Getting clear on how you were parented in regard to your body will help you see whether you’re parenting from habit or from your highest, most conscious choice. In turn your daughter’s inner voice will be able to come through clearly for her, without the static that comes from confusion. Beliefs change over generations. Separating your own inner voice from what your parents and society taught you will be an enlightening, liberating experience. How autonomous were you, as a growing girl?
One summer day when I was 12 I was strolling through the park to my best friend’s house. I bravely stopped to chat with some older boys, high school boys who worked in the park and had sisters my age. One of them casually mentioned that I might want to consider shaving my legs. I disengaged from the conversation as soon as was socially appropriate, continued through the park to my best friend’s house, my leg hairs growing longer with every step, and asked for a razor. My friend wasn’t even home—I asked her sister Amy. I sat down then and there on the edge of their tub and unceremoniously shaved my legs. There was no way I was walking back home through the park—or anywhere--with those gorilla-like leg hairs. This was not a topic I’d discussed with my mother, so there was no threat of repercussion for shaving my own legs at the moment I deemed perfect.
In retrospect, although I had full leg-shaving autonomy in relation to my mother, I had previously given the matter zero consideration, grabbing a razor in response to a boy’s offhand comment, as though I had no choice.
The first time my daughter mentioned leg hair, I told her she had a choice. I told her first that European women don’t have the same obsession with hairless legs and that it is acceptable not to shave at all, ever, which she found horrifying.
“Of course I’m going to shave,” she informed me. “So when can I shave them?”
She was adamant, so I chose age 13. It was several months away, even though “all” her friends were already shaving, so I had time to campaign for no shaving at all; I was passionate about my point of view: her leg hairs were blonde and sparse (although to her they looked gorilla-like). She told me how most of her friends had shaved without even asking their mother; they shaved at each other’s houses. But she was willing to wait per our agreement. After I had had my say (which consisted of an occasional: “Is there anything I can say or do that will get you to consider not shaving your legs?”) I had to let go. Her verdict, after that first shave: her legs felt heavenly, and she had savored the whole shaving experience. She still does.