I kept the secret for nearly two years.
Because I didn’t want to give my daughter a complex. Or in any way influence how she sees herself.
For nearly two years, I averted my gaze. I did my very best to focus on her eyes without casting my glance down.
So that I didn’t stare at her mustache.
Yes, my sweet, dark-haired beauty had developed seemingly overnight an unmistakable ‘stache.
It happened one day. I looked over at my 10-year-old and saw what I hoped was a shadow, or the light playing a trick. I looked over and hoped that it was a chocolate milk mustache.
My darling girl, with her lily-white skin, had sprouted the obvious beginnings of facial hair.
I held my tongue. I kept my thoughts to myself. My fears. My worries. What if someone at school said something? In addition to saying the “darndest things,” kids have a predilection for saying the meanest things as well. The level of teasing that occurs among the tween set far surpasses what the playground bullies and queen bees of my day were doling out. So I worried.
And then I wondered if I was a terrible mother for struggling to look past something completely superficial. Did I love her any less? (Of course not.) Did I value her only for her physical beauty? (Also no.) If she wasn’t bothered by it, why should it bother me?
Being a mom is really, really hard. It is difficult to know if what we say is the right thing. And to worry that anything that smacks of criticism might lead to body image issues down the line. On the other hand, am I doing my girl a disservice by not pointing out something that is considered unattractive by society’s standards? And on yet another hand, am I teaching my daughter to bend to societal expectations? I’ve tried Lilly’s entire life to give her a great deal of latitude when it comes to figuring out her own style and personality. Would I be dismantling that by suggesting that society take a particularly negative position on female facial hair?
So I decided to wait. To wait and see if she noticed. More accurately, to wait and see if she noticed and if it bothered her.
Sure enough, that day arrived just a few weeks ago. One rare night when she allowed me to put her to bed, Lilly shyly confided that she had dark hair above her lip and that she didn’t like it.
“One of the other girls at school has that too and some of the mean girls make fun of her,” she admitted.
Taking a calming breath, I outlined the various approaches to unwanted facial hair. We went over pros and cons until Lilly felt that she had enough information to make a decision: waxing. I promised to secure an appointment with Miss Amanda who is not only our hair stylist, but is also a licensed esthetician.
Lilly was the final appointment of the day. So the shop was empty except for the three of us. Amanda did a trial run on Lilly’s arm so that she could get a sense of what to expect. The wax was hotter than she had expected. Amanda turned down the heat which cooled the wax, but left it slightly less effective. This was fine for this first time, as it was less traumatic. Though Lilly inherited her father’s dark coloring, she fortunately did not inherit his sensitive skin. Which means that unlike me, her skin didn’t seem to notice that someone had just placed warm wax on it and removed hair from it. Or break out in frightful hives. All in the name of beauty.
On the way home, I tentatively wondered if she’d want to do it again. She did. And then, as we always do to mark life’s next step, we elevated the experience with the Shehecheyanu:
Barukh Atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melekh haolam shehecheyanu v’kiy’manu v’higianu laz’man hazeh.
Blessed are You, O Eternal our God, for giving us life, for sustaining us, and for enabling us to reach this amazing time.
And as we walked into the house, she delightedly reported to my visiting sister, “Guess what, Tante (aunt) Jennifer? I got waxing for the first time!”