When I was in the sixth grade, one day in PE, as I sat in the requisite pleated white PE dress (with bloomers), pretending to listen to the instructions of our teacher, Ana P. remarked to me that my legs were hairy.
"Don't you shave them?" she said, penciled eyebrow raised in concern, her voice betraying the concern with a sense-of-horror tone. She may has well asked if I was related to Bigfoot, I was so mortified.
I should add that Ana P. was a little older than we were, and one of the faster girls. Fast in development, and allegedly fast at other things; she was one of the more worldly girls in the grade, the ones you'd go to with the questions you were too embarrassed to ask your Mom. These are the girls to who the mysteries of periods and lipstick had come to while the rest of us were still pondering throwing out our last Barbie.
I should also add, in my defense, that while I am not all that hairy, thanks to some ancestor in my past to who I am pretty grateful, I did take her remarks to heart at the time. I proceeded to nag my mother on the subject, like only a prepubescent girl can, and eventually, I wore her down.
"Just get in the shower, I'll be there in a minute," she said on the day she finally caved.
Yesss! I thought, as I ran to the bathroom. It wasn't until I realized I had nothing with me, and she would more than likely be in the bathroom with me while I was in the shower naked to show me that I got a little nervous. Great. Just what the prepubescent girl wants, her Mom surveying what's going on when she doesn't even really want to see it herself. Ugh.
Her face a mixture of annoyance, anxiety, and a little hurt, my Mom showed me how to shave not only my legs, but my underarms as well. I don't know who was more rattled, in retrospect, her, or me. I do remember her saying something like "I can't believe you want to do this, you don't need to at this age." Yet she was understanding enough to help me, if only because I told her that it was coming up amongst the other girls, via PE. She didn't want to have me suffer the scrutiny.
A week later when I took off a hefty chunk of top layer of skin near my ankle, where I still bear the scar, I wished I hadn't been so persistent. Not that I wasn't willing to bear whatever pain it took for smooth, silky legs, but as I watched it bleed and FELT IT STING (ouch), I had to wonder.
Nolan, dear boy that he is, has had a little shadow of fuzz on his upper lip since he was about five. His hair is sooo dark, it's always been noticeable, and a quiet joke among the older family members for ages. Not that we've ever been laughing at him--I'm the one that gets teased about it, go figure.
Now that he's older, and the puberty train has picked him up, it has gotten more pronounced.
It's my turn to be nagged. Between the fuzz on his upper lip and his eyebrows, I get an earful every weekend.
"Mom, please can I shave?" "Mom, please will you wax this mess?" (pointing to between the brows)
Over and over, times infinity, he has nagged me like only a pubescent boy can.
Over and over, I've gently told him no, as "once you start shaving, you're stuck, you never get a chance to stop again." Even appeals to his father didn't work, although I could sense him changing his mind the last time Nolan asked.
In the face of our repeated denying of his request, Nolan did the next best thing, and started appealing/pleading his case to the other adults in his life. Jane. My mom and dad. My brother. Remo.
Fine. If it means that much to him, I thought last night, we'll do it. When we got home, I called him to my bathroom. Luckily, I had shaving cream that is not fruity (I love that Aveeno one that says its supposed to make it so that you don't have to shave as often. It works. And it's by the guy stuff, but not scented, so even better). His Dad had a drawerful of extra razors, so I grabbed one and was all set.
I lathered up the area above his lip, and tried not to giggle. I was just about to offer the instructions when I heard his Dad in the hallway.
I surrendered my duties in a flash. Which is good, because I was about to provide him misinformation. I mean, who knew shaving your legs is not the same as shaving your face? Once he took over, I could tell Mr W felt a little flush of manly bonding pride. He patiently explained the ins and outs, and he let Nolan do most of it himself. (He looked great when he was done.)
As I watched them through the door, I couldn't help but remember that look of anxiety, and a little hurt, on my Mom's face. I didn't need a mirror to know that the expression on my face was probably quite similar.
I just understood it better from this vantage point.