Barbies and Bikini Waxes

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?
20 comments:
Janie T said...

God, an 8 year old getting a bikini wax is REPULSIVE to me! And NO I cannot think of any legitimate reason. I understand that girls become self-conscious about hairiness but there are limits yes?

Jaya said...

This scares the &%$# out of me, as a mother of two girls. How are we supposed to protect them without coddling them? How do we shield them without making them into "bubble-girls?"

Anonymous said...

Yes, that is scary to me too! Although, I am curious...what is the consensus on when girls can get their upper lips waxed or threaded? All I know is that my mom didn't let me thread my upper lip until I was in 7th grade and it was way to late. I was teased for a very long time and when I actual did get it done, the boys started asking me if I shaved, like a man. It was so embarassing!

CJ said...

Funny I was thinking the same thing about the upper lip. My daughter is 7 and she definitely has a little stache going on and of course I find it adorable--but only a mother would right? I don't want her to get picked on but I also don't want to tell her she should get rid of it (and she hasn't brought it up to me yet). And what about boys? Tell me I'm not the only mom with a little uni-browed Indian baby?? Where do we draw the line right?

Jyothi said...

To the anonymous poster: I think teasing is the crossroads. If your daughter is coming home every day being teased, we owe it to her to help her. Sure, this involves explaining to her that beauty is only skin deep etc. But in my opinion it also involves teaching her to easily fix the situation that is getting her teased. If your daughter isn't getting teased about a beauty issue and she is a child please mommas, let's let our kids have childhoods without beauty maintenance!

savita said...

while I can't imagine my little one asking to go to spa camp I also can't help but wonder whether it would be so bad. I would rather she pick gymnastics or soccer for sure but if she had her heart set on it i don't think I would say no and I'm not sure it would make her uninteresting. I really like what your friends mom said about a duty to stay interesting but there are many ways to be interesting don't you think? Maybe she would be interesting because she went to spa camp! More likely she would go to spa camp ...but also do lots if other things.

Anonymous said...

gotta respectfully disagree with you savita. If you allow your child to go to spa camp and prioritize beauty over other things so be it but please see it fir what it is and not as something we should respect or find "interesting".

Hema said...

Maybe it's better to couch stuff like waxing as "maintenance" than as beauty. Less as a focus on superficiality than on good grooming. Just an idea!

boukman70 said...

OK, as a father of a girl who refused to tell the sex of the baby because I wanted to delay the inundation of pink, this post makes me uncomfortable on so many levels. My one question, though, has got to be: has this 8-year-old already gone through puberty. I mean ... well, you know what I mean.

Anonymous said...

Ohmygoodness, that photo of the little boy with the Brazilian sign is priceless! Like everyone else, this rubs me the wrong way. I avoid bikini waxes like the plague and I can't imagine why anybody would inflict one on an 8 year old and NO i cannot think of ANY possible reason for a person to get one that is not compltely adult in nature. What was this girl's mother thinking?!?!?

PAW said...

To boukman: I highly doubt it. Does it change anything though?

Leena said...

Um. I bought my 4 year old a "make up set" for Christmas that I am now re-considering. HOLY SH$#, bikini waxes at 8? I somehow think I will be prepared for whatever my "little princess" throws me but that is probably what all parents think right? More than anything else I agree with the idea that it would just be sad to see my vibrant, curious, self-confident little girl bog herself down with concerns about her hair and makeup. I nkow those things have a place in life and that she will turn to them eventually but they are supposed to be the little things not the focus, and I don't think 8 year olds have the sort of mental capacity to realize that sort of intricacy.

boukman70 said...

PAW, it would and it wouldn't change anything. I was just thinking children don't have any body hair to wax, but maybe if the kid had a premature puberty, then there might be some sort of social justification--like you don't want everybody to think your kid's a freak, or something ... if that makes any sense.

SM said...

