultures in so many time periods practiced some form of shaving.  There’s a rich history of hair removal. I have a hard time attributing the culture norm of shaven armpits to the rise of ’safety razors’ alone (granted my research was a timed 20 minutes and so I did not dive in depth).  I would say, however, that my own hangups about body hair are most definitely influenced by modern media and sweet ol’ Gilette’s initial attitudes. 

We’ll see how this goes. It’s easy in winter, with long sleeves and puffy jackets. But now it’s almost summer and the sun is strong. I’ve got bared arms and tank tops, canal swims and saunas, hanging from the monkey bars. 



Pits & Hammers


In 2020, I shaved my head and stopped shaving my armpits. My head because why not. I have certain dreams of my hair, most of which will never be realized: thick, red curls? no way; long, black and wavy? uh, the silky part I got, everything else, no way. My hair is so fine and straight and thin. My hair shafts are like a polar bear’s — translucent, so that when I am in full direct sunlight, instead of reflecting white, my hair reflects invisible. 

I had no problem shaving my head, but I was surprised at my shyness. My scalp on full view. My skull is normal bony matter with small divots, little imperfections, with the exception of one section, south from the crown of my head. Here there is a deep valley, running along the sagittal suture, just north of the occipital bone. It is as if my bony tectonic plates met and, instead of growing a mountain or holding steady for a plain, chose the collapsed majesty of a vale. It’s approximately two inches wide and three long. There’s a whorl of hair contained within the depression, like a gyre, like an eddy.  

Not many people know about this indent — my family, hair stylists, lovers, acquaintances I tell around a bonfire bowing my head forward and saying, “Go ahead, touch it.” 

Fingertips asking, “Did you get dropped on your head when you were a baby?”

“Not that I know of,” I always reply.

The following I pulled from an essay I wrote a few months after I first shaved my noggin: 

I’m surprised my sister K doesn’t have an identical mark on her skull from when I hit her in the head with a hammer. We were playing house in our unfinished basement, my three sisters and the neighbor boy, J. He and I were the Drunk Painters hired to spruce up the interior walls with a fresh coat. We were young enough to not know entirely what “Drunk” meant (and it would be years before J became an alcoholic).

I loosened up my muscles, slurred my words, and turned belligerent. Kim, playing the matriarch of the house, got annoyed, and told me—Drunk Painter #1— to leave. 

“Ice gon stay righ huh,” I slurred, pulling a hammer out from my belt. I swung it overhead like a mace. 

By that point, I was no longer pretending. I had become Drunk Painter #1, the tool belt heavy on my young hips. I had come to this house to a job, a damn good one, and by golly I wouldn’t leave until it was done! I waved the hammer some more, babbled incoherently, and spun in a circle. I didn’t realize how heavy a hammer could be in a Drunk’s hand.

It’s head greeted the top of my sister’s with a dull thud and like I had tapped a button, her face crumpled inwards and she began to wail. Maybe my skull crumpled in sympathy.

My boyfriend shaved my head in the afternoon. We had just gotten home from a trip to Paris, where I constantly batted my grown-out pixie from my eyes. I had had enough of hair. 

My armpits were a different story. I was getting ready to go the gym, rushing because I was running late. I grabbed a tank top, put it on and then immediately took it off. I can’t wear this, I thought. I didn’t shave my armpits. I spent an extra two minutes I didn’t have to find a t-shirt. 

Later, I remembered the first women I saw with unshaved pits. She was a substitute teacher for my 7th grade math class. She had two thick long dark braids, glasses, and when she lifted her arms overhead, two bushes poked out from her short sleeves. I’m sure my eyes widened, jaw dropped. I’m sure she saw all those pubescent eyes immediately snap to those two mounds. 

Not shaving my armpits wasn’t an impulsive decision like my hair. I considered it. Thought about what femininity meant to me, what armpit hair said about me. I didn’t want to feel shackled by my body hair, self-conscious at my always visible armpit hair stubble. 

But my self-consciousness here didn’t feel tied to me in the way that my shyness at my scalp did.  I don’t care if my armpits are hairy. It’s actually much more comfortable for me.  This was (is) entirely tied to other people’s perceptions and judgements of me. Would people think I was dirty for not shaving my armpits, less attractive? Did I care? Or maybe more accurately, did I have the strength and self-possessedness to NOT care? 

Vogue reports that as of 2021, 1 in 4 women don’t shave their pits (which women from where, I don't know!). I read articles in Bustle about how the media  and colonization forced women to shave post-Victorian era. Gilette called armpit hair an embarrassing personal problem in the late 1910s. Around the same time, short and sheer sleeves came into fashion. While all that’s true, people in so many cultures in so many time periods practiced some form of shaving.  There’s a rich history of hair removal. I have a hard time attributing the culture norm of shaven armpits to the rise of ’safety razors’ alone (granted my research was a timed 20 minutes and so I did not dive in depth).  I would say, however, that my own hangups about body hair are most definitely influenced by modern media and sweet ol’ Gilette’s initial attitudes. 

We’ll see how this goes. It’s easy in winter, with long sleeves and puffy jackets. But now it’s almost summer and the sun is strong. I’ve got bared arms and tank tops, canal swims and saunas, hanging from the monkey bars. 


Fun Fact: 1 in 4 women don't shave their armpits.