Hairy Armpits: An Experiment in the Conscious Self
Disclaimer: Do not read if you are uncomfortable with armpit hair. Do not read if you are judgemental, especially if you are judgemental about how vain I realized I am. And do not read if you are boring. In an attempt to explore body odor and sweat, I decided to try not shaving my armpits for a few days. Yes, you read that entire sentence correctly and as I type, a chia pet grows in my underarms as we enter day 17. Yes, you read that sentence correctly and saw that visual clearly, too!
The experiment was truly to understand my relationship with Old Spice FIJI deodorant and if it made a difference with underarm hair or not correlating to sweat and smell. Like a science project for a grown up over reading all the (terrifying) answers on WebMD or worse, Yahoo!Answers. But what actually happened was an exploration and deeper understanding of the self. The conscious self in moments of embarrassment, vanity and comparison; and in moments of choice, respect and compassion.
First, it happened in yoga. I walked into a lit room and I began to breathe deeper. As the teacher prompted us to do arm circles, I was reminded of Project: Armpits. I immediately stopped said arm circles. I paused and thought perhaps I will pretend I am meditating and bring my arms back to prayer position. No, no, just keep going. I chuckle as I remind myself that yoga is a place of non-judgement. I chuckle again as I ponder non-judgement, the actual ability to NON-judge my own self or compare. So that is why it is called a practice. Sweet wisdom, keep coming.
Then, we are moving through a flow. We come to side angle pose, which might as well be armpit-on-display pose. And of course, my teacher walks nearby and I immediately wonder what she is thinking about my armpits. Screw that fact that she is leading a class of 22 other people, I know she is looking at my armpit. Is she disgusted, wondering if I forgot for the last couple weeks or if I am one of those feminists? Does she think I am a hippie, a bra burner, lazy? Does she think I am weird? Yep, that was my thought process. Oh hello, judgemental Jacki, welcome to non-judgemental yoga. You belong here, for the World's sake. And I let go of the story telling and truly the judgement I just passed on any man, woman, child, beast with hairy armpits and on myself and on my teacher, and I flow on. Practicing, I am always practicing how to be human.
So now, as you can see, I am really interested in this whole self thought game with the physical aspect of hairy armpits and the social story I had created that this is absolutely unacceptable. While being somewhat annoyed with myself all at the same time, I continue to hypothesize. Coupled with my boyfriends daily what the sh*t looks as the locks grow longer, I am intrigued to push the limits of the relationship I have with myself and well, the relationship I have with Chris. Can he love me with the chia pet armpits? Note: He (still) does, I asked. And well, the relationship I have with the World.
The next day I share with my friend the experiment. She laughs as I talk more about the body odor exploration and then move into the self-consciousness part and how vain and judgemental I can be in a moment's notice. Then, so that the Universe can prove a point, her husband walks in and we are chatting and she tells him about Project: Armpits. Wait, WAIT! I wasn't mentally prepared. What? You want me to show him? Oh, ummm, well. As my arms cross in front of my chest and I laugh off the whole deodorant experiment part, I keep talking to avoid showing. I see the vanity showing up in my body and I come back to and remind myself that these are my friends and a little armpit hair does not change how rad I am. Right? So I lift up one arm. Oh no, not both. One was good for today. He scoffs, a similar scoff that my boyfriend does actually, and in a moment, the subject is changed. We move on. Simple. Over and out.
And the experiment continues as so. Me on a mountain stretching and wondering what people are thinking. Then pausing to take in the view. Me re-doing my ponytail and my boyfriend being shocked (again) and requesting a shave soon. Me kissing him. Me in yoga practicing presence all over again (and again, and again). Me picking out what to wear and going for the tank top....ok, and grabbing a cardigan-thing, just in case. It goes on and on.
And I realize, being comfortable with yourself ... is a practice. Truly knowing yourself beyond the physical and sharing it ... is a (vulnerable) practice. Seeing that you might be the one judging yourself to fit in, not others....holy practice. Allowing yourself the pause to check in, step outside the comfort zone ... a practice.
And like that, the hairy armpits teach me to get real, stop being so effing vain, be comfortable in my skin, and stop the judgement. Because let me tell you what, the more I judge myself, I find the more I judge others. And that is not who I want to be, that is not what I am. Hello, truth bomb that I just dropped!
Dear Self: Please, please let go of the judgement on yourself and on others. Oh my word, let go of the vanity to fit in, look a specific way and smell like FIJI every moment of your life. That is boring. Let go of the stories you create and allow the present, so that you can see what is true. Come back to you, so you can be open and real with the World and grant the World permission to be open and real with you.
Wow, I so wish I would have grown my armpit hair out when I was younger and learned this lesson. Alas, that might have made my article on bullying a much longer one. Or shorter.
So here I am, on the day I re-enter the world of shaved armpits (you are welcome, Chris), I dare you to know, hell, I dare you to grow your armpit hair, a sense of self, and the ability to pause before you judge. Practice presence and pay attention to what you give attention.
Choose to be conscious of the self, not self-conscious. Beautiful.
NOTE: If you could only know how many pictures it took for me to get this right and how hard I laughed at myself in the process. Oh to be present, it truly is wonderful.