The news was on — the real news, not the morning-drive radio show my son believes in his heart of hearts is the news — and somehow the story of the salon offering self-esteem-dripping bikini wax specials to teens had just leaked to the station. I was standing in the bathroom, hair wrapped in a flat-iron, and too far away to flip it off in time. I also know from lots of experience that the quicker I hustle to switch a station or song, the more I call attention to it and the more questions there are. I stood silently and still. Maybe, for once, the moment would pass.
But, of course, it didn’t. I had a five-minute breather to get ready and to begin believing it wouldn’t be the day when my kid would be exposed to the cold, hard reality of hot wax and unwanted hair. But that was all I got.
“Mommmmmmy,” Lil E said, stretching out my name that told me my reprieve had been stripped clean away. “What is waxing?”
He was on the other side of my bedroom door. I was pulling a dress over my head. There was no hiding.
I am not really the hiding type of mom, anyway, choosing to read books and have an open-door policy about sex and drugs and divorce and love and politics. I keep it age-appropriate, dole it out in manageable doses, all to underline that he can ask questions like the one he was asking. Still, you have to start somewhere. So I took the easy out first.
“Like when you get your eyebrows done,” I said, leaning out the door once I was dressed and motioning in the general area of my eyebrows. He’d been with me and watched the nice ladies rip the hair from just above my eyes. He’d seen it already.
It wasn’t enough. I knew it wouldn’t be. He pressed on.
“NO,” he looked right at me, right in my eyes where I’d tried to wave off his first inquiry. “BIKINI WAX.”
“It’s when people get the hair on their vulva taken off by using warm wax that is pulled off,” I said as matter-of-factly as possible. “Like shaving to get rid of hair, but more painful.”
His face was full of horror. He squeaked an “eww” and turned to go into his room and cover the whole thought in piles of Lego and stuffed animals.
Then he stopped, turned slowly, looked at me with nostrils flared and lip curled.
“Some people like the hair removed. Some people like the way it feels. And it’s not just ladies,” I added in, you know, just to be balanced in a feminist-mama-talking-beauty-ideals kind of way.
“Wait … really?” I had paralyzed the poor kid.
“Sure, some men get waxed, too.” I was getting calmer.
He motioned in circles around his midsection.
“THEIR BUSINESS?!” This is is safe term for you-know-what.
I nodded solemnly and added, “And chests. Sometimes eyebrows and backs and other stuff. Not just women.”
“Ewwwwwww,” he said, parting company and retreating to the place where the most vile thing he had to consider was in a Captain Underpants book.
Really, he is right. It is kind of astonishing, kind of gross — not what we put our business through under the nice-ish term “bikini” but what we consider to be so everyday that we don’t consider who will explain this all to our kids. I learned about waxing in college but it wasn’t until years later that my grad-school friends revealed they were putting it into practice and I should try it, too. Our children won’t have the luxury of waiting to hear about waxing until they have keg-fueled one-nighters and whispered dorm-room confessionals and enlightened conversations with grad-school cohorts over American Spirit cigarettes and triple espressos. They are being targeted right now, whether through over-hyped salon specials or even more ridiculous media coverage. It’s right there, the business of bikini waxing, in their faces.
So our job, I suppose, is to find a way to say what it is. And to say it in such a straightforward manner that they have no interest whatsoever in using their babysitting money or shaking out the coins in their allowance jar to get whatever fuzz they accumulate ripped off before its (or even it’s) time.
I’m fine with my child knowing what waxing is. I’m even OK with him choosing to manscape. When he is a man. If I had a girl, I’d hope she’d wait for womanhood (and not in the Old Testament-kind of definition of that word) before hoisting herself up on to the paper-lined table.
I think — I hold on to — that laying it out there will help keep kids informed about and away from aspirations of waxing.
And, just in case, I will totally put on an act by screaming in the chair the next time my son sees my eyebrows being ripped away.
Have you explaining waxing to your kids? How did that conversation go (umm…) down?
Read more of Jessica’s adventures as a single mom in the city at Sassafrass.
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