I realize that my answers to these questions could shape my daughter’s entire attitude toward her own body and self-image because I am, essentially, her living role model.
I knew the day would come. The dreaded moment when my daughter would question the things I do in the bathroom, in front of the mirror, or in the shower.
And so it came. While I was showering, shaving my legs. My 4-year-old was in the bath next to me, looking through the glass door curiously.
“Mama, why are you shaving your legs?”
Ummm…what do I say???
I want my daughter to be confident. I want her to love her body. I want to be a trident example to her as a woman who is strong and sure of herself. But how do I explain to her why I do something to my body in order to look or feel a certain way?
Hairless legs have been an issue for me since I was about 10 or 11. I was always a pretty hairy girl and I know there are hairy girls out there who can relate to me full throttle. I was given permission to shave my legs when I asked and I remember loving the new smooth legs I had after it was done.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to get rid of the dark, coarse hair on my legs, underarms, and various other regions. It just felt like that was what I was supposed to do. Maybe it was TV. Maybe it was magazines. Other girls I knew did it. And other girls I knew didn’t have hairy legs or else they had soft blonde hair on their legs that was almost invisible to the eye. I was sooo jealous of those girls.
I want to raise my daughter in a world where no one will care of she has hairy legs or not—but we don’t live in that world. I’ve known girls who were teased at school for having hairy legs at an early age. I don’t want that to happen to my daughter. But I also don’t want her to think she has to get rid of something that naturally occurs on her body.
And when I, myself, am shaving my own legs right in front of her, it becomes a conundrum.
So when my daughter watched me in the shower and asked me what seems like a simple enough question, I had no good answer. I simply said, “Oh, mama is using the razor on her legs right now, but the razor is just for grown-ups, sweetie.”
Massive fumble, I thought to myself.
I know I need to come up with a better answer than that and time is running out on this one. Possible answers I’ve thought of could be mama has very hairy legs and it gets itchy so I shave the hair off, or simply, mama doesn’t like the hair on her legs. But why do I do it? My husband keeps telling me he doesn’t care. So it’s my issue, obviously.
I tried waxing the hair off my legs when I was about 12 and that was so painful I never did it again. I tried countless drugstore products where you put a cream on your legs and it feels like your skin is crawling and about to burn off. Awful. I even tried growing all the hair out once but I honestly felt like a gorilla. So I just shaved.
Maybe my daughter will have hairy legs like me. Maybe she won’t. Maybe she won’t care either way. Perhaps she’ll be braver than I was about leg hair. Until then, I’ll continue to think of more productive answers to questions that are sure to come such as, “Mama, why do you wear makeup?” or “Why do you color your hair?”
I realize that my answers to these questions could shape my daughter’s entire attitude toward her own body and self-image because I am, essentially, her living role model. She copies everything I do.
The innocent, curious questions sneak up on you when you least expect it. Questions about things we often don’t even think twice about. Why do we do these things? Vanity? Comfort? Habit?
My saving grace is knowing there are other parents out there getting the same questions and possibly struggling with their own answers.
Michelle Zunter is an artist, writer, and blogger at The Pondering Nook. She is also a mom, stepmom, and wife. You can catch more of Michelle’s blogs and articles about parenting, step-parenting, relationships, marriage plus much more at The Pondering Nook, Step-parent Magazine, The Huffington Post, and PairedLife.