“I didn’t know girls were allowed to wear hair pants!”
I was in third grade. This was shouted to me across black asphalt by David Mugadem – an always dirty-looking male peer who I had taken the creative freedom of altering the pronunciation of his last name to “Mug-a-dumb.” Ours had always been a contentious relationship. When the group of boys he was sitting with erupted into laughter, I had no response, no witty retort. I looked down at my tan legs and saw my bright blonde leg hair glittering in the sun. He was right. I did have hair pants.
I cannot be entirely sure whom I inherited my peach fuzz from. My mom seems an unlikely candidate. She never struck me as the type. My dad has always been the one to test out the sharpness of a knife on the coarse blonde hair of his arms. Never mind that he has absolutely no hair on his legs; this is the result of decades of wearing jeans and jeans only. If he could he would wear jeans to bed. Of course, I couldn’t think of blame in a time like this. I just had to fix the problem.
When I got home I pleaded with my mom to please let me shave off the hair that was my scarlet letter in a village of malicious children. Not wanting to admit that her daughter was growing up and was perhaps indeed a little bit fuzzy, she initially resisted. Eventually I broke her down with my wailing away about how “I will never be able to keep friends with legs like these” and “I’m a freak”. She acquiesced.
My first hair removal procedure was to be supervised and under the instruction of my mother. As a child she had taken the initiative on her own while her mom was at work. That story ended with a sliced artery and a trip to the hospital. She didn’t care for history to repeat itself.
Mom made me sit on the countertop in the bathroom, my legs bent over the sink. I smoothed my dad’s foamy, white Barbasol shave cream from my knees to my ankles –Mom thought it was inappropriate to go any higher than that, being as I was only ten years old. Then she handed me a pink, disposable Bic razor and told me to be careful around my knees and my Achilles tendon.
With each stroke I felt freedom from childhood scrutiny, of self-loathing, of Band-Aids that sent searing pain into my follicles when I ripped them off. It was a most glorious sensation. I was inching my way towards womanhood.
Nothing further was said at school by David. No mention was even made of how silky and smooth my gams looks sans fur. But months later, while at summer camp, a boy walked past me and asked, “What are those? Hair shorts?”
That night I took the liberty of shaving up to my belly button.