An Ode to My Armpit Bush
Imagine Ottawa, Ontario, 2003. I was thirteen years old and would stare at my pubic mound daily, willing it to grow hair. I was so excited to grow body hair. So I could shave it. I'd look at my leg hair, hoping it would thicken and get darker. When I started growing pubic hair, I excitedly showed my sister the mohawk. When I got my first armpit hair, I triumphantly shaved it before anyone could know I'd grown up.
Imagine Borden, Ontario, 2008. I was eighteen and at bootcamp. I remember distinctly being shocked by a woman who didn't shave her body for the entirety of the course; a whole two months. I couldn't believe it. Even in the context of having two minute showers, being trained to kill, and literally more mandatory maintenance than my peers (Keeping hair slicked back in bun, shaving, menstruation) I couldn't fathom letting hair show on my body.
I recognize that there are infinite (and important) angles that we can explore the growing, amending, and/or removal of body hair. Body hair is where a lot of our cultural structures intersect - racism, capitalism, gender, misogyny, and too much more. I want to also emphasize the privilege of being able to, and being safe to, choose- and that I am not very hairy in the first place. Today, I'm talking about the experience of having new body sensations at 28 years old.
Photo: Katie in Spring 2018
When I moved to Salt Spring Island in 2018, a famously "hippie" place, I started to experiment with not removing any and all hair but that on my head. What happened surprised me. My experience had a lot more to do with what it feels like to be in my body, and a lot less what it feels like to be me in society.
I had sensations I'd never had before, and it was enthralling. I felt the ocean breeze tickle through my leg hair. I noticed how different the sensation of goosebumps was, and how I was slightly less chilly all the time. I saw that some grew longer than others. Sometimes when I applied lotion, I'd push it all to one side or the other. I could feel the pull on my hair follicles, and it was new.
I saw how curly my bush is when it's wet, and how straight it can be when it dries pushed down in panties. I'd push it and feel the curls bounce back, or tug on it gently and feel the hair follicle in my skin. I'd look at myself in panties, or naked, or in a swimsuit, and notice it.
I felt my armpit hair when I applied deodorant. I felt it snag on some clothes and not on others. I saw how my armpit hair is usually dark, and sometimes ginger. Sometimes curly, sometimes straight. Definitely never in the way.
Photo: Katie in Spring 2022
God, I loved the new sensations in my body. How could I possibly have missed out on this feeling, I wondered? And if you're wondering, yes. I still feel weird about it sometimes. Every once in a while, I notice people staring. More than that, I receive vitriol online. But right now, I feel weirder not doing what feels good for myself. My armpit bush loves the ocean breeze too much to miss out. I made a political choice to grow it out, and the somatic experience of having body hair made me fall in love with it. It became part of my mindfulness practice.
Imagine Victoria, British Columbia, 2021. My three-year-old niece looked at my armpits. Her eyes were huge. I said, "I have hair there!" She looked at me, accepted the information, and moved on. I hope that we can all get there.