Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Hirsute

It's worth getting out of a Sunday afternoon. January 13, on a clear but bitter cold (for Seattle) day, I took public transportation to get downtown. On my way home, heading to the escalator in the Westlake Station bus tunnel, I passed a couple of guys wearing what at first glance looked like shorts. 

"Brave fashion choice," I thought, "when it's this cold out."

The shorts resembled boxers, but I didn't think much about it until I arrived at the light rail platform, where eight or so  people, both guys and girls, sported bare legs, too. Then it hit me: "Whoa, that's underwear. They're not wearing any pants." Some guys wore boxers, others the silky speedo-style underpants. A couple of girls wore matching purple-and-black tiger striped undies. And so on.

Fumbling for my cellphone camera (who wouldn't?), I continued  to Bay D, where more transit riders were stuffing their pants into backpacks.

What might a person wonder at a time like this? Why?!? In the first place, it made no sense, let alone the fact that it was freezing cold out.

By the time the light rail pulled in, close to two dozen people had gathered, pantless, on the light rail platform, all boarding the train as innocently as if they'd been to Sunday church services. 

(For the "why," visit the Seattle P-I photo story, Seattle's No Pants Light Rail Ride, 2013.), which also also offers a crisper picture of the hirsute man pictured here.)

Maybe I'm especially sensitive to hair (do you think?), but one look at the fur on one of the men's legs (pictured at left) made me consider how similar the word "hirsute" is to "hair suit." His body must have been five degrees warmer than any other pantless soul out there that afternoon.

Of course, "hair suit" is not the official origin of hirsute. Merriam-Webster attributes the origin of the word to "Latin hirsutus; akin to Latin horrēre to bristle -- more at HORROR. First Known Use: 1621."

Bristle. Of course, like hair standing on end in fright, or anger. But it strikes me that's not entirely fair. In fact, the cultural prejudice against body hair is getting out of hand. It used to be mainly women who devoted time and energy to body hair removal, but now the guys are getting in on the act, too. And not just in America. Apparently men in India, for whom body hair used to separate the men from the boys, are getting into the act, (Economic Times) which means sales are up for Philips Norelco.

Really? Is this necessary? For a more (ahem) medical perspective, Emily Gibson's column about pubic and body hair in the UK Guardian can be found here.

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