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bodyhair, my daughters and me

(14 Posts)
rapunzelsoldaunt Wed 28-Sep-11 23:29:46

So not sure if this is the right place to post, but feel it's a bit of a feminist issue as so many people have a real hang up about bodyhair.

Bit of background info- i have a lot of body hair, all over, arms, legs, tummy, face, neck, nether regions etc. it's mostly light blond but there is a lot of it. i got mercilessly teased at school fo it, my personal low was being called 'the bearded lady' for about 6months at school. mmm.. kids can be so cruel.

It has been commented on by strangers my whole life, and mostly not nice comments but, funnily enough, when i worked in new york i had lots of people come up to me and say how much they liked it, and that they thought it was great that i didnt remove it (not for want of trying i must add!) as in america everyone goes 'body hairless' apparently. These comments did help me with my self image for a time. And also in greece it is still not uncommon to see young and old beautiful women with unshaved legs etc, so I do know that it is a cultural thing that in the west/ britain, we expect women to be hairless.

Any way, i have come to live with it, if not totally love it, it is part of me and not something i can do much about, hair removal just doesn work, i would literally have to wax from head to toe! I shave my legs but thats about all i can cope with. I used to spend hours and hours plucking, shaving, waxing, and still feeling totally self conscious and freakish. It has and continues to be a source of embarisment for me, when i catch someone trying not to look at my chin for instance. It has had a detrimental affect on my self confidence, and sexual confidence.

i have two dd's who, poor loves, have inherited mummy's hairyness. They are still only 6 and 7 but are starting to become interested in the 'wider world' of tv and magazines and fashion etc.
I am just really worried about them getting into the same state i did as a teenager and into adulthood. Especially in this modern world, of celebrity, and air briushing, and the modern obsession with everything image based.

how can i give my girls the confidence to be ok with what they were born with, how to deal with the inevitable bullys and comments.
Just feeling so sad at the thought that they, my fabulous gorgous girls will have to deal with what i had to endure and more.

thanks for reading this far!
x rapunzel x

cecilyparsley Thu 29-Sep-11 01:47:17

Hi Rapunzelsmile
Perhaps the best way with your daughters is to lead by example, you cant completely shield them from cultural expectations, fashion etc, but you can show them them that you are totally cool about the fact that women have body hair.

I'm sorry to hear that you had to struggle with it so much when you were younger.
Just wondering if your mum helped or hindered at the time?
Not meaning to be critical of your mum...just thinking that you may get some insights by considering what sort of approach would have helped you when you were younger.

rapunzelsoldaunt Thu 29-Sep-11 07:19:08

Hi cecily thanks for your reply. i do try to explain to dd's, when they see  Me shaving my legs , that its just something some women like to do, not everyone does it, but mummy likes rhe smooth feeling etc.  my mums way of dealing with it wasnt brill. she is a bit of an old school greenham common feminist. her way was to say fuck it, dont conform, dont shave, dont  pander to mens expectation of women eyc. which on paper is ok, but she never offered any coaping stratergies, either practical ie, how to remove hair etc as she didnt believe in it. though she didnt have a hair prob her self, i inherited it from my dad. or ways of coaping emotionally with the way others felt about it and the bullying. she was and still is quite a tough old cookie, quite an angry feminist.  got to go will think on and come back later x

cecilyparsley Thu 29-Sep-11 17:31:07

I can see that your mums militant approach left you with out coping strategies, mind you I'd imagine that having an angry feminist for a mum is a big dose of consciousness raising!!
At least some advantages over the run of the mill mumsy mum?

My mum was all high heels and push up bra's, I loathe and detest high heels and cant abide uncomfy underwear. My daughter (in her 20's) loves high heels & push up bra's.
I just dunno really confused confused

TeiTetua Thu 29-Sep-11 18:17:04

Aye lass, there's nobbut three generations 'tween clogs and clogs.

