Ode to Armpit Air

By Lisa Low

Every June I think I might stop shaving
my armpits. Every summer’s
half-assed attempt involves parties
with my arms clamped shut
like when I was in middle school, afraid
my deodorant wasn’t working, or suddenly
shaving if an event called for me
to lift my arms above my head. I don’t feel free
like I feel I should, even in T-shirts,
my weak conviction guards me. But in the privacy
of my own home, I stroke my hair
like a hipster who wants wisdom
from his beard. I can’t stop admiring
myself to my husband, who isn’t
as amazed as I am about follicles containing
2 or 3 strands, or the different lengths
of hair like actual grass. My first
female friend with armpit hair was beautiful
and, of course, white, and I lived for a few years
in a town full of organic gardening, armpit hair,
and white feminism. Most of
my creative energy then was spent
writing about my mother, but not once did I
think of her armpit hair, which I believed as a child
existed out of self-disregard, as any type
of political statement. I look at my armpits and think of
the power accorded to them because
I grew up here, am young still—as if they could,
like the stereotype, live vicariously
for my mother’s. I can’t now
see armpit hair on a white woman
without picturing expensive produce and clusters
of white women—even white women
I love—safely ensconced. In my wishful utopia,
a future daughter of mine thinks as seldom
of  white women as she does
my armpit hair.

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