hairy legs

Posted on: March 26th, 2012

My eldest daughter, in grade 3, came home from school the other day with this story. The girl who sits next to her looked at her and said, “Your legs are really hairy. You look like a man. Also, you don’t brush your hair well enough.”

Then my daughter asked me if she could shave her legs. My heart sank.

Grade 3? Already hairy leg-conscious?

I gave her a firm answer: no way.

“But YOU do, Mom!”

“Yes, but I’m older.”

Full disclosure: I don’t shave my legs for most of the winter. I let the hair grow freely. Except if I go swimming. But for most of the spring and summer, I have to allow time for leg shaving in my regimen. I’m really low maintenance (I could probably be accused of not brushing my hair enough), so sometimes this summer routine nearly does me in. I did NOT want my 8 year old daughter to start on this path. She needs a lot of encouragement just to have a shower. I can’t imagine adding shaving.

Why do kids say such stupid things sometimes? Several months ago, a different friend told her that her new haircut looked like a boy’s. “I’d never get my hair cut like THAT,” she said. “You look like a boy. It looks weird.”

The morning after the hairy leg incident, although it was still a balmy 25 degrees Celsius outside, said daughter wanted to wear full-leg leggings with a skirt overtop.

“Aren’t you going to be hot?” I asked, knowing the reason for this wardrobe choice.

“I’ll be fine,” she said.

I dropped her off at school. She hopped out of the car and I rolled down my window.

“Don’t let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn’t do with your body. You’re beautiful. You remember that. You’re beautiful.”

She shyly smiled, then turned and skipped toward the school.

These are the things I wish I could take away from her – others’ expectations of the way she looks, what she becomes, what she wears, and so on. I want her to know her beauty – hairy legs and all.

20 Responses

  1. Lori M. says:

    Okay, first of all, whoever decided that women should spend precious minutes of their day shaving hair off their legs was a REALLY annoying person! Ryan and I were just discussing this yesterday actually! Ha! Somehow, it just doesn’t seem like a priority. I will also disclose that my hairy legs roam freely during the winter months, only to be trimmed if a swimming event transpires. Last Monday when it was SUPER hot, I was struggling with the decision whether I should wear jeans and swelter, or throw on some shorts and let the hairy legs free. I went with the shorts. Probably got some looks in Elmira, but I was cool and carefree.
    I wish the same for your daughters. I don’t know why (women/girls especially) need to focus so much on appearance, etc. It is really sad. Your girls (and you) ARE beautiful and don’t let anybody tell you different.

    • Rebecca says:

      I agree, Lori – beauty is something that I’ve thought a lot about since having daughters – how we as women tend to define ourselves by it… not always, but it’s there. Thank you for your wonderful encouragement. You are beautiful too!

  2. Anonymous says:

    As a woman who almost never participates in hair removal, I was cut deep thinking of your daughter being put in the position to feel uncomfortable about her hair growth at such a young age. I too have baby girls and have wondered about when this topic would arise, because the sad thing is that it IS an issue. In principle (and not just laziness or better-things-to-do-with-my-time/money) I do not want to remove my body hair… but sometimes I do. During summer months it is actually a daily decision to choose to leave the hair where it belongs. I get looks occasionally (or I think I do). I feel pressure. Sometimes I cave. Especially in a professional setting. At 33 I am still not always confident enough to ignore the role I’m told to play. I know all of the reasons I should shut out all of those negative comments (hair is dirty, hair is masculine, dark hair is even worse), but sometimes they get the better of me… and then I am ashamed of that fact.
    My mother was an Esthetician; she removed hair for a living. So maybe for me the issue is even deeper as it is also connected to what my mother thinks I should look like.
    A struggle for me is to raise my daughters with confidence and believe they are beautiful, without caring whether or not they are beautiful, Ha!

    • Rebecca says:

      I know what you mean about caving. And the struggle that you speak of at the end – that’s me too. What a perplexing thing – to think you’re beautiful without caring about beauty. That’s what I want for my girls too.

  3. A few good things here: 1. Your daughter is talking to you about things that have happened when you’re not there. 2. You’re therefore able to respond with a different perspective than the one her friend is offering.

