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Fitness 101: What To Do With Body Hair

Posted Nov 08 2010 6:43pm

There are many healthy activities that I wish I could do but for various reasons can't get away with. Take running at night - it feels like flying but there are myriad safety issues. And now that I'm a responsible mom-person, I can't risk a twisted ankle or, worse, a mom-napping. I'd also love to wear a sweat band - They are the epitome of functional! Plus they look like Muppet eyebrows! - but I still haven't found one that my fashion sense will permit. It'd feel really good to hawk a loogie into the spittoons at the gym (I'm not sure what they're called - bidets for your mouth? Oral urinals? - but they're right next to the drinking fountains at my Y and their express purpose is to be spit in.) and yet it just seems the height of impropriety to spit in public, indoors. And so I don't. I don't run at night, I don't wear sweat bands and I don't spit (unless it's on my fingers and I'm using it to wipe the muck off my baby's face, in the grand tradition of mothers everywhere).

But there is one healthy "don't" that I'd really really like to do.

It all started with CrossFit a few months ago. Like Jen Sinkler pointed out on her blog, the stronger your shoulders get, the harder it is to shave your pits. But I used the "star method" and while it took a bit longer, it worked. This would have just stopped at entertaining over-share fodder at dinner parties except that during last month's Great Running Until I Barf Experiment (if I ever get the privilege of writing another GFE book, that's gonna make an awesome chapter, which is my only consolation for putting myself through that idiocy) my pit hair tried to kill me.

Thanks to a tank top and a lack of bodyglide, my pit hair stubble - it's like a 5 o'clock shadow except I get it at 11 a.m. - chafed so badly that I ended up with two open sores under my right arm. And as everyone knows, the gym is the last place you want to have an open sore thanks to MRSA, impetigo and other scary bacteria. See? Nearly killed - or at least maimed - by my prickly hair. Thank goodness my immune system is still on my side and rallied.

So many questions: Do I just have sharper hair than other people? Or does this happen to other people and they just don't talk about it? Why was it just my right armpit that was afflicted? Would this have been fixed by running in a t-shirt instead of a tank, as suggested by Gym Buddy Megan? And why has this never happened to me before, despite the fact that I've been in possession of said hair ever since puberty? I don't know the answers but there is a solution: stop shaving. Legions of men will attest to the fact that unshaven underarm hair doesn't chafe, nor does it give you razor nicks which then burn like crazy when you put your deodorant on. Why should men get to be the only ones with non-stinging soft braid-able pits?

Then there's leg hair. While I have never been attacked (yet) by razor sharp leg stubble, it can also be a problem. When you are as pale-skinned and dark-tressed as I am, even clean-shaven my legs still look, as one of my sons put it, "all polka dotty." (Poor boy was so disappointed when I told him he couldn't have polka dot legs like mommy.) Anytime men complain about having to shave their faces, I like to point out that for sheer acreage needing harvesting we women have got them beat by a mile. Besides the worst hair-removal damage I have ever done to myself was a lip waxing gone horribly horribly wrong. And we won't even discuss the many many issues with maintaining the hair that is between the pits and the legs.

Before you start mailing me daisy chains and fringed vests, there is a precedent for this. Behold the beautiful yet unshaven:

The most recent example of this is the gorgeous Russian supermodel, Natalia Vodianova, who stepped out in a gown accessorized by some serious fur on her million-dollar gams . (Click through the link to see the close-up if you don't believe me.) And does she look ashamed? Not even a little! As Lauri Apple on Jezebel posits "Hm, maybe she saw herself in the mirror and thought, 'I look awesome,' instead of, 'my legs will displease the gossip press'."

And who can forget the awesome Drew Barrymore sporting her pit hair loud and proud on the red carpet?

One website even put up a poll about which is worse : M'onique's shaggy leg hair or Julia Roberts fluffy pit hair. (Click on picture to enlarge... you know you want to.)

All this shaving business is a fairly new phenomenon. While women have had body hair since the dawn of time, we've only been routinely shaving it off since 1915 when safety razors were invented. (Although it should be noted that many Muslims shave their body hair as part of their religion and have been doing it ever since Islam was founded.) That said, I've never grown out any of my body hair. I've been shaving, waxing and plucking things since the fifth grade when I stole my mom's pink plastic bic and butchered myself in the shower. (I still shudder remembering that early lesson: never slide the razor sideways. Owowowowow.) And honestly, Even though I wish hirsuteness would come back into fashion, I'm probably not going to quit shaving now. I can't even go to the gym in unflattering workout pants much less sport a full arm bush, slave to society that I am.
As to the myth that shaving hair makes it "grow back thicker", wikipedia debunks that - although it notes that pit hair grows faster than other body hair and may require multiple daily shavings to reduce stubble. That's just great. I can barely get one shower a day in and I'm certainly not going to dry-shave under there. I've also tried those deodorants that claim to thin and soften pit hair over time and they so totally do not.
What about you - do you shave, wax or otherwise pillage your body hair? Have you ever grown out your body hair? Have you ever been mauled by your pit stubble? Does it gross you out to see lady pit or leg hair? Lastly - do you feel weird spitting in those loogie-catchers too?

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