Brace yourselves ladies (and very brave gentlemen), the following discussion is all about the hairy truth. What is an appropriate age to introduce grooming or hair removal to your daughter and where do you draw the line in obsessive hair care?
Disclaimer: To reduce the ick factor, we will restrict the ‘grooming’ talk to the hairs on one’s arms, legs and face.
If you are South Asian, then this is something you probably never had to think about as the decision was already made for you. It started as early as birth. One of the desi totka’s (home remedy) was to scrub your newborn with ‘Atta’ (dough) to remove the initial baby fuzz all over the body. The major grooming usually started post-pubescent or just around that time (naturally you were getting closer to the age of eligibility so of course you had to look presentable). At least I am assuming that is how it all started. For me however, the hair awareness incidentally occurred around the time I was 9 years old.
It was gym class and I had convinced my parents to let me wear shorts because that was the assumed uniform. I was already the only desi girl in my grade and didn’t want to stand out any further. (This is back in the early 90’s when the dominant minority were the Asians and we Desi folk were still a bit rare). I was a little self-conscious but pretty excited to wear my purple knee-length shorts. It was liberating as I was rarely allowed to wear them. A confusing time for desi parents when it comes to dressing your kids – give them an inch above the knees only to have your daughter’s labelled ‘Fast’ by the scandalized Aunty community.
It is a day that I will never forget because my joy was robbed as a ‘gora’ boy called me (grab your tissues ladies…) a brown dog while laughing and pointing at my legs. Mortified is an understatement. I didn’t know how to react so I just put my arms over my legs and covered them as much as I could. I endured my embarrassment in silence. As soon I got home I ran to the bathroom and locked the door. I did not cry.
Instead I figured out how to use my mother’s depilating cream and removed the source of my humiliation. I always found it ironic that the culture in the West expects you to have clean legs but your arms can be filled with fuzz and that is acceptable. I suppose ethnic predisposition allows one culture to get away with light barely visible hair while the other has to endure coarse dark strands.
When I moved back to Pakistan during my adolescence it was all about grooming and primping yourself. But you could just as easily get away without it because the dress was more conservative on the whole. Girls at that age still had an element of youth about them (completely different story now). I was lucky my mother didn’t pressure me into it and I wasn’t one who was into my appearance in any case. However I did not want to stand out yet again, especially in a culture where this sort of thing gets noticed, so I got permission, at age 13, to have my arms waxed and upper lip threaded. My eyebrows had to wait till I was 17.
These days it is another ball game. Go to a salon now, regardless of which side of the Atlantic, and you will see South Asian girls as young as age 6 getting (practically everything) groomed. The time-frame for our daughters to remain little girls is shrinking with each generation and it is no longer societal pressure from the ‘rishta community’. It is something cross-cultural, probably stemming from photoshopped glamour magazines.
I understand for some there are religious guidelines where hair removal is prohibited, so I can’t even imagine how those parents deal with this situation. As I look at my 3-year-old and notice her baby fuzz I wonder how soon she will be on my case to have it removed. It is a time I am certainly not ready for.
How soon is too soon to introduce grooming to your daughters? Is it a part of their coming-of-age or should it be left to their choice entirely? How would you handle the matter?
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