As someone who's currently pregnant with a girl, I've been thinking about these issues. It's funny how boys are encouraged to get down and dirty and play all the sports they want without worrying how they look afterward, whereas girls are always judged (at least a little) on their appearance. As someone who got teased because of facial hair, I cannot let me kid go through that BUT I draw the line at that, there will be no spas, no facials, no waxing of any kind till I feel she is ready. And of course, if that makes me the evil mother, so be it.

Jen McArthur said...

Boukman brought up a good point about premature puberty and possibly the mother's concern that her child not suffer from embarrassment at such a tender age.

If that is the case, then I can understand.

If not, well, my first suspicioun is that perhaps this child was being exploited for illegal purposes like porn or prostitution. It happens.

Other than the above two scenarios, I cannot fathom an alternative.

ma said...

I used to sneak around on the shaving because I wasn't "allowed" and I always saw getting arms/upper lip waxed as a right of passage for Indian girls... I don't know, I was made fun of for my hairiness, but then I just covered up with long sleeve shirts/jeans till I was allowed to wax/shave, etc... and I explained that as "Indian girls aren't allowed to wear shorts." I think I knew what was "allowed" as an adult and what wasn't and I just figured out how to deal with it until then. And that was because under no circumstances was my mom going to let me get older because some kids made fun of me. However, these days, with as much cultural openness there is (being Indian is "cool") kids are A LOT meaner and notice things much more. So if my future daughter was getting made fun of EVERY DAY for her hairy upper lip, I might do something about it (she can't really wear a face mask...) but for hair arms and stuff, when is it okay to let waxing/shaving/creams, etc. to commence? As for the 8 year old with the bikini wax... YUCK! That just gave me the jeebies....

Jen McArthur said...

And one more thing;

As far as upper lip hair, I think it's time to get it waxed when the girl wants to. That will ususally be in Jr. High, I think.

I had very thick eyebrows and I wish someone had turned me onto waxing way back in high school, because if they had, they probably would still not be so thick today. I plucked and did other things to them and the result was that they grew back more and in all directions. Continuous waxing over a number of years can lead to eventual loss of hair for some people, which would have been welcome for me.

On the otherhand, although my eyebrows were thick, they were well shaped, and had I not touched them at all, they would still be thick and well shaped, whereas now they are thick and multi-directional, so sometimes I wish I never touched them. And I really wish I never touched my legs.

Upper lip, I don't know how it happened but I developed a moustache of sorts in high school and I wish someone would've turned me onto waxing back then. I never though of waxing my upper lip until a few years ago.

The thing is though, I never had a moustache until one day I plucked out one hair from there in curiousity, and it seemed a moustache sprouted up from that one little pluck.

So unless something is REALLY obvious... I say leave it alone, because you will have hell to deal with later.....

Anonymous said...

a bit of a question - i was wondering about this article i read that if you start waxing little girls before puberty, they will have a lot less hair (if any) when they are grown. i know this is so icky, but is there any truth to that? if i can save my future daughter the thousands and thousands dollars and hours of time that i have spent...i think i may do it. or my disgust could not allow me...

http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26182276/

Shanti Niketan said...

The only body hair I get rid of is my eyebrows and upper lip. My underarms and legs have not be waxed in years and I don't shave them or do anything else.

Maybe when my husband starts to get rid of his body hair then I will too. Till then, I couldn't be bothered. And I'd rather raise my daughter a hairy feminist then to be someone who is putting herself through voluntary pain just coz some men like smooth legs. To hell with that.

Anonymous said...

From what I'm reading, you Devis are just not as dumb as the mother who wants her prepubescent daughter's pubes waxed (I'm pretty sure it's not going to prevent pubic hair growth the way it decreases leg hair growth anyway), but what set off alarms for me was this business about some obligation to be "interesting"-- interesting to whom and why? Isn't this worse, chaining the whole being- intellect and all-- to some issue of sexual marketability? I very much doubt that any father would come up to a son and his contemporary at law school graduation and pass on that piece of ersatz wisdom--if such a belief deserves even that much elevation. You don't need to be "interesting" to anyone but yourself!!!

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