I remember being fairly young, around 9 years old, when I started noticing that the hair on my legs had grown in thick and heavy and was much more abundant and noticeable than my classmates. I began to be very shy and self-conscious about it, hiding it under thick pantyhose (even during the summertime), as my school uniform only consisted of skirts. It was the first time that I had been embarrassed of the way I looked. I told my mother of my concern, and how I wanted to shave my legs, but she was reluctant. She said that when I reached 11 years old that I could start shaving. Those were the two most embarrassing years of my life.
With girls developing at a faster pace these days, and our society filled with unrealistic ideals of beauty, it’s difficult as a parent to know just when to start helping your child cosmetically. But what age is too young?
Recently, a New Jersey mother was arrested for allowing her six-year-old daughter into a tanning bed. The young girl, Anna, told a school nurse that she received a burn on her leg when she joined her mother in a tanning booth. Patricia Krentcil aka ‘Tanning Mom” is currently being brought up on child endangerment charges. In an interesting and ironic turn of events, a ‘Toddlers and Tiara’s’ stage mom, Mickie Wood, decided to lash out at ‘Tanning Mom’ by saying “Pageant girls are spray tanned to give them a little color,” …”It is in no way, shape or form a mandatory part of pageantry. It is an individual choice each family makes. But let me make one thing perfectly clear, I have never witnessed a family have their child use a tanning bed.” She goes on to say, “That is awful. People for whatever screwed-up reason choose wrong paths for their children and/or themselves. We simply have to do what we can to reach out and help people see that what they are thinking is warped and detrimental to their lives.”
Mickie Wood’s comments raise a question: Is what pageant moms do really any different from what mothers like Krentcil do? Does Mickie Wood have the right to judge what ‘Tanning Mom’ did? What these women have in common is that they are the ones that are initiating and consenting to the cosmetic acts. These mothers are the ones who are, in a way, making their daughters feel less than if their make up is not painted on, or their skin is not dark enough. The underlying message here is that if their young daughters had (insert cosmetic procedure here) done, only then will they be beautiful and worthy. News Flash: At the end of the day, all that a little girl wants is her mother’s approval, not a tan.
There is an alarming trend which started a few years back called ‘Virgin Waxing’. Supposedly, if you begin waxing a preteen’s legs or pubic area before she reaches puberty, you can stop the hair growth before it starts. A mother who takes her daughter for a ‘Virgin Bikini Waxing’ may claim that she is doing it to help prevent future hair growth for her daughter, but in reality what is she really teaching her? The thought of giving a young child a pubic waxing disturbs me deep to the core. Why is this becoming OK in our society? By agreeing to take your daughter to get a virgin waxing, you are stating that you are fine with her becoming sexualized before her time.
I believe there is a fine line between forcing a child to have something done cosmetically for a parent’s own selfish, vanity filled reason, and a young preteen who is self conscious about the hair between her eyebrows. Children can be mean, and being constantly bullied and ridiculed because of a hairy upper lip can make a young child feel embarrassed and isolated. It is our jobs as parents to be able to determine just when the right time is to allow our children to alter their looks cosmetically (with our help of course!). What we truly need to do is to allow them to enjoy their childhood, without beauty hang ups- after all, they have the rest of their lives for that.