Over the years, many thoughtful people have advised me that I write too many columns about tasteless and offensive topics such as cow flatulence and Phyllis Schlafly. That is why today, in an effort to "turn over a new leaf," I have selected a wholesome topic that the entire family can enjoy: tennis.

This topic was suggested by Sue Ann Quinn of Beaumont, Texas, who describes herself as a "tennis nut." Sue Ann writes in to ask:"Was Monica Seles unshaven at the French Open? I swear I saw hair sticking out from her armpits. I'm still trying to sort out WHY this would offend me. I mean, I label myself as a liberal . . . I shave certain body parts because most other women in the United States shave these body parts. But why does anyone shave? And why do they shave certain areas of their body rather than others? And who started shaving first, men or women? When, where and why?"

Sue Ann, I'm sure these same questions have occurred to many of us, usually as a result of failing to take our medication. Why DO we shave? It doesn't seem like a natural activity. There are no examples of shaving in nature. The only creature that comes close is the male South Pacific Groping Beetle, which sometimes, just before mating, will slap on a little Aqua Velva. But we think this resulted from atomic testing.

So we have to conclude that Mother Nature never intended us to shave. On the other hand, Mother Nature is not exactly a rocket scientist. Of all the places on the human body where she could grow hair, for some reason she selected the armpit. This makes no sense. An armpit is the LAST place that needs to be kept warm. You hardly ever hear anybody say: "Boy! My armpits are COLD!" In fact, armpits are such an abundant natural source of warmth that leading ecology-conscious fast-food restaurants are now using them to heat specialty sandwiches. ("Yo Tony! Stick two more Cordon Bleu Burgers under there!")

But getting back to Sue Ann's questions:

Men started shaving in prehistoric times. What happened was, some men were sitting around, watching a prehistoric, pre-ball version of baseball, which consisted of nine men standing on a field and scratching themselves. During a break in the action, humanity's first commercial occurred when a man named "Gillette" got up and showed the other men that if they scraped a sharpened stone across their beards, they could tear out chunks of hair and flesh. This seemed pretty masculine to everybody, so all the men purchased sharpened stones, which immediately became obsolete when Gillette introduced a startling new shaving advance: two sharpened stones.

Since then there have been thousands of startling shaving advances for men. One day soon the Gillette company will announce the development of a razor that, thanks to a computer microchip, can actually travel ahead in time and shave beard hairs that don't even exist yet. Men will buy this razor. Men can get into shaving, because it reminds them of what stud hombres they are, having to tame their manliness on a regular basis. "I have to shave!" men will announce, semi-proudly, in public.

Women, on the other hand, tend to shave in secret. I was in college before I found out that women could even GROW leg hair. This is because the shaving and pantyhose industries have spent millions of dollars convincing American society that female body hair is somehow unnatural, so that a REAL woman has smooth, silky legs and armpits, with the ultimate example of vibrant womanhood being: Barbie. (Years ago, Mattel did come out with a "Stubble Barbie" model, but it was a big bust.) (Of course ALL Barbies have big busts, but that is not my point.) (As far as I know.)

So basically women shave for the same reason that they wear makeup and walk around in shoes designed by Nazi medical researchers. They've been brainwashed into believing that if they don't shave, other women will snicker at them, and the only males who will be attracted to them will be members of the gorilla and tarantula families. This is nonsense. There are many cultures in which women do not shave their legs OR their armpits, and, speaking as a man, let me say that I find many of these women to be exceedingly attractive, under certain lighting conditions.

The point, Sue Ann, is that you don't HAVE to shave. And neither do you men out there. There are many examples of successful, respected men with beards, such as Abraham Lincoln, Kenny Rogers and Richard Nixon after about 10:30 a.m. A person's value has nothing to do with that person's bodily hair. That is the wonderful thing about this great sport we call tennis.