SnapesMistress Thu 29-Sep-11 19:22:24

On a related point, I am quite hairy and spend a great deal of time waxing and plucking my face. The hairs are not like a beard but more copious whiskers, similar to eyebrow hairs. I am currently in teacher training and think I must be really strict with my hair removal or risk becoming an object of ridicule to the kids. I know that they will pick up on anything from a teacher and feel quite sad about it.

rapunzelsoldaunt Thu 29-Sep-11 19:41:16

Oh love the clog idea! So can comiserate snape re being a whiskery teacher, have worked in schools on and off for 10 yrs and was very aware of how kids can be. I dont have a beard eather! Just lots of fine longish hair, and because of plucking some are tougher, its a viscious cycle... The more hair you have. The more you pluck it. so the more hair you get .. think the idea that if you keep waxing it will eventuually give up and stop growing only works for those lucky ones who dont have thick or lots of hair, mine just keeps on coming back no matter how hard i work at eradicating it. You know when people ask what would you do if you won the lotttery , well i'd book myself into a lively french lazer clinic for a year and just zap it all away.... But even that probably wouldnt work! sad

rapunzelsoldaunt Thu 29-Sep-11 19:43:23

Wups! Meant lovely not lively! Tho that might be more fun smile

mathanxiety Sat 01-Oct-11 23:25:57

Your mum sounds a bit like mine. I would have liked her to seem a bit more comfortable with me being a lemming when it came to personal grooming of all kinds -- she had a soap and water and no makeup, just moisturiser, approach, but took great care of her hands and nails, which always looked lovely. I inherited Dennis Healey style eyebrows from my dad's side of the family, and definitely had more body hair than she did (she had exactly none), and could have done with tips on makeup but she was pretty dead set against it so I looked very amateurish when I started out with it in my late teens. I plucked my eyebrows from an early age; mum noticed when I had been at it for years and said 'MA you have such lovely eyebrows and I hope you'll never pluck them or do anything to their shape' or words to that effect. Laughed long and hard at that one.

Though I also think there is more pressure nowadays to have hairless legs and pits (and of course the whole Brazilian thing) than there was when I was a teen and younger woman. I don't remember anyone at school bothering with shaved legs, and that would have been the late 70s and early 80s. However, not everyone had central heating in Ireland in those days and legs were more often than not covered up. Even school was a bit cold.

With my own DDs I have done things differently from my own mum and I hope I haven't swung the pendulum too far in the opposite direction. DD1 got a present of a nice Bobbi Brown book, 'Teenage Beauty', when she was about 13, and I thought it was useful for her to see a positive spin on makeup and a positive message about diet and sensible sleep. More importantly, I think it was a good thing to acknowledge that DD1 wasn't a little girl any more. I felt I needed to acknowledge the cultural context of the DDs' lives more than my mum was willing to because to do so was also to give them permission to express in their own culture (right or wrong though it might be) what it means to start inching towards maturity, including sexual maturity. I don't think there's anything to be gained from either pushing girls or boys too fast or holding them back if they want to move faster and the important thing is to keep the conversation going and not end up pitching fits at each other about things that you might not think of as all that important years later, like nail polish or eye shadow.

falasportugues Sun 02-Oct-11 14:29:56

math angst i love your post. i wish op the best of luck with arming her daughters with strategies for dealing with peer pressure. openly discussing, and trying out arguments at home are empowering. as is the aknowledement of the current culture whether it is correct or not. good luck.

Himalaya Sun 02-Oct-11 17:04:49

Mathanxiety - I read your comment about lack of central heating when you were growing up, and I thought you were commenting on the insulating properties of leg hair grin

mathanxiety Sun 02-Oct-11 18:11:05

Himalaya -- when you're that cold you'll try anything grin. I remember wearing dad's wooly socks, a sleeping bag, big mohair jumper and fingerless mittens while doing my homework in my bedroom <brrrrrr>

Falasportugues -- I think a bit of personal confidence goes a long way towards helping a teen deal with peer pressure in areas where peer pressure can end in tears like underage drinking in the park or getting involved in drugs or ill-advised sex, so I have gone with the flow in some areas and picked my battles carefully. If wearing a bit of makeup, straightening her nice curly hair and wearing painted on jeans makes a spotty 13 yo feel she is looking good and not the butt of her peers' scorn then that's fine with me.