    • Rebecca says:

      I agree, Carrie – I’m glad she can talk to me about these things. And this story has a good ending – the next day (after the long leggings day), she decided to wear shorts and had an “I don’t care about what others say, I’m wearing shorts” kind of attitude. I was grateful.

  4. kristen b. says:

    while this was a hard thing for your daughter to hear from a peer, what a great opportunity for her to hear her mom tell her she’s beautiful and to realize she can make choices about her body on her own terms. shaving is such a weird thing. i’ve struggled with this since university (before then i just did it without giving it a thought). who am i shaving for? why does it make me feel “clean” – who put that into my head anyway? if i love growing it out in the winter months, why can’t i also love it in the summer? some things to think about…

    • Rebecca says:

      I agree, Kristen – and I need to remember to tell my girls this – that they’re beautiful – even/especially?? when their hair isn’t brushed and they’re not all decked out. And to encourage that inner beauty to shine.

  5. Pam P says:

    Loved what you said to your daughter! I’m writing it out and putting it on my fridge, not just for Danielle, but for me too! Thank you!

  6. Shauna says:

    I feel so angry when I hear this comment. The fact that said daughter shared this conversation with you is so very important. My hope is that my kids will do the same. Kids can say such mean things sometimes. I wonder why this girl felt the need to say this? How does she feel about herself? Why does she need to put others down? Hair/No Hair – an ongoing struggle for me. M saw me shaving my legs prior to swimming and asked why? I was not sure how to answer. I remember in University, choosing to not shave my legs, thinking that future generations may feel able to choose for themselves. Later I started to shave again. I do like that I have the choice though. Shaved legs feel so smooth and I find a sense of freedom just letting it grow too. I would think that if a man wanted to shave his legs, he might have similar pressures to keep his legs hairy.

    “Don’t let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn’t do with your body. Your Beautiful!” Love. I feel your pain, wish, hopes, and fears. Thanks for sharing.

    • Rebecca says:

      Shauna – I have the same thoughts about shaving/not shaving. So silly, but it illustrates larger questions – like you mentioned – about having the choice to look/feel a certain way. And then choosing it, not because it’s expected of you by others, but because you want it.

  7. michelle gd says:

    oh, the pressures on people in general, but especially the young ones…it just breaks my heart. what’s a parent to do…except what you did, rebecca…remind them time and time again of their beauty. drill it into them. (in a good way, of course!)

    • Rebecca says:

      Michelle – these are the kinds of happenings that make me wish I was homeschooling like you are! yes – drill the things into those little minds that we want to stick (and hope that all the junk that gets in there from others and from me just slips away).

  8. Catherine says:

    I have had very similar experiences with my almost 10 year old daughter. Part of me just wants to wrap her up and protect her from every hurtful and judging person out there. The other part of me wants to give her “friends” a talking to. You did a good thing. Reinforcing her independent mind and reminding her that she is beautiful on her terms.

  9. Beth says:

    I too have this ferocious instinct to protect when these types of comments are made to my girls. How we long for our daughters to know their own beauty…to love their true selves. I love your parting words to her as she skipped off to school in her leggings. Grounded in that spirit…she’ll be just fine. My soul mates and I enjoy a hot-tub night from time to time…our mantra is “The Hairier the Better!”

    • Rebecca says:

      I love your hot-tub mantra, Beth! I would fit in well there. :) Yes- that’s exactly what I want for my daughter – to know her own beauty.

  10. rachel says:

    Oh Rebecca. I haven’t got this out of my mind all week long. It has haunted me. I have even shed a tear about it in the car. I think I feel so impacted by this because if I was in grade 3, I would think that Zoe was the most beautiful person in the class, and that if I was in grade 3 and could choose a friend it would be her! I wish I could take Zoe aside too, and let her know this! She has a unique style that I just love. I guess I feel haunted by this too, because my daughter often talks about being pretty, and how clothes can make a person pretty or not. I always tell her what my mom always said to me…. You are always beautiful if you have a smile on your face. That’s all you need.
    I feel happy that Zoe could talk to you about it, and that I’m sure she heard your words. (even if she didn’t show it)
    Makes for some good conversation with the girls for sure about what’s important.

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