Hairy Armpits, Martha, and Mullets ~ On My Way To Being Me
(This photo —I can’t even!)
For about six months back in the 1970’s I left my armpits unshaven.
It was a bold and calculated act.
I wanted to fit in with the California hippy subculture whom I held up as the greatest examples of what was current in the world around me. What was necessary to fit in as a young, budding feminist in the post-patriarchal zeitgeist at the time.
Plus I saw pictures of Joan Baez and Grace Slick with long black hairy armpits. And the twins older sister Martha who listened to Frank Zappa, and was so naturally organic and liberated she made it look pretty. Almost sexy.
Then I decided to let the hair on my legs grow out.
Mostly because no one noticed my radical armpit statement on account of the fact that the hair was blonde…and relatively sparse… and also because I wore a short-sleeved white cotton blouse as part of my uniform in Catholic High School so my pits were perpetually covered.
Just like a watched pot never boils, my leg hair took forever to grow long. But when it did, it shone in the sun like a pair of corn silk knee socks beneath my minuscule pleated plaid skirt. I loved it. Everyone loved it. Even Martha, whose opinion meant the world to me thought it was “rad.”
There was about a year or so in 1974-75 that the hair on my legs was longer than the hair on my head.
My dad actually pointed that out at Thanksgiving dinner with all of our relatives present—and not in a “proud father” kind of way.
Everyone I knew had long, straight hair, parted in the middle that fell to the middle of their backs. I wanted to be different so I cut mine to barely 1/4 inch all around. Think Jean Sebring or Twiggy.
This rendered Martha speechless when she saw me. She actually dropped her cigarette and missed a few lyrics to Ziggy Stardust. I have not received a higher compliment before—or since.
Driving a gaggle of her twin sisters young friends to the movies or the mall or somewhere else fabulous, I caught her, several times from the back seat, staring at my hair in the rear view mirror. If we had all perished that night in a fiery crash I would have died happy, with a smile on my face, completely fulfilled.
I’m not exactly sure why I’m telling you this. I suppose it has to do with finding my way in the world. Maybe you had similar experiences. Figuring our who we were was hard. And hairy. There were a lot of options out there to embrace.
Perhaps you’re like me and others of a “certain age” who are in the process of a mid-life re-invention.
Standing here at fifty-nine, there is not a single thing about me that is the same as when I was sixteen.
My hair is gray and shaggy, my flat teenage stomach is soft and squishy, and hair grows in places I’d rather not discuss.
But I can feel the teenage emotions like it was yesterday. How new and invigorating each act felt. Like I was both the sculpture and the sculptor with my hands the clay. Creating myself as I went along.
I want to feel that again, don’t you?
Without apology, I am a culmination of all of those decisions. Good, bad and ugly. And so are you!
You can’t tell me you didn’t absolutely LOVE your mullet when you first got it.
Or that ghastly tattoo on your ankle that you had removed on your thirtieth birthday.
What about the mustache you tried to grow for seven years?
Or the bust developer you ordered from the back of The Enquirer.
Purple eyebrows? Even better.
Lambchop sideburns? Meow.
Pierced tongue? Ouch, but okay.
What we did to define ourselves along the way helped make us who we are today you guys. Some are mic-drops. Most are not. I can only hope I do as well this time around.
When I look back I really have no regrets. Except…
I will have to live with my disco era over-plucked eyebrows until the day I die.
What are the best fads you followed from the past? And what would you rather not remember?