American Girl: A Hairless Discussion With My Teenage Daughter


Photo courtesy of Justin Taylor

Photo courtesy of Justin Taylor


By Darlene Vanasco

The other day we had a hairless discussion.

We are sitting around the table shooting the breeze after dinner. Daughter says, “I don’t understand why boys expect us to be hairless. I mean we are BORN with hair on our bodies.”

I nod.

Then she says, “Do they even realize how long it takes to shave all the hair off your body?”

Philadelphia (A.K.A Spouse) begins to open his mouth, possibly to say something. Daughter jumps right in, “Oh no.” she says. “No. No. No.” she actually gives him THE HAND. “Do NOT tell me it is just like shaving your face. You just have NO IDEA.”

Philadelphia closes his mouth. I can tell he is getting used to living with a teenage girl. Still, I feel a little bad for him, being the only male on the premises.

I say, “Well, it wasn’t always like this. It has gotten way worse.”

Which is true. When I was growing up, women for the most part did not bald their yaya’s as a regular practice. Trimming, yes. Balding, no. Certainly not HOT WAX balding.

Daughter says, “How come boys get to be hairy?”

Photo courtesy of "Betsssssy"

Photo courtesy of "Betsssssy"

This gets into a discussion on masculinity and femininity and what defines each. And of femininity being defined in part by what masculinity is not. But not entirely. Because hairlessly thin modelly men have been popping up all over the pages of magazines for quite a while now. I am pretty sure The Marlboro man is in hiding.

And then daughter asks, “How come boys don’t shave down there?”

I look at her. “Please.” I say. “I just had this male trimming discussion with a friend a few days ago. I do not really understand why it has not reached mainstream manhood to keep up with the yard work. For years women have primped and plucked, powdered and trimmed.”

I think: HEY! I want all that time back.

I don’t know. Pluck. Don’t pluck? Trim? Don’t Trim? I tell them, “I used to let my hair grow in my twenties. Not all guys think it is gross for a female to have actual body hair.”

Philadelphia asks daughter, “Well, would you like to grow your hair?”

Daughter says, “Not really. Because I am CONDITIONED to feel better, cleaner, more attractive when I am clean shaven.”

BINGO daughter. B I N G O.

I think about my hairy days. It is true. Even though I wanted to feel the same hairy as hairless, I did not. I felt “better” hairless.

Photo courtesy of "FaceMePLS"

Photo courtesy of "FaceMePLS"

I really hated that. I really REALLY hated feeling trapped in the hairless-feel-good-now zone.

Daughter adds, “Plus at my age, I would be made fun of.”

The choiceless truth has been spoken by sixteen in America. Some things you can do and are cool. But maybe not so cool in high school.

I look at Philly. I say, “Maybe I should grow my hair again. Would you like that?”

He smiles. He smiles the kind of smile that causes me to feel he has the same conflict so many egalitarian men have. Which is: I would like to say YES! But I am also conditioned. I am conditioned not only to want, but also to EXPECT a smooth leg and a clean-shaven underarm.

And you know that expectation is growing.
Or maybe I should say spreading.

Now we have laser hair removal. For $$$ you can have 6+ painful sessions of permanent hair removal.

Soon, class lines will be clearly defined by amount of body hair.
Maybe they always were, really.

Daughter gets up from the table. “I am going to take a shower.” she says.

“Ok.” I say. I look at her and her inherent femininity as she walks away. “Have a nice shower!”

I do not ask if there will be shaving involved. I have no judgment. I have been hairy. I have been hairless. I do not know the answer.

I just wish it felt like a choice.

DarleneDarlene is a teacher-mother-designer-writer who is recently transplanted  to Philadelphia from Brooklyn. Her writings on mothering and growing up  female emerged as a sanity-saving device and productive alternative to crying  on the kitchen floor. She can be found at or you can  read the antidotal stories of insanity, reality and progress on her blog: