Body DIY

Lessons Learned…and then Forgotten: Cauliflower Strikes Again

Oops, Britney Spears, I did it again.

Why in the world I tried after my last debacle, I’m not sure.

Did I think my skin had changed? Or perhaps that it was merely a fluke?

Well, it seems that yes, I did think those things. I must have.

Because…

 

I gave myself cauliflower armpits again.

 

Again!

Oops…

You see, since that post last year, things have changed a bit. That little hair removal flub had me off waxing for a while. I quit cold turkey (after only two forays into the wily world of waxing). My home salon was put on pause, eyebrows aside and I went back to my boy blade and shaving. But then, Winter got the better of me. I was intrigued again and I started the process. I grew out my little hairs and rrrrrrriiiiiiiip! Out they came.

And off I was in a new romance with muslin cloth strips and allergen-free water-soluble wax. As I’ve said, taking a shower here is no easy task and so unless you want to stand naked and shave every morning in a birdbath (in the shape of a tote), you’re not going to have much consistency and you know what I’ve come to realize?

I want consistency.

I love soft legs.

I’ve battled back and forth with why “Am I not enough of a feminist to wear my leg hair with pride?” until I realized that that little quandry was ridiculous. I think I’m plenty full of feminism and I’ve rocked a serious sweater on my gams if that’s something that you think proves it (it’s not) but in all honesty, I just don’t like it as much.

In a relationship with a furry man like I am, I’ll always be the smoother of the two of us but I realized that I don’t just want the smoother title. Besides, being smoother than him is like saying I’m an excellent runner simply because I’m faster than a turtle.

 

 

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Bigfoot!? Oh, no just a hairy Chief man.

 

 

There’s no comparison.

Nope, I didn’t want to just be smoother. I wanted my uber soft legs back. And so, my waxing romance has been going strong, you may or may not be happy to know. I’ve even gotten to the point where I can hold a conversation while doing it. Painful? Mmmm, a little but it doesn’t really bother me. It’s so satisfying.

My goodness I’m starting to sound a bit obsessed, eh? Well, don’t worry, a mishap was bound to happen, right?

It did.

A little bit of laziness came in. The thing is, the waxing that worked for me and my super sensitive skin takes a while. It has to heat up in water in a pot on the stove until it’s just the right consistency (the I Won’t Give You Third Degree Burn Consistency, preferably) and then, typically about half-way through I have to heat it up again, sometimes twice. It’s messy and although it’s water soluble, that doesn’t mean that it’s a breeze to get off the floor or out of my clothing or my non-waxing hair. And then, since it’s reusable (the strips are at least, it’s not magical self-regenerating wax, not yet at least) there’s the whole process of cleaning the strips.

The whole shebang last for hours and in the woods, where everything takes three times as long as it should anyways, the romance I’d had was starting to putter out.

With Summer’s arrival seemingly overnight and a month since my last appointment at Spa de Juju it was time.

Time for the perfect storm apparently.

You see, my girlfriend asked to borrow my wax since she was out and since I still was rocking the leg sweaters with no free day ahead of me to book an appointment with myself I figured I’d just go ahead and give her mine and order more. Some day I’d have time and then, it was back to the old Bic for a while until the manic time warp of Summer was over.

 

 

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and the first bloom of River Beauty tells me that will be a while…

 

 

But then, I got leg envy. I brought the wax to Town for her but we never connected and everytime I looked at it and then looked down at my leggies I wanted to act. But the wax was for her, I couldn’t take it back and so I tried the next “best” thing.

I used the fast and easy, ready made Cauliflower Armpit Inducing Strips from last year (that should have already been at my other girlfriend’s house since I had said that I’d give them to her last year, tucked away safe from my tempted self). I did one strip on my leg and waited a day and it was fine.

And so, I went for it.

I had the waxing bug where you just get ready to get it over with, like waiting to jump out of a tree on a rope swing. You just have to go for it. I was going for it, full backflip into the water and all.

And…it was amazing! I took a break from work and it was done in 30 minutes, no heating or reheating or sticky drops all over the floor and when I was done, it all went bye-bye into the trash.

I was feeling very proud and very metropolitan (and slightly guilty of being wasteful).

Until this morning.

