She may say she doesn’t care if kids make fun of her unshaven legs, but I say no one wants to have other kids sign her yearbook: “Have a great summer, Sasquatch.”
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My 14-year-old daughter and I have the following argument every Sunday night about teen hygiene:
Me: Did you do everything you need to do?
Her: What do you mean?
Me: You know what I mean. The list of things we talked about.
Her: (grumble mutter grumble mutter)
Me: It’s not a big deal. Just basic grooming stuff. We’ve talked about this.
Her: You know, it’s really weird that my father is making a big deal about whether or not I shave my legs and armpits.
Me: I agree. It is weird. Did you do it?
Her: Isn’t it my business whether I shave or not?
Me: Yes. That is, it will be completely and totally your own business and nobody else’s when you’re 18.
Her: So I don’t have any personal freedom until I’m 18? Why 18? What’s so magic about being 18?
Me: It’s the age when all young people transform into wizards. You get your special powers, you graduate from Hogwarts, and you get to start deciding whether you want to engage in personal grooming habits or not. Go shave, please.
Her: You know, here’s a thought. It’s my body. I should get to decide whether I want hair on it or not.
Me: You’re not wrong.
Her: Also? You don’t have to shave your legs, right? Isn’t it COMPLETELY sexist that society doesn’t make you shave your legs because you’re a man? I mean, you’re totally hairy.
Me: Again. You’re not wrong. It is a deeply sexist and unfair double standard. I agree completely.
Her: So then why –
Me: Because I said so and I’m the ultimate galactic overlord in this house until you graduate.
Every. Sunday. Night. Same debate.
Here’s the thing. I’m not lying to her when I say her counterpoints are completely sound. It is her body, it is an unfair double standard, and 18 is an arbitrary invisible line.
And, if I thought for one second that she wanted to go unshaven for political reasons, or to make a social statement, I’d say, “Hell yes, my noble daughter. By all means, take a stand!”
But the real reason she hates shaving is because … Sweet Girl be LAZY. That’s it. That’s all.
I get it. I’m lazy, too. Shaving is a pain. I don’t like doing it myself. I’ve often considered throwing away my razor, letting my beard grow out, maybe cultivating a super-cool, lumberjack-chic, hipster beard that grows down to my Adam’s Apple. Possibly accompanied by a nice handlebar ‘stache. All the kids are doing it. The only real reason I shave my face is because last time I did let my beard grew out, I looked in the mirror and saw Santa Claus staring back at me. So, no.
My only real reason for making her shave her legs and armpits weekly? It has nothing to do with social rules, teen hygiene or grooming etiquette. It’s that teenagers, as a rule, can be mean to each other. Particularly the girl ones. I just don’t want other kids to see her hairy calves and tease her. She’s a tough girl, she may say she doesn’t care if kids make fun of her, but I say no one wants to have other kids sign her yearbook: “Have a great summer, Sasquatch.”
That’s really my only concern.
Is it a fair one? Is it worth a weekly argument about leg shaving? I don’t know.
Out of all issues to care about, and all the battles worth fighting with my daughter, this barely makes the list. And yet I persist. I’ve even put the annoying grooming ritual on her chore list, the weekly completion of which is the key to receiving her allowance.
Friends of mine who have older kids tell me these fun little adolescent issues work themselves out on their own. Boys and girls both start to engage in basic teen hygiene as soon as they start checking out their peers at school and feel that little itch of self-consciousness. Next thing you know there’s shaving, fragrancing, eyebrow shaping, makeup, the works. Once they commit to personal appearance, they go all in. (I remember that. When I was 16, I got paranoid about how I smelled, and started worrying that basic deodorant wasn’t doing the trick. Like most guys my age, I started drenching myself in Drakkar Noir every day before going to school. Sorry, every kid who ever sat next to me in class that year.)
So I may just give up soon and let it go. Until then, I remain the Teen Hygiene and Grooming Enforcer.
I will say this, though, just between you and me: while I will continue to force her to shave her legs, I secretly agree with every complaint she has about it. I don’t like there are certain rules she’s being asked to follow simply because she’s a girl, and our culture has particular beliefs about what’s appropriate for those who carry a double X chromosome. Whether my daughter’s resistance to shaving is due to laziness or personal politics, she should get to do whatever she wants. Writing this article might be my way of deciding to get on board with Team Hairy Legs.
But don’t tell her I said that.