When I was an adolescent, one of my vocabulary words was “hirsute,” which is a sophisticated word for hairy. I was a fuzzy kid, and I remember being mortified when the teacher asked for someone to use the word in a sentence. Surely someone would offer, “Helaina is hirsute.” No one did, thankfully, but the shame I felt that day was a feeling that lasted well into my 20’s. My feelings about this unfortunate aspect of my DNA are some of the scars of adolescence.
Looking back at old pictures, I realize that the actual state of the fuzz was not as bad as it felt. Yes I was hairier than many girls, but how I felt about it amplified the reality. I felt shame. I wished that I could be like the fair-haired mutants who did not have arm hair, who would not have to style their freaking eyebrows! Starting that day in class, when a word in a book triggered intense feelings of shame, I understood that my furriness separated me from my peers. It could be something that people could notice and make fun of.
All of us have flaws that make us feel shame. Adolescence is the worst for this reason!
Luckily I grew up in the 90’s, when everyone looked a lot less perfect than they do today. I could get away with being a 6.5 on the furriness scale. Being hairy made me feel out of control. I was different because of it and there was nothing I could do about it then. (Unlike now. Thank you lasers!)
What made matters worse was that my family didn’t really know how to support and love their little hair farmer. I’ll spare the details–they did the best they could and all that. We have since found our way through it. But my adolescent years were marked by rejection of the person I couldn’t help but be. This added to my own shame. I was born this way, before Lady Gaga told us it was okay to own our fabulousness and our flaws.
The hair farmer grows up; the shame dissipates.
The fact that I’m putting this out there suggests that I’ve come a long way. These days, I am the friend my girlfriends call whenever they have a horror story about body hair. I am an authority of hair management. On these hair 911 calls, we laugh about the absurdity of being female, and our various attempts to obliterate our unwanted fuzzies in the name of femininity.
At this point in my life, I refer to this aspect of self care as grooming. I poke fun at my likeness to an Afghan Hound. I know that there are mutants out there who don’t even travel with tweezers and I have love for them, lucky bastards!
And yet, still today, I work to relate to this part of myself with self-acceptance.
But I share this as a plea to all parents: your kids have some aspect of themselves that they don’t like and that they feel out of control about. If they’re human, they do. Remember this when you’re dealing with them. If you know the thing that makes it hard to be them, choose sensitivity when dealing with it. Don’t exploit it or wield it when you need a way to “get through to them.” If you can prevent it, don’t add another thing to their “Things I Will Learn to Love Myself Through” list.