Hairy Spiders

My ten year old son shaved his arms yesterday.  For those of you that were around two years ago, this event might remind you of the last time he worried over his hairy arms.  If you weren’t, you might check out that story.  It sets the stage well for this one.

Despite his third grade concern about turning into a “hairy beast”, I was still taken aback yesterday.  He approached me and said, “Hey, mom.  Feel this.”  I rubbed the proffered arm and blinked in shock at the perfect smoothness awaiting me.  He smiled proudly.

“Did you shave your arms?!”  I asked.

“Yep!”

“You really shouldn’t have done that.  Come here,” I said, leading him to our bedroom where Jane and my husband were.

“Daryl shaved his arms,” I said.  His Daddy, never one for any sort of societal conventions or expectations, smiled.  I glared at him.

“Wait,” Jane said, “Did you use my razor?”

“No.  There were three razors in there.  I used the blue one.”

“That one was mine!  You used my razor?!”

“Why did you shave your arms?” I asked.

“Because I looked like a spider!”

“No, you didn’t.  You looked like a normal human.”

“No!  I looked like a hairy spider.”

“People have hair on their arms, Daryl.  Look.  See my arm?” I asked, showing him my arm.

“You people are missing the most important problem here!” Jane interjected. “He. Used. My. Razor!”

“Daryl,” I said.  “You don’t want to shave your arms.  Unless you are wanting to join the swim team, that is.  You have to keep doing it.  It’s a pain.  And the hair will grow back darker.  Please don’t do it again.”

“Is anyone listening?  He used my razor!”

“But it feels so good!  Feel it!”

“Yeah, ok,” I said.  “But you wanna know what it’s going to feel like tomorrow?”

“What?”

I took his hand and walked over to my husband.  I rubbed my son’s hand on his father’s stubbly shaved-the-day-before face.  “Like that.”

“What?!  Why?”

“Because hair grows back, honey.  That’s what hair does.  Jane, keep your razor in your room if you don’t want him using it.”

“Great,” she said.  “Now I’ll never shave again.  Because I won’t think about shaving until I’m already in the shower but then my razor will be in my bedroom.”

The conversation meandered on to Jane’s inconsistent shaving habits.  It was humorous and we all enjoyed the joking around, but I can’t remember the details now.  I guess I was in too much shock to take in much beyond the fact that my son approaching puberty decided his arms were too hairy and took action on it.

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Hair Revisited

I seriously do not remember talking about body hair this much when I was in Middle School. Certainly not with male friends. A different generation. A different time. A different girl. This post recounts another recent conversation Jane had with the two boys, Brad and Chris, who questioned her lack of arm shaving in Hair.

This time, it wasn’t her arms. It was her legs. When she started begging to shave so many years ago, I made the same argument that many moms make: Once you start, you have to keep doing it. You don’t get to stop. And you’ll get tired of it, trust me. Well, I was right on the last point, but dang it if she didn’t prove me wrong on the first point.

During home room, Jane placed her foot on the table so that she could retrieve a piece of paper she had tucked into one of her tall Nike socks. (Remember what I said about a different time? When I was young, the only people who wore tall black socks while wearing shorts were old men who completed the ensemble with sandals. Now, it’s the cool look.)

Anyway, as she extracted the paper, Brad exclaimed, “Oh, man, Jane! You’ve got REALLY hairy legs! You’ve got more hair on your legs than I do!”

“You know, Brad, that’s really not good,” she responded, referring to his apparent lack of manliness. “Seriously though, when you shave it grows back darker and thicker.”

“Uh-huh. Sure it does.”

Jane responded with a dismissive shrug.

Chris asked the inevitable follow-up question to their previous discussion: “I thought you said you shave your legs.”

“I do… On Sundays… Sometimes… If I feel like it… If I’m not being too lazy.” She shrugged again.

The boys continued to harass her, making every attempt to embarrass her or hurt her feelings. At this point, she was laughing so hard that she could barely speak.

“Seriously, guys. I couldn’t care less what you think about my legs. Seriously. I couldn’t. Care. Less.”

To be honest, I’m not sure what I was more proud of: her bold self-confidence or her proper use of “couldn’t care less” over the often-used “could care less.” The perfect mix of father and mother.

Hair

Jane’s Stardusters dance lessons started this week. She danced with a boy named James. The next day, a boy named Brad told her that James had told him that Jane had really hairy arms.

Jane looked dismissively at Brad and plucked at the hairs on her arms. “James is ridiculous. It’s just hair. Everyone has hair on their arms.”