You see, the mosquitos are out in full force. They are fast and ruthless and can keep up with me even at a fast clip. They don’t mess around. And so when I awoke this morning to an itchy armpit I knew immediately who the culprit was: dang mosquitos!

I heard them buzzing about and whipped out a few karate chop moves (even though they are jerks, I still feel badly plotting murder but it had to be done). Once I’d secured the area I went back to itching. This was a bad one. It felt like my entire armpit was on fire and it hurt more than most bites do and boy was it swelling.

Oh well, back to bed.

It turns out…I was wrong.

It wasn’t a mosquito, it was me.

That whole backflip into the water thing?

Belly flop.

 

 

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Yup. Still allergic. Still sensitive. Still the same old me, just none the wiser.

Even as I was going through the “easy” waxing and giggling to myself at how easy it was, I had a sinking feeling as I saw the bumps start to rise. But then, they vanished and off I went on a long (probably agitating) walk to Town followed by a game of Softball.

Whoops!

It seems a lesson learned by me is also a lesson quickly forgotten, as if time is some sort of magician who distorts reality.

And so now, I’m stuck with another round of Cauliflower Armpits. At first I thought it was just the one but no, no, no. How could it be?

 

 

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That look says it all

 

 

Perhaps, in my fourth year, I’ll learn. I wont’ commit the foibles of my freshman, sophomore and junior Summers. I’ll be a senior, big man on campus and perhaps, when I high-five people they won’t have to stare into the abyss that is a Cauliflower Armpit.

Perhaps.

We played a show on Saturday and despite the threat of rain and the chill that came with it, I was onstage with little more than a tank top because of the pain my pits were giving me. So I tried to give them air (and tried not to frighten the crowd with my angy armpits).

I think, now that I look back that a little part of me dismissed the irritation last year as being caused by shaving afterwards (I wasn’t very good at the whole waxing thing back then and had given up after a small effort) and another little mischevious part of me planned to see if that was true.

Well, wasn’t that a fun little game to play with myself.

I sure am glad we picked up our plant babies.

Aloe, to the rescue.

Sort of. Really, relief I think is spelled T-I-M-E and as I realize how impatient I am with it, I hope, hope, hope that I will finally learn this lesson, two sets of painful armpits later.

Fingers crossed.

Be safe out there, kiddos and try to remember the lessons you’ve learned, but especially those you’ve forgotten.

Happy home-spa-ing to you!

Ouch.

 

 

 

 

Falling in Love Naked with Cauliflower Armpits

From the time I started wearing makeup (an issue of high contention and many winy, though I thought well thought out, arguments between my mother and I) I never stopped.

I never wore all that much makeup, the whole eyeshadow thing was (and is) lost on me and I liked (and like) to see the tone of my skin, not a mirage of powders but despite it’s typically minimal presence, I still wore it everyday.

Going to the gym? Mascara and blush.

The beach? The same.

Going out? A cat eye and maybe some red lips was my staple.

And why not? Since the beginning of people, we have sought to adorn ourselves through piercings and tattoos, jewelry and clothing and hairstyles and of course makeup. And truly, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I have a strong affinity for shiny things and gold is my favorite color.

Needless to say, I love adornment.

But sometimes it goes too far. Sometimes, the adornment becomes the identity instead of an accessory. At some point, the thing I had fought to have control over doing had control over me.

I used to watch my makeup free friends in awe, wishing that I too could go without but feeling too insecure to do so. They looked so beautiful, so natural. I longed for that freedom but felt that

I was different

I was required to wear makeup

I just didn’t look quite right without it.

From pool parties to long weekends with friends, there I was, with mascara at a minimum, wishing it were otherwise but feeling as if it just could not be so. If a friend stopped by and I was just out of the shower I would panic and try to “do something” to rectify the situation before they saw me.

I remember the first time a friend’s mom described me as “smart” first instead of a physical descriptor and I realized that this was how I wanted to be seen and interpreted. I wanted my insides to matter the most but I didn’t know how to shift focus. I felt trapped.

But then, I turned my whole world upside down. I left my home, moved in with a wonderful girlfriend and started planning for Alaska.

She questioned: “So, are you going to wear makeup in Alaska?” She being one of those beautiful friends that was almost always sans makeup.

