Many moons ago, long before I or the collective conscience of Pinterest had embraced body acceptance, I had deep insecurities about my body hair. From my dear father, I inherited an abundance of wit and highly productive hair follicles. From its unwelcome initial emergence, to the quantity and location, the dark tendrils confounded me throughout adolescence and young adult life. “I would have slayed in the Paleolithic Era,” I brooded — a simpler time when regulating body temperature was fashionable.
Since la prehistoria wasn’t in the cards, at the very least I could have realized early on that social constructs about appearance don’t always hold weight, right? Not so, Wednesday’s child of 1984. On my journey toward this realization, and fresh on the heels of my first big-girl job and credit card, I explored various methods of professional hair removal, including laser treatments and good ole waxing. Because of these experiences, I feel I have hard-won insight to offer my daughter, should she wish to pretend she’s not mammalian.
1. Resilience is so hot right now.
Listen, kid, 1980s hands-off parenting is not en vogue anymore, and no one has ever accused me of being a laid-back parent. We need to level up your psychological resilience however we can. This means that hypothetically you will be minding your own business in sixth-grade band class when Zane Fletcher announces to the room that you have more arm hair than David Grimes. You’ll turn in slow motion, clarinet reed in mouth, eyes imploring Zane to leave you be.
Spoiler alert, my little bird, he’ll just guffaw with the brass section and make Chewbacca sounds in your general direction. Daughter o’ mine, this is an opportunity to make lemonade out of dying inside in front of your peers. Lean on your kindreds and cool-but-responsible adults for support, and find a glittery Chewbacca shirt that speaks to you. Over time and with practice, you might just realize the opinions of yourself and your besties in percussion are of greater value than those of the mean-spirited trombonists of the world.
2. ‘Tis the pubes that bind us.
Given your familial history, your twelfth year will likely feature the unholy fury of puberty hormones. If your story at all resembles mine, your otherwise amazing Silent Generation mother may at this time completely opt out of explaining the finer points of hedge trimming or any other coming-of-age related topics. An informative pamphlet will not mysteriously appear on your pillow.
The resulting bush visibility may leave an opening for gregarious Aunt Gayle to slide into your puberty DMs and gently approach you at the waterpark while you are cold, wet and vulnerable in an arguably too-small swimsuit. She will earnestly offer support and much-needed guidance about shaving your bikini line. Theoretically, daughter, this will be your life’s most ideal opportunity to perfect the art of recoiling one shoulder inward and away from a loved one’s heartfelt touch, avoiding eye contact, and mumbling “yeah-okay…dunno” over and over until the encounter sputters out with a defeated side hug. Don’t bypass the rare opportunity to meaningfully connect with your loved ones by Googling crucial but embarrassing information in peace and privacy.
3. You get what you pay for.
There could be a time, my dear, when you find yourself in an early-20’s conundrum. You have an unruly crotch curtain, but you also have an empty bank account. It may seem an ingenious idea to seek the services of an unlicensed esthetician at the local beauty college. “Turn back!” your cerebrum should — but does not — beg as you confidently glide into the inexpert coven. “One Brazilian please!” you enthusiastically chime to the bored teen with headphones working the front desk. Your naïveté overrides all the clues that this could end poorly.
I’ll cut to the chase, honeybear. This story concludes with a tearful, shaky, and apologetic student cutting ensnared wax strips out of your nether-crevices. The only way you will survive this encounter is pure psychological dissociation. You will emerge a hardened version of your former self who visits the Oklahoma State Board of Cosmetology licensing directory before every future wax appointment. The takeaway: skip a few lattes to pay for the real deal.
4. A plague on both your forearms.
You may, dear one, decide you would like a more permanent solution to hair maintenance by utilizing hyper-excited electrons to obliterate your hair follicles. Might I, however, offer a potential scenario for your consideration? You may feel confident and empowered about your decision and stroll into the medical spa ready for a professional stranger to work their laser magic on your private areas. Once in the treatment room, however, you may discover that your former sorority sister turned successful physician assistant is the individual who will systematically kill the root of your vaginal hair.
Mind you, my boodle-bug, that this sister was not of your offbeat, Jeanine Garofalo-inspired pocket of confidants who helped you limp through the social expectations of Greek life. This person had impossibly perfect triple-barreled hair and was soundly in the faction who served on leadership committees and made top ten freshmen. You will be forced to exchange pleasantries and life updates, namely your messy mid-20s divorce and decision to do something about your unruly vagina hair.
I would love to tell you that the laser journey ends there, but theoretically, sweet daughter, you could have an allergic reaction to the treatments, rendering your forearms and vag-burbs swollen, poxed and gruesome. Maybe – and I’m just spit-balling here – the highly attractive Marine Corps corporal you’ve been e-dating is on leave the one weekend after you decide to acquire aforementioned rash. Your whirlwind romantic getaway to Dallas just turned into 48-hours of faking your period and sweating through unseasonably long sleeves without explanation. Not only did his biceps have that vein thing, dear one, but he also liked Prairie Home Companion. Don’t let society’s ideals about grooming steal your uniformed NPR enthusiast.
5. You’re the Michael Phelps of pain intolerance.
My sweet angel, your Olympic-level discomfort intolerance is comparable only to your grandmother’s, who rates her pain the frowniest face level for a stubbed toe. You literally passed out in front of all your guests and their horrified families at your third birthday party when you fell out of your chair. We paid ER money for the doctor to give us a handout about breath-holding. You pull a fainting goat with every Band-Aid removal, so I’m fairly certain laser-blasting your mons pubis is out of the question.
Should you decide that traditionally uncomfortable methods of hair removal are right for you, I will so be there for it, as will the eight doulas it will require to see you through it.
6. You’re beautiful.
Bush? Beautiful. Bare? Beautiful. Chewbacca? Works on so many levels. As a product of the 80-90’s, I am so on board with how far your generation is moving the needle toward radical body acceptance. You are a collective masterpiece of your flaws and scars and strengths and wild energy.
In the moments you don’t remember that, find evidence and confirmation from people who never forget it. Come to your father or me with anything, and we will teach and answer you as honestly as we can. Nothing is off limits, sweetheart, except for the word penis, which I will never be able to say with a straight face.