“Why don’t you shave them?” asked Chris, the other boy she hangs out with in her home room.

“Nobody shaves their arms!”

“I thought girls were supposed to,” he said, starting to get a bit apprehensive.

“No! Girls aren’t supposed to shave anything. We just choose to.”

This reminded me of my best friend in middle school who hadn’t started shaving yet. One day, a boy approached her on the playground and asked why she didn’t shave her legs.

Without a bit of hesitation, she shot back, “Why don’t you?!”

The boy was taken aback and hurried away. I was always in awe of her for that. I would have melted in embarrassment and probably cried about it once I got home. I would have done the same thing in Jane’s scenario. But neither Jane nor my friend were the least bit embarrassed.

I thought about telling James’s mom about his comment. Not all girls are as resilient when it comes to these kinds of comments going through the ranks of boys. But, no. I’m fairly certain that that would embarrass Jane.

Some Hairy Beast

One of my children had just completed their shower and was approaching me in another room.

“Mommy, I think I need to start shaving.”
“No you don’t. You are too young.”
“No I’m not! Just look at me! I’m getting so hairy and it’s even worse when I’m dry!”
“Nobody shaves their arms, Daryl, and men don’t shave their legs.”
“WHAT??!! Are you serious?! I’m just supposed to turn into some hairy beast?! I could become a whole new species of animal!”

The concerned child was my eight year old son. I had my back to him when he began speaking. I thought he was referring to an area that he would most likely shave at some point: his face. My natural response was Really? That baby face? You’ve got to be kidding me! So I was more than a bit surprised to turn around and see him, not rubbing his chin, but holding his wet arm up near his face and rubbing the fine blond hairs around.

I don’t think he even heard me ask “Have you seen your father?” He was too busy ranting about his pending metamorphosis into a hairy beast, which actually isn’t that far from reality if he takes after his father. My husband’s chest hair rivals that of Tom Selleck. And his beard, I’m not exaggerating, would put ZZ Top to shame. I just measured it at 18 inches from his chin. Not too long ago, he cut 8 inches to even it out, which was necessary after an encounter with an electric drill removed a chunk of it. He now routinely ties it in a knot to keep it out of his way. And he deftly tucks it under his shirt to eat.

I guess I should assure my son that he will not become a new species of animal, even if he does become a hairy beast. His father already beat him to it.

Please Wait

Near the end of the fifth grade, I received a copy of the Student Handbook for the Middle School. Being a studious child, I read the entire thing – just to make sure I knew the rules. And in that handbook, I learned about the dress code, which stated that all girls are required to wear… bras!

Now, I needed to wear a bra about as much as my second grade brother, but that hardly mattered a bit! Rules are rules, after all. It never occurred to me that the rule might be there simply to allow selective enforcement with girls that needed to be wearing them but were not. I very calmly approached my mother and told her that I needed some bras. She responded that I did not. I confidently presented the handbook and said, “See! See right here! It clearly states that girls are required to wear bras!” With a rather exasperated tone, she reminded me that I didn’t actually need a bra. I responded that it didn’t matter. I was required to wear them and we needed to go get some so I could practice wearing them. She relented.

Some time later, I told her I wanted to shave. She tried to talk me out of it, saying that once you start shaving, you can’t really stop. You’ll have to shave all the time, even if you get tired of it, which you will. Just wait. Wait a little bit longer. Please… I did not.

Girls are always in such a hurry to grow up, to be woman. My mother should count herself lucky. I was in middle school when I asked to shave. My daughter didn’t ask. I caught her in the shower with my shaving gel spread all over her leg. She was in the third grade. Fortunately, she’s a child that responds well to guilt. I caught her in time and explained in a very stern voice that she was not to try that again without getting permission. Sometime in the fourth grade, I gave in and she began to shave. By fifth, she was asking for… and needing… those dang bras.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised. No, I shouldn’t have been surprised during this first week of sixth grade when she sat down next to me on my bed and asked, “Mommy? Why can’t I wear mascara?” I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. I’m not sure a mother is ever really ready for the next step. “Because you are only in the sixth grade.”… “But some of the other girls wear mascara.”… “And others don’t.”… “But why can’t I?”… “Because we haven’t talked about it and I’m not going to make that kind of decision right now. We’ll have to discuss it later.”

That’s what we call a stall tactic. It just delays the inevitable march of time for a bit longer. Because I know that just like my mother’s pleas to wait went unheeded, mine will too. I will eventually give in to this, because really, how can she understand the reason? She won’t understand “because I want you to be my little girl just a little bit longer” until she finds herself in my role. And then, of course, it will be too late.