I make them all do chores and they all have to play a sport or take part in music/drama too. I think you meet other teens who are motivated and going somewhere with their lives in those areas. Luckily, their schools have good extracurriculars. Of course, there's a good deal of crossing my fingers and hoping they're going to make it out the other end in one piece, and some biting of my tongue about their choice of friends in some cases. DD1 in particular hung out with a pretty fast crowd but we still managed to muddle through.

I try not to make it all about how they look, which can happen if you focus on forbidding makeup or shaving just as much as if you let them do anything they want.

WishIwereAtTheWiesnProst Sun 02-Oct-11 18:52:07

OP, I have PCOS and it has left me on the reletavely hirsute side only with dark hair sad

I feel more comfortable with dealing with the problem and I do wax/trim/pluck. Women are less hairy in the face than men generally so while I sympathize with the idea that many people feel we shouldn't wax things like legs, fanjo etc because the hair there is totally natural- the facial hair thing isn't totally. And it isn't just social conditioning that makes us think women should have less hairy faces it's just nature.

Anyway I'm waffling but my point is, teach your daughters that they don't have to change for anyone... but if they feel they are going to have horrible damaged self esteem for something that can be rectified and they show you they would like to do something about it I think you should. If they start waxing their legs while they are still young it may mean that they don't need to shave constantly as adults and have much finer hair.

You can find home reciepies for sugaring which is much less painful and cheaper than waxing as well as totally naural.Basically lemon, sugar and honey.

It's all fine and dandy for people like your mum or other women saying women shouldn't conform... they almost always don't have a tash. Boys can also suffer from hirsuitism but lucky for them they won't be mocked for shaving their faces.

On that note anyone ever notice the pics of women in the 60's burning their bras? You never saw any dd-cuppers burning theirs did you??

FrozenNorthPole Sun 02-Oct-11 21:40:31

I am a decidedly hairy person and it looks like my 2 DDs have inherited it from me. I too am unsure as to the best way of handling it, so will keep an eye on this thread.
One of my very first memories of primary school is being mocked for having hairy legs. I got to high school and my mum forbade me to shave my legs (she surmised, possibly accurately, that I would cut them to shreds ... and she's a very risk averse person). After three years of explicit bullying about my physical appearance, of which the unshaved legs and monobrow were notable parts, mum finally agreed that something could be done. So one weekend afternoon I stood on a chair in the middle of the kitchen and she shaved them, using an electric razor, for me. It was very embarrassing, but the end result was worth it. I felt ... a bit more normal. I was still never allowed to wax my facial hair until I left home (I was nearly 19). 'Til then I bleached it (ah, Jolene ... always makes me think of Dolly Parton). God know what I looked like - brunette with luxurious blonde moustache grin
It has taken perhaps ten years for me to shake the feeling that most people around me judge me negatively on the basis of my appearance. Possibly some of them do, but I no longer care. I spent most of my teens and early twenties making some pretty shitty relationship decisions and consumed by an overwhelming sense of my physical inferiority.
So, how to deal with these issues when they come up? All I know is that if either of my daughters wants to talk to me about changing her appearance in any way, I will fight back the urge to tell her that she's perfect and doesn't need to follow others (my own mum never told me this). I will listen to her reasons and try to come to a conclusion that truly IS in her best interests. Obviously that won't please them all the time, but I think positions of flexibility and compromise on this kind of sensitive problem are generally possible and desirable.
Sorry, have written a novel blush

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