As you’re sitting at your desk in the middle of the classroom, furiously completing the EQAO test, you suddenly catch a glance of the tuft of hair that’s peeking out from the confines of your armpit, bared by the tank top you’re wearing in the mid-June heat.
Don’t freak out.
You’ve known your hair is black from the day you learned about colours—after all, everyone from the Dubai of your memories had black hair. And yet, somehow, the shock of black under your arm is distracting. It’s all you can see. Hoping the rest of the students are engrossed in their exam, you try to sneak a finger to stroke the hair. It looks soft. You’re not too sure when it appeared. The other girls didn’t have it. Just the boys. You only entered the still too-white Canadian school a few years ago, and haven’t yet had the pleasure of sex-ed classes to know what puberty is. You learned the bare minimum when your best friend got her period a year ago. Your mother explained all the necessary elements in the ten minutes it took to drive you home from school: happens every month, completely normal, tell me when it happens and we’ll deal with it then, and, oh, what do you have for homework today?
The clock on the exam is still ticking in the silence of the class, punctuated only by the occasional table earthquake under pressure from some kid’s happy-face eraser, or the sharp scrape of a pencil sharpener.
There’s a line of sweat now lining the side of your face, and you’re reminded of the fuzz you noticed on your face a few days ago. Your mother hasn’t noticed that you stole one of the razors from the bathroom you share with your parents. It’s pink, and you’re not too sure why your father would ever have something of the colour.
In a few years, you’ll have the same sudden realization of the hair on your arms, up to your knuckles. You’ll itch to grab another razor and set it back to its previously clean state.
Later, in high school, you’ll become friends with another Indian girl. She’ll have a lot of hair on her arms. Black on brown skin, like yours. You want to ask why she didn’t get rid of it. Wasn’t it as necessary as shaved legs?
It’ll be several more years, when you’re about to graduate college, that you’ll realize how futile the exercise is. Well, that and the fact that your meager on-campus salary can’t really compensate buying razors frequently enough to manage all the hair on your body.
One day, in the middle of August, you’ll raise your arms to tie up your hair outside your first home that’s all your own (almost … you’re in a basement unit of an eccentric elderly couple’s home). As you give a grudging smile to the two guys walking by with wood stacked on their shoulders, you’ll realize three things. (1) You’re wearing a sleeveless shirt, a new development after years of feeling conscious of your arms. (2) You didn’t shave when you showered last night, wanting to get into bed as quickly as possible. (3) You don’t give a fuck about the hair that’s cast your armpits in a perpetual shadow. This last thought takes you by surprise but your Lyft has arrived, and you become too busy making small talk with your overly friendly driver to contemplate this epiphany.
It’ll probably hit you the next morning when you watch the hair fall away with the help your razor and the lukewarm water of your shower. But if you manage to accept yourself every once in a while, that’s still a win, right?
Suchita Chadha is an Indo-Canadian writer with a BFA in poetry from Emerson College, where she was the recipient of the High Distinction in Poetry writing award. She also represented Emerson College at the Greater Boston Intercollegiate Poetry Festival in 2017. Her work appears in Verge Magazine (Canada), EdTech Times, Affairs Today, and multiple contest anthologies published by the Poetry Institute of Canada.
STORY IMAGE CREDIT: http://www.epilatorhome.com/, downloaded from Flickr Creative Commons/Karolina Mis