Peace, serenity, inner calm. My two-year practice of Bikram yoga has provided me with a great many things, most of which have been a true blessing to the interior, lacing my brain with the chemical ease of Xanax or Klonopin or Avitan, without, like, the nasty side effect of feeling 100% disengaged with the world. But unlike popping pills, finding Zen in a hot, sweaty, stinky room comes with its definitive drawbacks. Stacked side-by-side with all of Brooklyn’s chilled out freelancers has given me an up-close-and-personal vantage point to bodily misfortunes of my borough neighbors, least disgusting of which are the torrents of sweat pouring from everyone in the room, pooling on the sorry towels beneath.
Three times a week, I am put into close contact with unruly back hair, gnarled feet, and a litany of horribly rendered tattoos of half-eaten cupcakes, incomprehensible phrases, and graphic cityscapes. There are lumps, bumps, unsightly rear-ends. It is a room where everyone has stripped down to practically nothing, all vanity be damned. In our tiny little outfits, our bras and short shorts, all flaws and varied grooming habits are exposed. And, you know, to each their own. But I just can’t wrap my head around the handful of women in my class who refuse to shave their armpits.
Unlike heels and curling irons—two things that are generally a great source discomfort and wasted time, respectively—I do not find the dreaded razorblade to be an enemy to the feminist agenda. Shaving, I believe, is one of the greatest modern inventions for my gender… like tampons, Google Maps, and automatic cars (just kidding). Wanting to see the other half of this coin, I found an article from a woman, one Bobby Crowley, of the non-shaving camp, who wrote of her resistance to shaving: “I shaved my armpits because I had been taught that women with hairy armpits were disgusting. I was taught this from an early age. I was taught to shave or wax or pluck my body of all ‘masculine’ remnants, because that is what a proper woman does.” Okay, understood.
And I understand the general wariness to the kneejerk compliance of heteronormative habits. But I also understand that having hair everywhere sort of sucks. As a girl who played softball well before her mother let her shave her legs, I can tell you that there’s nothing worse than tearing the Band-Aid off of a sliding-induced raspberry, tugging at the hair on your leg as you go. Shaving my legs was a blessing to my horrible athletic abilities and the subsequent wounds that were a routine result of my utter ineptitude. “Masculine” remnants be damned.
Maybe not feeling the heavy weight of the patriarch on my shoulders every time I get in the shower to shave my legs and pits is a sign of my own willful ignorance. Perhaps I should loathe the expectation to be clean-shaven as a newborn, resentful of men in the same way I am sort of resentful I’m the one who has to bear children. But shaving my legs isn’t going into labor. Shaving your legs takes one minute of your time for 24 hours of silky reward. Shaving your armpits takes even less time than that. I would consider opening up a dialogue with my fuzzy friend to better understand her motives, but that wouldn’t be very Zen of me, now would it?
Then again, neither is the silent judgment I’m working through while drowning in my own sticky sweat.
Hey, this Bikram thing is just making me better, not perfect.