Thursday, May 1, 2008

Underarm Storage

No, not storage *for* underarms. Using one's underarm *as* a storage space.

Over the past week, I've had three or four panicky moments when I couldn't find something that I needed right that minute: my keys, a bottle of cumin, underpants for Astrid. After racing around like a flustered ostrich for two or three minutes (which is a long time when you're in a hurry), I realized that the item in question was stuck in my armpit, where it was so comfortably and securely lodged that it could probably have stayed for at least an hour. When did I start storing things in my underarm? Is this something that other people do?

I decided to do a bit of research, so I googled "underarm," and (not surprisingly) most of what I found was frightening. The "best" things I came across were several Philipino websites selling "underarm whitening" and "underarm peeling." I'm still not sure what these are--but it was definitely one of those moments when the strangeness of faraway women's body hatred got me thinking about the forms that plague the women closest to me. (A topic for another day. Today I'm all about underarms.)

Much more compelling and happy-making is the work of Mary Yaeger, a Colorado fiber artist who produces Merit Badges to mark female rites of passage and biosocial accomplishments. Here's one from her Signs of Puberty series:

I also came across a special travel wallet that one can wear "like an underarm holster."

OK, so the obvious question arises: when I use my underarm as storage space, do my belongings get stinky?

So far, the answer is no, though I suppose that if I'd held Astrid's undies too long, they might have, especially since it was a sort of warm day. By its nature, of course, cumin smells a bit like underarm sweat (to me, anyway....and I mean that in a good way, as I really like cumin), so it's possible that the cumin and the underarm smells got kind of mingled. Who knows. I'm not going to worry about it.

Back in graduate school, I had a friend who had worked on Wall Street for several years before starting at Rutgers. To avoid having to dry clean her suits and blouses, she always wore a close-fitting men's undershirt with the collar and much of the chest snipped off. I rarely wear a suit (it's nice to have tenure.....), but whenever I wear anything synthetic or less than breathable, I do what Elise did, and I feel much more comfortable. It's all about layering. (I also wear bike shorts under my skirts in the summer time....same chafing, and better breathability.)

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