by NINA FUNNELL
“That’s, like, disgusting!” croons one teenage boy.
“Ewww. Gross!” rejoins another, screwing up his face.
“I just don’t get it. Why don’t they, like, shave their pits?” enquires a third.
It’s a Friday night. I’m at a friend’s family function and the house has been divided in two. In the back half of the house, the adults are eating canapés and getting suitably sloshed. Meanwhile the kids and teens are in the front half of the house eating cheesy-macaroni and watching the Olympics. When I join them, I find them deep in discussion, debating one of life’s hairier little subjects: fury underarms.
Only it’s not women’s underarm hair they’re interested in. The kids are watching the men’s trampolining event. As each athlete’s name is called, the competitor steps forward, raises his arm to salute the crowd, and- much to the horror or relief of the kids I’m with – reveals his underarm-muff status.
One competitor has no sign of underarm hair. The teen boys nod approvingly. Another has shaved his underarms but has a tuft of chest hair sticking out the neck hole of his uniform. The boys comment that he should have shaved that off too.
Then one competitor raises his arm to reveal a thick slick of licorice black hair proudly displayed for all to see. The kids go positively mental. Or at least the boys do. The girls seem quite content to just watch the gymnastics.
Meanwhile I’m wondering how on earth these boys have gotten through life without ever seeing their dad’s underarms. And when did boys become so anxious about body hair anyway?
Before I go on I should clarify that not all teen boys would have had the same reaction. I’m sure that plenty wouldn’t bat an eyelid. But more and more I am beginning to notice a bizarre and somewhat disturbing trend with the teen boys I work with.
Recently I was invited to speak at a prestigious co-ed private school. I was there to present to the students on media literacy, photoshopping and body image. Because there were boys in the audience, I decided to throw in a bunch of slides showing how men’s bodies are also being photoshopped– often to give them bigger guns and firmer abs.
I showed them how magazines like Men’s Fitness artificially alter the guns of top athletes like tennis player Andy Roddick. I pointed out how hypocritical it is for them to run articles like “How to build big arms” next to a picture of a man with fake massive arms. I also showed them how easy it is for magazine editors (or anyone, really) to give a celebrity someone-else’s body.
This gallery gives you an idea of the extreme photoshopping that happens on mens’ bodies as well as women’s. (NB: Post continues below the gallery)