It had been on my mind. It was almost as if she had heard me thinking it. What am I going to do? No one wears makeup there it seems. And who really cares if I stick out but I already felt like the inexperienced city girl (despite coming from the country) with “high maintenance” written across my forehead and “priss” written on my back. When I asked if I should bring a hair dryer or if my girlfriend in Alaska had one she giggled and replied “Julia, if I plugged a hair dryer in at my house my whole inverter would probably blow up”.

Oh.

I didn’t totally get what an inverter was but I did get that I was entering a totally new ballgame.

Back to nature.

And I was excited.

I wanted so badly to be free of feeling required to look a certain way but the voices of insecurity whispered “You’re not like the others. You don’t get to. You’re not enough”.

Pretty damn rude, if you ask me.

I responded to my girlfriend’s quandry: “I don’t want to wear makeup, but I’m feeling nervous”.

“Well, why don’t you start here and then you’ll be used to it once you arrive in Alaska? Plus, your skin could probably use a break, ya know? You could just spend the whole Summer letting it breath and rejuvenate itself”. It sounded like heaven. Except…

Umm, start at home, where I know everyone? No thanks. People will be shocked at how different I look.

Feeling my utter resistance to her idea told me that I needed to do it. I was afraid. So I forced myself.

Thank goodness.

It turns out that people weren’t shocked. People didn’t gawk or ask if I was sick (my personal favorite of the comments I’d gotten once from a previous stint not wearing makeup for one day at the office. It was going to be a week. I quickly reconsidered). In fact, I actually felt that I got more compliments with a naked face than with an adorned one but that is not what matters.

What truly matters was how I felt. I felt free. In the following weeks, I would curl my eyelashes or add a little blush for fun (and I still sometimes do, it seems that my cheeks, no matter if I’ve run a 10k or snowmachined up a mountain, do not blush, no way, no how and I really like a rosy cheek, so there you have it) but it wasn’t part of my duties for the day. It didn’t feel like a habit or requirement in order to be able to step outside.

Makeup felt, once again, like adornment. The freedom to add or subtract but in the end to be happy with the canvas I started with.

I took this new freedom with me to Alaska.

When I met someone, it felt like they were truly meeting me, not a constructed image of me.

Then I met The Chief. The night I really fell for The Chief (who am I kidding, I was hooked from “Hello”) was the first day I went Packrafting. We had all gotten drenched down to our undies, I had dirt all over my face and half dry-half wet braided/tangled locks for hair.

I mean, I’d certainly looked better before.

It didn’t matter.

To him I was me, the only me he’d ever known. He didn’t know the makeuped me of the past, just the dirty faced lady high on her first rafting adventure in front of him and he liked her. The feeling was mutual.

And so we fell in love naked faced. Stripped down to who we were and who we are. It’s a totally different experience than I’ve ever had before. I think every makeup wearer (who has grown uncomfortable with going naked) knows the stress of meeting someone while all gussied up only to wait anxiously for the first time they will see you without makeup. What a terrible reality to feel less than without adornment, but I used to feel that way.

There’s an Amy Schumer video that I think perfectly sums up the predicament, and in perfect Amy fashion she pokes fun at how ridiculous we can be as a society. I’m not saying that makeup is bad, just that if it makes you feel bad about yourself, then maybe it’s time to renegotiate your relationship terms. I certainly needed to.

Now, in the last year I can count on my hands the times I’ve worn mascara or lipstick. It’s a world away from where I used to be. Now, I look forward to fancier occasions (which might just mean randomly being in a bar on a Tuesday in Anchorage) where I wear makeup. It feels new and exciting, like a real event. But, by the next morning I’m ready to go back to bare and The Chief is always ready for me to get back to the real me. What a different place.

But, don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean that I don’t get a little bored sometimes. Living in the woods means there’s rarely a lipstick occasion (though, by all means, I could just go ahead and make it a Lipstick Saturday anytime) and so sometimes I try little beauty methods on my own. Julia’s Salon opens for business (Appointment Only and you might want to Yelp some other options. She’s new).

I go through phases of light and dark with my eyebrows, dying them dark and then letting them lighten. I’ve even done the same with my eyelashes. It’s fun to see how the face changes just from a little shift and it keeps me entertained trying out new techniques. It’s also interesting to see myself get attached to one way or the other and feel less than when things are different. Insecurity trying still to creep in. What a creep.

