Tuesday, December 23, 2008
I was second in line for a bikini wax this weekend. Behind an 8 year old girl. I know she was 8 because her mother (who looked like she had had every possible stray hair on her body waxed and then lasered and then plucked, just for good measure) who was there with her told me. When a clumsily formed question about whether her daughter was a swimmer--because I could not fathom any reason for an 8 year old to be getting waxed-- rolled out of my mouth, she looked at me like I was speaking in tongues and said no.
Sure, it's easy to sit here in mommy-blog-land and talk about the "dangerousness" of 8 year old girls getting bikini waxes. "Girls are growing up too fast." "Girls are too interested in their looks." We all know these things. "Constant pressure to look good is "dangerous" for a girl's self-esteem and sense of self." That's true for "girls" of 8 to 92, isn't it? The first thing that struck me, though, wasn't the dangerousness--that came later. I just felt sorry for the little girl. I often bemoan the amount of "maintenance" I engage in these days. Eyebrow threading, manicures, pedicures, the occasional facial--it's a part-time job for sure--the quest for a merely presentable image...! Why start at 8?? I was fourteen before my mom let me wax my legs. I didn't own a lipstick until I was a junior in college, I didn't touch my eyebrows until law school and waxing down there? Please.
I'm reminded of my friend Eloise's mom, who on the day of our law school graduation told us that we have a duty in life--a duty to be interesting. It's always stuck with me. How interesting can you be if you spend the summer after 5th grade at spa camp? (Yes. There is such a thing). If you grow up prioritizing image over imagination?
As I have mentioned, I am pregnant with my third child--a girl to add to my two crazy boys. And I definitely am noticing things I didn't notice the first two times. On our trip to Mexico, I kept staring at the pre-pubescent girls at the pool in little bikinis. There was something horrific about it. Like those Puritanical paintings of children-as-miniature-adults. And even the most cursory look at the "parenthood" shelf at the bookstore yields titles like "Stressed Out Girls: Helping Them Thrive in the Age of Pressure" and "Girlology: A Girl's Guide to Stuff that Matters." Obviously it's too easy to indict tv and movies for the phenomenon but: Did you know that chick on Gossip Girl--the one wearing the Elizabeth and James blazer and carrying the Fendi bag--is fifteen years old?
Girls love beauty, girls love makeup, girls love to shop. There is no need to try to debunk these things--they aren't myths they are statistical facts. I am looking forward to giving my daughter my handbags one day and--yes--going to the spa with her. But a beauty maintenance routine at 8? Spa camp? My First Facial? Please God I hope not.
This goes deeper than the intrinsic ick factor of imagining a child on a facialist's table instead of outside playing in the grass. There's something fundamentally disturbing about little girls thinking about "fixing" things about themselves and their looks. When little boys are throwing balls around, nobody thinks they are "practicing" to be better--they are just playing. But a girl getting waxed? That is an improvement being made. I'm sorry for the rhetorical brimstone and firebrand but it just is dangerous. Sure, I probably have a bit of Indian prudishness running through my blood. But is there any possible reason an 8 year old should be getting her bikini line waxed? Can it be anything other than sexual? For any reason other than pleasing a man?