My sister taught me how to shave my legs. I was 11, probably, heading into seventh grade.
My sister taught me how to shave my legs.
I was 11, probably, heading into seventh grade. That might seem old to girls today, who for all I know begin shaving their legs before they graduate from Safety Town. Back then a girl approached her first shave with the same tremulous anticipation of debutantes preparing for the cotillion, but without the need for the escort and the white dress.
My sister lent me her Schick for the occasion, then appointed herself my mentor and guide. Shave from the ankle up, she instructed.
Overlap each swath so you don't miss anything. Be sure to shave just above the heel; it looks messy when a person misses that spot.
Girls continue to shave their legs in the 21st century, no doubt. They may no longer make spit curls by Scotch-taping their hair to their cheeks; they may no longer gather in school restrooms to shellac their heads with Aqua Net hair spray cans they pull from their purses, but smooth legs are timeless.
Do parents still struggle to decide when their daughters are old enough to start pretending their legs are naturally slick? Do they still resist allowing their preteen daughters to punch holes in their ears or babysit past 10 p.m.? I ask because parents today have so many other rites on which to rule: When can she have her first Facebook page? Her first smart phone? The option to text? A Twitter account? An iPad? Is she old enough to have unfettered access to the Internet?
How do today's parents make these decisions? When our daughters were at that tricky age, our toughest call was filed under "E" for ears, piercing of.
I withheld permission for that minor procedure for as long as was humanly possible, which is to say about 12 minutes. Had I known my problems were laughable I'd have given in immediately and we could have spent those 12 minutes discussing hypothetical situations they might face in the future.
"Say you have a phone with electronic mail and a camera," I'd begin. "Don't take pictures of yourself undressed and send them to other people. Don't use your phone to send mean messages to people.
Don't even think about the word 'sexting.' Don't …"
"Mom," my daughters would say.
"You heard me," I'd say back.
Then – well, then if then was now – my daughters would get the Internet, phones for texting and Googling and picture taking and so on, and before long, if they didn't stumble into electronic trouble themselves, they'd certainly know of someone who had. Someone who had mailed racy pictures. Someone who'd texted while driving.
Someone who posted a damaging photo or a vicious comment or a rant that cost her a job, a friend or a reputation. If that isn't too last century for words.
So I ask you parents out there: When did you let your daughter begin to shave her legs? Is that even part of a family conversation anymore?
Frankly, I'm lucky to have been 11 years old before the onset of social media. Shaving my legs was as much growing up as I could handle at that age. Listen: I shaved faithfully, for days and weeks and months on end, swiping from the ankles up and always overlapping for thoroughness, but my legs seemed to be less and less like a magazine ad for Hanes stockings and more and more like a "before" picture.
My sister hadn't taught me how to change the blade. I was shaving and shaving with a razor blade that was, in the fullness of time, as sharp as an overripe banana. Social media would have cooked me up and had me for dinner.
Thank heaven I was born too soon.