Starting at the top going down: Light Bright; An homage to Charlie Chaplin (dyeing the brows); Lash Tint Imprint; Darker for Now

 

 

So, with all these DIY beauty attempts I thought I’d try a new one. I thought to myself, hey, everyone out here seems to wax their legs and armpits. Maybe I’ll try that! Julia’s Salon opens again!

Good idea?

It seemed it (in retrospect, no). Our shower was on the fritz and shaving takes up extra water in my little birdbath bathing sessions so I thought, hey, why not? Plus, I’d done it before with a girlfriend this Winter so I was sure I could figure it out on my own. What could go wrong?

Well, it turns out that I’m allergic to the particular wax I used.

That’s one option that could go wrong.

Another is that my reaction could cause my armpits to swell and bubble up like the cauliflowered ear of a boxer.

Sounds glorious, eh?

So far, three days in, my armpits (could we perhaps come up with a more glamorous name? Even Armcaves or Armjunction feels better. Pit? Not shiny) are just as angry as Day One. They’ve carved three tally marks on the wall like prisoners and are threatening to fill the whole wall with tallies if I ever go near that wax again. Sheeesh! I was just trying to do as the locals do.

Thankfully, a few weeks ago, a friend up the road gave us two aloe plants which The Chief remembered as we looked around the med kit for relief. He broke the plant and applied it to the angry armcaves. One could almost hear them sizzling as the cooling liquid touched their hot surface.

Grossed out enough?

Yea, me too.

I can tell you that never has a beauty regime felt less important. In an effort to try something new I put myself out of commission, or at least made things much more painful to do. From hauling water to my new attempts at running, to folding laundry and carrying things into the loft my days have been filled with yips and squeals at the parting of the cracking skin while my nights have been interrupted with itching bumps that awaken me from sleep.

All this for a little hair removal? Geez, I’ll keep it. Or actually, I’ll just do what I’ve always done because now I’ve found out what works for me: shaving please (preferably with a man’s razor. What, do they think that women can’t handle a sleek six blades? They are way better, ladies, trust me. Or actually, just do whatever is working for you). I’d much prefer to spend a few more minutes in my birdbath than an afternoon (or at this point probably about a week) in sticky pain.

Even when one is loved barefaced naked, it’s fun to switch things up, to try a new beauty regime. And even while loved barefaced naked by another (and by myself as well) I still sometimes feel the whispers of insecurity telling me that I need more than what I woke up with.

But in times of cauliflower armcaves, that all feels a bit trite. Not being able to run around the wilderness because I wanted silky armcaves?  I’d rather have unruly armcaves than be debilitated by changing them. I’d rather have a dirty face because of an adventure than a made up one any day. I’d rather be with a man who fell for me naked and I’d rather fall for myself naked because there is so much that is so much more important than how we look. To you, it may seem obvious, maybe something you’ve never even questioned. But after years of protecting myself against ridicule from the outside sometimes I need a reminder that the self is not just what is seen and hopefully it is so much more.

Thankfully, the reminders here are plentiful and the “so much more” is something I will always find more ways to work on out here. The vastness of this place calls attention to what really matters and to how much I have to learn.

From the big to the small.

 

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From harvesting wild plants to make medicines to creating cleaning substitutes when I’ve run out of store bought ones to attempting canning solo for the first time (and stopping pre-seal), this place is afire with learning and perspective and reminders:

A bonfire with friends where everyone is lit by the glow of the flames means no one can tell (or cares) if you’ve dyed your eyebrows but they can tell if you’re happy.

 

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A walk by the riverside where treasures of copper and walking sticks and skulls present themselves to you speaks to the magic I’d miss if focusing elsewhere.

 

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Seeing my first sprouts grow that I was so sure I would mess up.

 

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The reminders are everywhere.

 

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These are the joys that take me out of myself, out of what I used to think important and sometimes still get lost in and transport me towards the person I want to become.

Cheers to the journey.  Dolled up or stripped down it’s all still happening. Let’s try not miss it on account of CauliCaves*.

*No, that’s not the medical term but damned if it’s not the perfect descriptor.