When my parents got custody of my sister and me, they decided it was time to have The Talk with us, or with my sister, at any rate. She was ten and I was six. There wasn’t much actual talking going on; instead they handed Michele a book called Where Did I Come From? Since it was a book, one of my favorite things in all the world when I was six years old (and I have yet to grow out of my fascination with the printed word), I laid hands on it and read it as well.
So ended my formal education in sexual matters. Everything else, I picked up from school or novels. By the time I was in the fifth grade, I was reading the Clan of the Cave Bear novels, most of which have rather graphic sex scenes. My television watching was severely curtailed as a child, including only “ABC Nightly News with Peter Jennings,” “Highway to Heaven,” and “Murder, She Wrote.” Occasionally “3-2-1 Contact” would make the short list, but it was no guarantee. As strict as my parents were regarding the television, referring to it as either the “idiot box” or the “boob tube,” they did not censor my reading in any way.
By the sixth grade, I was reading the later novels of Robert A. Heinlein, which is probably where a good chunk of my corruption occurred.
But you know, it was pretty much all in good fun. I was one of the nerds throughout my public school career, which meant only that our dirty jokes were a bit more cerebral than those of the jocks. We were still interested in it, but it was more of a side interest than anything else. We had tests to take and vocabulary words to study. We played the card game B.S. at recess and laughed every time those letters were said.
We were still pretty innocent, though by no means entirely pure. We would cuss when there were no parents or teachers or siblings around. There was one girl who was called a “slut” because she had actually French kissed her boyfriend when we were still in the sixth grade. But that was as far as it went.
That was my experience as a so-called “tween” growing up in northern Illinois. By the time I hit high school, it was a whole ‘nother ball of wax, though it was still fairly tame. There were a few kids having sex, but it was by no means the norm. I knew a boy with a fake ID in northern Virginia who would use it to get into bars in Georgetown, and I was shocked by his audacity in breaking the law. We didn’t know anyone who was drinking at home or getting stoned.
That’s not to say it wasn’t happening. It just wasn’t happening on our radar. I’m not that old, folks. I’ll be 30 on my next birthday.
So when I read this article about preteen girls getting bikini waxes, I about went into cardiac arrest. Girls who are eight, nine, or ten years old are being brought into salons by their mothers to have excess hair waxed away.
I have a couple of problems with this new trend. For one thing, we are far too obsessed with physical beauty as a society. We women are taught from a young age that if we’re not pretty, our worth is far less than someone who is beautiful, regardless of our personal character or our intelligence or our integrity. Beautiful people are noticed more, get better jobs, move up the ladder more quickly. By allowing our children to wax away a little excess hair, we’re only furthering this stereotype and reinforcing the notion that she has to be perfect and beautiful because that’s all that matters.
Another issue is the early sexualization of children. What eight-year-old needs a bikini wax? I know our girls are maturing faster than ever before; I was the lucky recipient of my period at the tender age of ten. I am pretty sure I was already shaving my arms and my legs by then, but that’s because I come from Eastern European stock. I was “blessed” with thick, dark, unruly hair that grew quickly and was very noticeable. Fortunately, by the time I hit my 20s, my hair had lightened and thinned. I can now go as long as a week between shaving my legs, though I do get a bit fuzzy.
A bikini wax just seems completely over the top, though. Who is looking that closely at that area of a child’s body anyhow? It’s not like an eight-year-old is going to have the hair growth of a fully developed and mature woman.
Plus now you are feeding into the whole notion that you can only be beautiful if you are willing to endure pain. How many of these girls who are getting bikini waxes at such an early age will end up getting cosmetic surgery later in life as a way to attain the perfect body and face?
And if an eight-year-old does have a lot of hair that needs to be removed, what’s wrong with shaving it off? I have to admit that I have never had anything waxed in my life. I do have a bit of a moustache (thanks again to my Eastern European blood), but I occasionally trim it down using my husband’s beard trimmer. And the only reason I do that is because I use a powder foundation which sometimes gets very caked up in the hair on my upper lip. I tweeze my eyebrows to get rid of my monobrow. Getting ready for swimsuit season simply means making sure my legs and armpits are as hairless as possible by using a razor. If that’s good enough for a 29-year-old housewife, why isn’t it good enough for an eight-year-old third-grader?
Bikini waxes seem far too… sexual for my tastes as well. I’m no prude, but the only people I want near my private area are my husband and me. No stranger without a medical degree belongs anywhere near that area of my child until she is an adult in her own right.
Am I being an overprotective momma, or does this seem to be a right and proper thing to do for one’s daughter?