People have opinions about when to let a girl start shaving her legs. My almost-eleven-year-old daughter casually asked about it earlier this month, and so I did what any normal mother would do: I posted the question on Facebook.
Public Domain Image via Pixabay
I am not very good at Facebook. I have never had so many comments on a thread I started all by myself.
The commenters originated from two camps: the one that already had hairless-legged daughters and the one that remembered the shame of sunlight glinting off their leg hairs as other people pointed and snickered.
I admit that I had not given my daughter's potential leg-shaving a thought. I explained sex when my daughter was four or five. I got her the puberty books around age eight.
We've been through the ear-piercing conversation and the lip gloss conversation, but for some reason body hair just didn't enter the picture. She's actually not very hairy.
Another obstacle hampering my judgment is my inability to remember when I first did anything. I'd have to look at school pictures to figure out when I started wearing mascara or curling my hair.
I have absolutely no idea when I started shaving my legs. I do remember my mother insisting that you couldn't shave without shaving cream (a "fact" I haven't respected since I graduated from high school - I will shave my legs with anything from shower gel to conditioner to bar soap, if I'm desperate).
Did I ever get ridiculed for allowing hair to remain on my legs? Not that I recall. I had bigger fish to fry as I struggled to grow out of my chubby childhood.
What surprised me the most about the Facebook responses: Most of the other moms were teaching their daughters to shave at younger ages than my girl is now. I wouldn't have even thought about it if she hadn't asked.
I'm not even sure if she really wants to shave or if she was just curious regarding my position. I told her about what the other mothers said on Facebook and that I was considering writing this BlogHer post because I still farm her childhood for writing prompts.
"So, does that change when I can start?" she asked. We eyeballed each other. My husband covered his ears because he hates any discussion of grooming.
I realized in that moment of all the things I worry about happening in the next eight years -- driving, smartphones, dating, peer pressure, first love -- I care absolutely nothing about when she starts shaving off body hair.
It's like when she got her ears pierced: I wondered if I should draw lines in the sand and manufacture minimum ages in the name of good parenting, then I remembered how annoying it is when someone makes up rules just to make up rules.
I thought the rule-making-up business comprised the best part of parenting when I was on the receiving end of it, but coming up with rules governing anything but morality and personal safety is a real drag.
"Sure," I said. "I guess you can start this summer, if you want. Just promise me you won't touch a razor until I teach you how to do it. If you slice the back of your knee you'll swear you're bleeding out."
I wonder if this means I'll have to buy shaving cream.
When did you start shaving your legs or armpits, if you do? If you have a girl, when do you think she'll start shaving?
Rita Arens is the author of the young adult novel THE OBVIOUS GAME & the deputy editor of BlogHer.com.
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