An open letter to 12-year-old girls everywhere, wherein I disclose what I learned from not wearing deodorant for 6 weeks.

Dear friends,

When I was a tween, I became paranoid.

I became the girl who wouldn’t leave the house unless I looked just right. I spent hours worrying over my appearance, and was convinced that every single time I was out in public, I was being judged for every small detail of my look.

I’m ashamed to admit that I regularly made my poor mom wait for me to wash my hair before we could leave the house. I was convinced that I would see someone I knew at Kmart, and my precarious preteen social standing would be destroyed due to the unruly state of my perm. Or the fact that I had blackheads. Or if I wasn’t wearing cute socks.

I refused to go to the greenhouse to pick up marigolds on a 90-degree day without first washing and drying my hair. I also wore a “cool” outfit because, well, you just never know.

I was miserable at a basketball game because I got ice cream on my pink cable-knit sweater.  I was certain that everyone in the arena was aware of my food faux pas and looked down on me with harsh derision. People weren’t watching the game – they were staring at the stain on my sleeve!

This stress made everything so much harder.

My friends, I have news: Nobody gives a shit.

Yeah, I’m using the word “shit” when speaking to 12-year-olds. Because I really, really mean what I’m saying. Also, I want you to think I’m cool.

But seriously.

Everybody else is so worried about themselves that they don’t have time to worry about you.

OK, I got a rash in my freakin’ armpit like 6 weeks ago. I went to the doctor and got a bunch of different types of cream, and blah blah blah, the rash is just now going away.

You can’t wear deodorant when you have an armpit rash. You also can’t shave your pit.

So, as the weather is heating up and it’s really starting to be sweaty season, I have had 1 normal armpit, and 1 hairy, stinky armpit.

My inner 12-year-old girl (yeah, she never goes away) was pretty sure that the entire universe knew of my pit situation. Yes, my inner 12-year-old girl was embarrassed to be associated with such stink and was also convinced that all my friends would disown me. People in the grocery store would abandon their carts and run out of the store when they saw me. I was that gross.

But guess what? My inner 12-year-old girl was wrong.

Nobody noticed by armpit leprosy. No one was overcome with the fumes from my stinky pit. And even if they did notice, “Gee, that woman hasn’t shaved under her arm for a while?” Well, they didn’t care enough to say anything. Because it wasn’t worth their time. Because they did not give a shit.

The armpit was a huge deal to me. And only me. And all the energy I spent worrying about my pit’s outward appearances was wasted. I could have knitted a scarf or written and recorded a number one pop song with that energy. But alas!

If I can walk through the world with a lovely disaster of an armpit, you can go to the grocery without curling your hair first. The world doesn’t really care if you’ve got a zit, or if your shoes are the latest style. The world is just happy you’re wearing pants.

Relax. You are beautiful, exactly as you are. Own your beauty.

Cha Cha

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  • Reply Jenny Hart Boren June 25, 2013 at 12:41 am

    Ain't it the truth! But as you pointed out–the adolescent angst was right there under the surface, wasn't it? Even though it was easier to brush off than the first time around.

    It's terribly important to reinforce the "you are beautiful no matter what" message for young girls, but I think empathy for others is just something we might have to grow into. It's almost impossible to see things from any other point of view than our own when we are very young. We just cannot believe it's not all about us.

    Glad to learn that your scrofulous armpit is getting better. (As a high school friend used to say: Probably VD!) It's always some dang thing, isn't it?

  • Reply Patience_Crabstick June 26, 2013 at 12:46 am

    A good post! I have an armpit rash too. I think it is eczema, and I deliberately haven't been to a doctor about it because I don't want to be told that I can't wear deodorant. I should take a page out of your book. 🙂

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