Friday, August 09, 2013

Ah, Here She Comes, Blocking The Sun

The Mirror emailed me last week to ask me about my armpits. I wanted to tell my mam and dad about it at the weekend because we were on holidays and there was no television and too much for us to talk about but I didn't know how to bring it up. I suppose I could have just told them that the Mirror emailed me, but I thought it might be hard to explain. How did the Mirror know that I have underarm hair? One of those friends I made on the Internet told them. But why? Why did she tell them? Or why did they email? They wanted to talk to women who don't shave their underarms. It's about a charity, Armpits4August, which is like that one where men grow moustaches except that it's for women like me, with PCOS. Oh. Is that why you stopped shaving? It's a sponsored thing? No, I only heard about the charity afterwards. Why did you, then? Well, that's what they wanted to know.

How mad is it that a tabloid wanted to interview me about my armpits?

I said no. I thought about it and consulted my three wise monkeys, and they all said no. I sent the journalist a quick reply to thank her and say that while I'm happy to discuss it in a personal capacity, I don't want to discuss it in the Mirror. Though I didn't mention it in my reply to her, I particularly didn't want to send her a photograph of myself showing my armpit hair to accompany the feature (she'd asked). I don't have a photo of myself showing my armpit hair. Andrew has a few. He put one on Instagram and it got a comment, just the one, from my sister's boyfriend. It said "no comment". 

I like the photo, actually. I am sitting across from him at our kitchen table, wearing the vest I've slept in and reaching up to sweep my hair from my neck. I've been growing that too and getting a lot of compliments on it.

"Nice pits!" said my sister. "Don't think I could do it". 

"How are your pits?" asked Ian. 

Nobody else mentioned them. 

The journalist emailed back to ask why I wasn't keen to be featured. That made me uncomfortable. I wasn't expecting it. I told her that I didn't consider the Mirror to be a female-friendly paper and that I was concerned about how I would be represented. She didn't email me again after that, and I felt bad. Selfish, even. And disappointed.

Maybe I should have given her the interview. She wanted to know when I stopped shaving. April, I think. It might have been May. I stopped caring about everything for a few days and when I reconciled with myself again, shaving my underarms when nobody cared whether I had hair there or not just seemed stupid. So I stopped. The hair grew longer and softer and Andrew said that he didn't mind it and to be honest I liked it, so I left it. I read Emer O'Toole in Vagenda and watched the This Morning clip on YouTube and felt confident. Ish. Confidentier. I thought about emailing Emer to ask how she feels about facial hair, because all women have hair under their arms but the hair on my face marks me out as abnormal. Hormonal. And I'm not ready to be the bearded lady with no kids and two cats. It's fine for her, I thought, she's beautiful! And not fat, I added, though in a quiet little voice because after all, fat is also a feminist issue. 

One issue at a time.

June came, and I had to stop wearing cardigans. July came and I had to stop wearing sleeves. "I just wish I could do it without it being a thing" I muttered to Andrew one night as I stretched my arms out to shrug off a cardigan in a stifling hot theatre stall. But nobody was looking at me.

We went out for cocktails a week later. I was in one of those moods; these people are boring and I am a fucking butterfly, etc. (I didn't know them and I didn't feel like going out). I dressed accordingly; heels, lipstick and a cap-sleeved polka-dot dress that makes me want to have sex with myself and shows my underarms off to perfection. Nobody batted an eyelid.

I wore a sleeveless dress to work a week after that and was so delighted with myself that I tweeted about it. "Racy!" I said. I thought I was brave and hilarious and sure, sometimes I am, but I wasn't anything to add an exclamation mark to that day.

I went to a panel discussion about feminism and made sure to stretch my arms during the interval so that everyone there would see my underarm hair and know that I am the most feminist of all. I'm like a toddler testing out swearwords.

"Bollox!" says my almost-two-year-old niece. "Did I tell you that the Mirror emailed me to ask about my armpits?" I say to the secretary in work.

I have slowly gotten used to baring my underarms without feeling like my pubes are on show. I don't need to be a body in protest. I feel like I've gotten away with something, like that time my brother and I got our eyebrows pierced and expected our parents to disown us. Getting your eyebrow pierced feels like being punched in the face. Growing your hair out is painless.


Jo said...

Dear God, you weren't wrong to turn the Mail down. Warg! She didn't write back because she had no response. It would not have been female friendly and it would not have garnered nice response.

Emer O Toole is like a little punk fairy princess. I was expecting a middle aged academic strident type the first time I met her, somehow, and instead there was this barely 20 something, barely there elf in a floaty gauzy little dress - she's an adorable wee waif of a woman - and I quite sympathise with your tempation to contrast yourself with her.