Just when you think the headlines can’t get any more eye-popping, along comes a story about underarm hair for women making a comeback as a potential tool of empowerment.
There was a brief period when some women in the Flower Child movement grew underarm hair. But that was long ago and today those women are probably more concerned about thinning hair on top of their heads.
In any case, many things come to mind at the mention of empowering women, but growing underarm hair has never been high on the list. It’s never been anywhere on the list. But that’s just me, and if you think underarm hair would be empowering, by all means go for it.
The only reason I lingered on the story is because I was scarred by a woman’s underarm hair years ago. I was giving birth at the time to our second child.
All our children were born in Oregon where nearly every woman delivered with a midwife, either at home or in a hospital. Strong women delivered at home; weak women delivered at the hospital. I was weak. Perhaps if I’d grown underarm hair. Oh well.
The beloved midwife I’d seen throughout my pregnancy was out of town and an on-call midwife attended my labor and delivery. She leaned over me as we settled into the birthing room and I noticed a tool of empowerment — armpit hair.
I knew then and there that I was toast. Not just plain toast, but 9-months-pregnant-and-about-to-deliver toast. Any chance of pain relief would be slim. I was dealing with an empowered non-shaving woman. But even as an unempowered shaving woman, that did not stop me from asking if I might have something for the pain — or “discomfort,” which was the preferred term.
She said she didn’t think medication was necessary. Of course, she didn’t think medication was necessary; she wasn’t the one in labor.
She suggested I was tensing up (got that one right, sister!) and that I could ease the discomfort by relaxing my jaw.
Growing more empowered with each intense contraction, I responded that the pain was not in my jaw. The pain was nowhere near my jaw.
She said she understood, then told me that my face looked tense. That underarm hair must have been incredibly empowering, because no woman in her right mind risks telling another woman in hard labor that her face looks tense.
The details have grown fuzzy over time but, as I recall, the conversation about my discomfort escalated, the husband scrambled for cover behind a small bedside table, I relaxed my jaw and in turn was given a med, which I am pretty sure was a placebo.
I thanked the midwife for her assistance when the delivery was over. Then I cradled that baby girl close and told her not to worry about being born bald because she would grow up to be a strong woman no matter what.
If women’s underarm hair is growing (pun intended) in popularity, I predict it will be like so many other passing fads: Hair today, gone tomorrow.