My mother is in the habit of referring to a certain area of the country she’s not particularly fond of as “the armpit of America.” She never means it in a good way. Never means that the area is a tender sylvan oasis in an otherwise barren landscape. Armpit, in general, is never a kind metaphor for anything. But why not? When did that particular region of our bodies become so ugly?
We’ve all surreptitiously nuzzled our noses down our own shoulders, trying to suss out the armpit situation. It’s a spring of equal opportunity unpredictability—it can sabotage your interview or your pool party. It’s untamed, its desires unknown. Perhaps it’s because we can’t physically control it that we’re so ashamed of it. We hack down its forests; wreak havoc on its landscape. We cover its sins with a snowy blanket of deodorant.
For years, I was mortified by my armpits. Even with the tiniest bit of hair spiking from my follicles, I thought the whole area looked like this dark blight—this black hole of seeping worry and prickly, jet-black little spears. Armpit hair was the enemy. I shaved, of course. And the more I shaved, the uglier the armpit got. It was an angry, subterranean place.
I stopped shaving. But, of course, you can’t just stop. I had to take stock of myself. I was not a Shaver, and hoped never to be again. But I also wasn’t one of those gloriously at-ease, slightly confrontational, full-bush-and-glory women whose long dark armpit hair ends up curling up in a single wave. I’d read about plucking and depilation, and tried once on a double scotch and an empty stomach. Never again to all of it.
This is how I came to find my own answer—the Remington Smooth & Silky Precision Trimmer.
It’s nominally an eyebrow trimmer, a kindly tactful description that doesn’t require you admit your true intentions to the cashier (or even yourself). Eyebrows, indeed—really it’s a moustache trimmer, a sideburn trimmer, a “bikini-line” trimmer, nose-hair trimmer, nipple-hair trimmer, that-one-long-one-right-under-your-belly-button-trimmer, that-downy-patch-on-your-chin-trimmer. And, it’s most frequent assignation in my house, an armpit hair trimmer.
Now, the hair, even after a trim, is never totally gone. The tightest crop you’ll get is that short stubbly length you’ll get rejected at a waxing salon for having—too long to be bare, too short to rip out by the roots. I know that this can be a maddening length for some. It frustrated me for a while, too.
But I’ve come to think that, on me anyway, this is the shortest (and longest) that my armpit hair needs to be. After all, it’s no great existential shock to anyone that a person of my stock and coloring should have some sort of armpit hair. And it’s no worse than you’d expect it to be. In fact, the truly surprising thing would be if I had no armpit hair at all. That would surprise me, anyway. I’ve come to rest in the predictability and unavoidability of my hair. It what women before us have fought for. And it’s just really not that offensive.
But the best part of trimming (and no longer shaving) is that my armpit skin has been restored to its natural beauty. It’s not that permanently discolored, slightly jaundiced-looking field of inflammation anymore. It’s back to being tender, regular skin— the best it’s been since I was a kid.
Every three or four days I run this Various-Hair Trimming Device over my underarms. Never been nicked or done any kind of wrong. If you haven’t considered it before, consider it. It’s neither Barbie-smooth nor I-am-my-hair Rebellion Growth. It’s just easy. Between identities, making its own-- it feels like the modern, moderate option.
Photographed by Tom Newton.