Shaving

One of the sweetest commercials I think I’ve ever seen s a new release…a father shows his daughter how to shave her legs for the first time.  She nicks her leg and her dad is quick to gently apply a spot of tissue paper.

Shaving one’s legs for the first time is a rite of passage for a young teenager.  It is almost as significant as menstruation.  For me, both events were momentous. One an act almost of rebellion, the other nature’s call to a new life, both a personal emergence into womanhood.

My mother didn’t want me to shave.  She never had.  But whereas her legs were smooth, with few hairs, mine were hairy, like my Dad’s.  They may have been golden blonde but I felt like a furry beast.

I was fourteen when I shaved my legs for the first time.  It was the year of my emergence.  I had lost the baby weight, exchanged cat’s eyeglasses for wireless ones, and got my period. I was ready, even if my mother was not and wouldn’t dream of asking for help.

My family was up at our summer cabin and friends of the family were visiting. One day Mom and her friend, Bunny, went out for a few hours, leaving me in charge of six kids.  I snuck into the bathroom and furtively proceeded to butcher my legs.  No shaving cream, no water, just raw steel.  I was bleeding out.  There were tissue paper and band-aids in wide swaths everywhere you looked.

When Mom and Bunny returned, they looked askance at my legs but to Mom’s credit, she didn’t say a word.  I stuttered, “Mom, the razor fell off the shelf and fell down my leg.  When I put it back up, it fell again, running down the other leg.”  They kept straight faces.

The next day my Mom approached me, saying “You do realize you will have to shave now for the rest of your life.”  “That’s quite all right Mom.”  I savored the sweet victory, even as I winced moving around.

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