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Tony Parsons Column: Should a lady shave?; Should a lady shave?

THE hairy armpits of Julia Roberts have provoked as many contradictory theories as the assassination of John F Kennedy.

The furry woman flashed her pretty hairy armpits at the premiere of her latest film and the world wondered what had got into her.

Was she making some kind of feminist statement? Or had she simply forgotten to wax to the max? Had her ex-husband got custody of the family razor in their divorce settlement? Or was Julia attempting to show us that, beyond the dazzling movie star smile, there is a real person?

All these theories could reasonably be advanced as the explanation for the undergrowth sprouting from the top of Julia's party dress.But my favourite theory came from our own Kate Winslet, who speculated that Julia was growing her armpit hair for a movie.

"I was asked to grow my underarm hair for my last film," said Kate. "The director felt it would give a much more earthy feel to my part. Maybe Julia is having to grow them for her next film." Maybe, Kate. But it is difficult to imagine exactly what sort of film would require that sort of abundant armpit hair.

A remake of King Kong? Big Foot Gets A Sex Change? The luxuriance of the hair suggests Julia Roberts hadn't forgotten to run a blade over those shaggy pits that morning. She had as much hair in those armpits as the old Captain Birdseye had on his face.

Julia hadn't forgotten to shave. Nurse, the screens - the woman is deliberately growing something in there. My guess is that Julia, the werewolf of Notting Hill, was making a point about beauty and femininity with those hairy armpits.

In The Female Eunuch, the most influential book about women ever written, my pal Germaine Greer devotes an entire chapter to female hair. And I think it is fair to say that Germaine has always argued in favour of a woman's right to be as hairy as an extra in Planet Of The Apes.

"The more clothes women are allowed to take off, the more hair they must take off," writes Germaine. "If they do not feel sufficient revulsion for their body hair themselves, others will direct them to depilate themselves."

Julia Roberts is, of course, the original Pretty Woman. By refusing to shave, wax or pluck, she is saying that she is much more than just a pretty face.

And that's fair enough. As a sex symbol of our age, Roberts has even more pressure on her than the average woman to conform to the stereotype of feminine beauty.

But the heart wants what the heart wants. And a man's reaction to underarm hair on a woman is about the same as a woman's reaction to a beer gut on a man. We don't like it. It might be real but it's ugly.I can understand and even sympathise with the theory that says a woman has a right to choose how she wears her underarm hair. But it is one of those lovely, fair-minded theories that just doesn't work in practice.

Seeing Julia Roberts with underarm hair was like discovering that Grace Kelly farted in the bath or that Raquel Welch had a collection of bogies. Earthiness is not always a virtue.

Julia is free to do what she likes with her body. But I personally think she made a big mistake by flashing those hairy armpits.

With one display of underarm hair, Julia Roberts has done what no celebrity should ever do - she has let a little light in on the magic.

You wouldn't catch Liz Hurley with something unsightly and repulsive clinging to her lovely body.

Apart from Hugh Grant, of course.
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Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 3, 1999
Previous Article:Tony Parsons Column: THE BBC'S SMILING FACE.

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