Kids notice everything. I know that probably sounds obvious to you. But when I first became a parent, living with a tiny “noticer” took me by surprise. I hadn’t expected that having a child meant living with a miniature commentator who would notice, and comment on, everything and anything, especially my physical appearance.
It took me a while, but I got used to showering with my son as an audience. And I surrendered to never again peeing in private. I even became quite adept at answering the various questions about the differences in men’s and women’s bodies that came my way whenever I did shower or pee. But when I had my second child, a girl, I couldn’t get used to the fact that she was going to look at me as her physical role model. The way I looked would define her idea of normal. It’s a big responsibility. One that I didn’t, and don’t, take lightly.
So one day, before a family holiday, I asked a friend for a referral for a really good waxing salon. I’m a big fan of keeping things tidy and trim down there, but have never gone further. I don’t need to look like a 10-year-old from the waist down. I just want to avoid being embarrassed by strays playing peek-a-pube through my bikini. But the woman my friend referred me to turned out to have a different idea of what keeping things tidy and trim meant. Getting waxed by her felt more intimate than a pap smear. She took her work seriously and saw every millimetre of pubic hair as her own personal canvas. I left horrified. She left me with next to nothing. It was as though my vagina had been scalped. I wondered how to explain to my kids knowing full well that the likelihood of me getting to shower or pee alone was slim to none. I am a mum, after all.
So the next day my then 3-year-old daughter saw me in the shower and yelled, “Mummy, something happened to your penis!” I laughed it off and tried to distract her, but I knew what she was talking about. My hair down there was all but gone, while just yesterday it had been there. I suddenly felt exposed and slightly embarrassed. Because truth be told, I didn’t know how to explain my now neatly, well-manicured, and barely-there hair.
I thought about it for a while and then decided I’d probably not revisit that very aggressive waxician. How do I explain to a young kid that a lot of women feel sexier after a wax and some people even think it’s cleaner? And while getting a wax is a minor augmentation or alteration to a woman’s body, it’s the beginning of a conversation about why women alter their bodies and why we sometimes feel like we have to. My daughter is just too young to handle those conversations. Quite frankly, so am I.
Because truthfully, for as long as I can, I want my daughter to be unaware that she won’t always think her body is perfect. Whether it be her weight, her hair colour, the shape of her eyebrows, the size of her breasts, or the hair down there, eventually my daughter will want to change some part of what she’s born with. And if I can avoid her being aware of that reality for as long as possible, I’m going to. Because when my daughter eventually asks, “Why do women change their bodies?” I won’t have any answer except, “Because we think it will make us happier.”
A bikini wax is a minor alteration to an otherwise natural body, but I don’t know how to explain to a child that there will be many times when she’ll want to make changes to her own body, based on trends or peer pressure or whatever. It’s probably horrifying enough for little kids to know that their bodies will someday change. It’s probably even scarier to know that some of those changes will be dictated by fickle trends.
So while I’m perfectly content getting a regular bikini wax, I’m not going to get a Brazilian. At least not while I have young kids in the house. Since I’m not really comfortable explaining why women alter their bodies, I’m simply not going to explain it. Plus, Brazilian waxes really hurt! Take my word for it.