Becoming a teenager in the late 80′s, my memories of this are as follows:
Backcombing, bleaching and generally ruining the hair on my head.
Being told by older friends that having hairy legs is ’rank’ and then carving a strip of skin off each shinbone after applying my dad’s guardless razor to them like you would a vegetable peeler to a carrot.
Unwisely deciding with a friend to shave our forearms because they were ‘well hairy’. We did. It grew back thicker.
Then as early adulthood arrived, managing your bikini line became important thanks to the ‘tanga’ brief and amazingly high cut swimming costumes (thanks a lot Baywatch!). This lead to various experiments with epilators (ouch!), waxing (Jesus that hurts!), and hair removal cream (oh the stench!) before going back to razors which by now I had managed to avoid mutilating myself with.
And so it carries on into adulthood: an ever-present need to control the hair that nature has blessed/cursed you with. To date this has just been part of the female experience for me; women groom and men do whatever they can be arsed to do.
It had never crossed my mind that at some point I might need to explain the ridiculous set-up that is female hair maintenance until my daughter asked me “Mummy why is there so much hair coming out of that lady’s swimming costume?”
Growing up in a time when there was not an obsession with reducing your pubic hair to a ‘landing strip’ or removing it entirely meant I never had to have a conversation about that area of grooming with my own mother. Outside of leg-shaving (even when I was little, black leg hairs showing through American Tan tights was a no-no), people just had body hair and that was it.
Interestingly, the children’s only concern when it comes to men and hair is whether the gentleman has a ‘baldy head’ or not. Body-wise he could have it it growing like lichen from his shoulders to his ankles, exploding from ears and nasal passages, and carry enormous ‘welcome mats’ on his chest and back and they wouldn’t bat an eye-lid.
So what was my response? Well, after ushering my daughter out of the changing room and hoping she had not been overheard, I said “there just is”. I realised that for now it will have to do. I’m not ready to introduce the concept of women thinking they have to alter their appearance in that regard and in the meantime will just have to hope that we don’t bump into the woman so blessed in the lady-garden department again anytime soon.