Over the weekend I took my seven-year-old son, Holt, to my waxing appointment.
It’s not the first time he’s come with me, but it was the first time he came into the actual waxing room at the back of the salon. I didn’t hesitate when he asked if he could watch. “Of course,” I said. “Actually, you’ll love it! It’s so gross!”
My son is a “stereotypical” seven-year-old boy who loves gross things – burps, farts, watching ants die a slow death – so I knew he’d love to see the hair on the wax strips after it had been ripped off my body. I should mention that, personally, I hate body hair. That day, I was getting my underarms, legs and Brazilian bikini wax. For those of you don’t know, that means I have no hair down there.
So my seven-year-old son watched me get my pubic hairs waxed. But before you think, “What is she thinking? A seven-year-old boy should not see his mother naked let alone watch her vagina getting waxed. He’ll need therapy for life!,” I want to make it clear that it’s not like he was staring at my vagina the entire time like a pint-size gynecologist. Honestly, it really wasn’t a big deal.
I was playing getting waxed up, screaming, “OUCH! OUCH! OUCH” whenever the waxer ripped off a strip of hair, “pretending” it hurt, which made my son giggle. (In reality, I could read a book while getting waxed, that’s how used to it I am.) But after seeing a few wax strips, he got bored and went back to playing video games on his iPad.
It’s not like my son’s never seen me naked before. He sleeps with me in my room on the days he’s not with his father so he sees me change in and out of clothes, and put body lotion on after I get out of the shower. I have no problem with my kids seeing me naked. But I realized that I did now have a problem when it came to discussing body hair with my son. Not because I’m not comfortable talking to my kids about anything and everything, but because, I’ll admit, he’s male.
Because I’m always hairless, and have been for 20 years plus, I’m not sure if he understands that not all women are hairless and that many women do have underarm hair, hair on their legs, and pubic hair. I don’t want my son growing up with a skewed version of women and their body hair, nor for that matter, men and their body hair.
It turns out that having the sex talk is a walk in the park compared to explaining body hair, or lack of body hair, to a seven-year-old boy. Body hair, in itself, is controversial. As I was getting waxed, even I found myself correcting…myself!
“See what women have to do?” I had asked my son after he giggled at one of my purposeful “OUCHES.” I immediately thought, “Well, that’s not true.” First, a number of women don’t get waxed. Likewise, many men do get waxed, or at least shave their backs and pubic hairs. So I found myself having to backtrack.
“Some men get waxed too!” I said to my son. “Some men get their backs waxed.”
“Why?” He asked me. “I don’t have hair on my back.”
“Because you’re just a boy! When you’re bigger, like an adult, you might have hair on your back. Some men don’t like hair on their back,” I responded, adding, “And some women have hair on their legs or underarms and vagina.”
When my son responded, I thought that would be the end of it. But, nope.
“Why did that lady put baby powder on you,” he asked me afterwards. “You’re not a baby.” I was surprised that my son had noticed that my waxer had put baby powder on the areas that were waxed.
“Adults use baby powder too,” I said to my son. “It stops you from sweating. Some men use it too,” I told him.
“Where? I only sweat on my neck!” my son asked. By then, I was sweating literally and figuratively, and profusely.
“But when you get older and grow hair on your penis, you’ll get sweaty,” I said to him, because, well, it’s true. “When you get hair, you’ll get more sweaty.”
“Oh,” he said, again. “So I’ll put it in my underwear?”
“Yup!” I said, cheerily, like this conversation was no big deal. I swear my son was contemplating what I had just told him. Honestly? It was probably the one and only time as a parent, where I found myself wanting to say, “Ask your father!” But I reminded myself that it was 2019. He was asking me these questions, not his father. And why shouldn’t I talk about it?
I know the ‘situation’ of his father’s body, which is almost always shaved. I know they shower together sometimes, so I can only hope that sometimes my ex’s back, chest, and pubic area isn’t shaved all of the time, so that my son will see that men sometimes do have hair ‘down there’ and on their backs, and sometimes they don’t, just like women. But I can’t exactly ask my ex to grow out his body hair so our son can see that men can have hair and that sometimes they shave it off. (Or can I?)
So how does a mother explain to her seven-year-old son that some women have body hair, some don’t, and, likewise, some men do and some don’t? Well, personally, I think you tell them the truth, even if you have to stutter (and sweat) your way through it.
People don’t like talking about body hair because it seems there are two camps and no middle ground. Either you don’t care that you have hair or you do. Celebrities have been both bashed and commended if they’re ‘caught’ photographed with even the tiniest amount of underarm hair. Even as early this year, Halsey was on the cover of Rolling Stones and showing what appears to be minimal underarm stubble, resulting in a lot of backlash, with some commenters saying things like, “You have money. Go spend that money getting waxed,” while others applauded her for being real.
Celebrity women have been shamed for years for having underarm hair. Way back in 1999, Julia Roberts (now notoriously) went to the London premiere of Notting Hill, and “accidentally” showed off her under-arm hair, on the red carpet while waving to fans, which, at the time, “many feminists and women’s rights activists considered as a political message about the pressure to conform to increasingly tight beauty standards to their detriment.” But guess what? Julia Roberts wasn’t making a political statement. At. All. It wasn’t actually a conscious decision, but a “fashion mistake,” she later said. Basically, she didn’t know her underarms would show! She just had…forgotten to shave!
In this article, 18-year-old “Whip My Hair” singer Willow Smith says her celebrity mom Jada Smith “Always’ Gets on Her Case About Her Armpit Hair.” “You always get on me for my underarm hair,” she said on her mom’s radio show, even adding, “Gammy’s always like, ‘Do you want me to trim it for you?’”
My own daughter, however, who is slightly younger than Smith, hates body hair even more than I do. But, if she ever does decide to grow out her underarm hair, I honestly wouldn’t care. In fact, it would save me a ton of money. But that’s beside the point… It still shows women have strong opinions about body hair.
The fact that celebrities are either bashed or commended for showing some stubble – STILL! – means that it hasn’t been talked about enough, or it wouldn’t still be so fascinating.
Yes, I’ll admit, it was an uncomfortable conversation. And I’m rarely, if ever, uncomfortable talking about anything. I think it was more uncomfortable because it was my son asking and not my daughter and I hate myself for saying that, but it’s true. Still, I’m glad we had it.
Pass the baby powder please, because I’m still sweating over it!
Tagged under: bikini wax,talking to kids,The Talk,facial hair,talking about sex with your child,positive body image,having the talk with kids,body positivity,embrace your body,understanding the body,the talk for kids,body shaming,healthy hair,body care,body confidence,waxing,penises