I first realized that I had hair on my arms during a field trip to the Vancouver Aquarium, in Grade 11, when the tidal pool supervisor put a starfish on my arm.
“We’ll use you and your hairy arms” the woman said, and while I looked around for the person with hairy arms, she slipped the starfish onto me and began to explain the natural adaptations starfish have to grasp and climb onto things like rocks — and hairy arms.
There’s nothing like being the centre of attention, especially when that centre involves body hair, a starfish and a bunch of teenagers watching you as a complete stranger places and then tries to extricate a sea creature from your arm. To say that that this educational odyssey was unexpected would be an understatement. Of course I let out a yelp and as soon as that noise passed my lips I knew I was in danger of being labelled with a stupid nickname for the rest of my school days.
In retrospect, I could have easily been named “Starfish” for the rest of my life had it not have been for Mitzi, the girl who earlier that day screamed and pointed out that one of the Belugas had a very noticeable purple erection. High school, unlike real life, always has a way to blame the people who see things first.
After the aquarium incident, I became sensitive about my arm hair. It’s not like I was a gorilla or someone who looked like he had a bathroom mat on his back. In fact, save for my arms, I was pretty hairless compared to most guys. Still, I felt I was somehow false advertising my masculinity, a masculinity I associated with my father, older uncles and men who wore short sleeves shirts accessorized with gold chains and clunky rings. Like a young girl with big breasts, I didn’t feel ready.
At some point, after years of accidentally grazing my arms up against other men’s arms on public transit and other modes of travel, I started to realize that my arm hair had developed into a turn-on for the simple reason that I could have contact with other men without turning into a creepy ass pincher. All it would take was a gentle rub, a graze really, with another man’s arm and it would feel as if all my follicles were smiling.
Arm rests became my best friend.
My arm hair eroticism culminated this past month on a airplane flight where my seat mate and I both chose, unbeknownst to one another, to watch the bromance flick “I Love You, Man.” I found myself trying not to graze up against his arm as the characters in the film grappled with the meaning of man-on-man friendship. This was almost too much for me and my little arm hairs to take.
Every so often one of us would laugh and move our arms around so that, inevitably, our arms would graze each other and I worried about the very real danger of popping a very public erection, kind of like that beluga at the aquarium. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look around for Mitzi seated in the seats around me, looking for revenge. And each time the flight attendants walked by with those rickety carts, I half expected them to place a starfish onto me as well. Anyway, to the passenger beside me, I love you man, and your hairy arms too.