My toddler looks absolutely horrified. She is watching me wince while I rip out my underarm hair.
Her four-year-old sister joins to watch the hideous spectacle of their mother becoming beautiful.
“It’s okay,” I reassure them, “I’m just doing some waxing. It’s not a big deal.”
They disagree. And they wonder why I would do something that clearly causes me pain.
Suddenly the kids who regularly wee in their undies have become the reasonable, rational ones.
This is not a comfortable role reversal for me. Nor for them. We were all happy with our former dynamic.
My monthly beauty torture
They’re right — it hurts. But I’ve somehow trained myself to believe that the pain of having hair (my body’s natural state) is even greater than the pain of removing it.
If only I could harness that brain-training power for something more useful. Like learning to understand my tax return.
I try to clumsily justify my monthly beauty torture routine to the kids: “Well, some people don’t like to have hair. Women mostly”.
They press me with a hard-hitting follow-up question I wasn’t prepared for: “Why?”
Gah, they’ve got me.
I don’t want to tell them my scientifically unfounded reasoning, but I do: “For me … it makes me feel … cleaner.”
They furrow their (perfect) brows — they’re not buying it. A sticky residue of wax remains on parts of my underarm, making me look less clean. It’s so sticky it would probably attract MORE dirt. Like a fly trap, but for dirt.
The concept of ironing, for example, is very tricky to explain — there’s no way to reasonably excuse why Nana would spend her nights running a hot slab of metal over Grandpa’s shirts to make them flat. What am I supposed to say: “Grampy needs his shirts to have no wrinkles so another man will trust him more”?!?
Over the years I’ve become so brainwashed into thinking I should rip out parts of my body to conform with an idea of what’s hot.
I’ve also come to understand the complex and arbitrary rules governing the locations in which hair should be removed, lengthened or dyed.
Feeling like a coward and a hypocrite
Because I’ve banned myself from looking at parenting blogs, I try to imagine how a parenting blog would suggest I teach the kids about beauty ideals.
“You’re beautiful just the way you are, but it’s your body, whatever you choose to do, you just need to be kind to yourself.”
As the words come out of my mouth, I can taste the hypocrisy. It tastes faintly of bitter honey — oh no. That’s the wax on my upper lip.
Why can’t I treat my own body with the respect I hope my babies will treat themselves with? Until recently I was paying huge sums of cash to have my hair bleached blonde, readily accepting that meant big scabs would form along the back of my scalp.
The coward in me knows I should try harder to be a great female role model for my daughters. And the rest of me wants to ensure that role model is neither a coward nor a hypocrite.
Maybe the judgement from my kids was all it would take for me to break the cycle of unrealistic beauty standards — to be the hairy, trailblazing woman in the family! Yes! I’ll do it! Straight after my hair grows back. Right now I’m svelte like a hairless cat.
The kids haven’t walked away from the bathroom door. They’ve waited patiently through my existential crisis and have one final question: “Mamma, why do you wear make-up?”
Ahh … finally a child-friendly explanation: “It’s adult face paint,” I say.
“But instead of making me look like a butterfly or a lion, it just makes me look like a version of myself that the unrealistic beauty standards society has imposed upon me demand.”
That should work.
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