Mom and Teen Daughter Detente: 1st Topic is Shaving

I just might win the Nobel Peace Prize for my next several blog postings and who would have thought I would become eligible by resolving mother/daughter shaving conflicts.   

Let me step back:  The reality is that moms have to address the urgently important requests that come their way from their frantic teen daughters (teen daughters:  To be clear, I really don’t think you are frantic, but that is how moms sometimes see you!).  And, teen girls have to get their unyielding moms’ permission to do things that they truly believe they should be allowed to do (mom’s:  I don’t see you as unyielding, but when you don’t consider what your daughter’s needs really are, you may be seen that way by them!).  What a quandary for both if they don’t find resolution.  After all, this is the time when daughters need their moms the most and want to be able to talk to them about anything.  And, moms want to protect and care for their daughters while still letting them mature into independent, self-confident young women.  

The topics that I will be writing about in my next several blog postings, that cause mom/daughter disagreements, are: shaving, makeup and clothing styles.  These are timeless teen topics because they are important aspects of a teen girls life.  How do I know?  It is because the experts at receive lots of questions and comments about them on an ongoing basis.  Many girls ask specifically about how we can help them get their moms to let them do something.   My hope is to offer ways in which teen girls and their moms can talk requests associated with these topics without anger and annoyance and seek resolution that is acceptable to both.  Along with that, I will share some fun history and facts about shaving, wearing makeup and clothing and styles that I hope all will find as interesting, as I did.

For some reason, some moms see shaving as a right of passage, which girls shouldn’t begin until they are at least 13 years old – no matter how hairy they are.  In fact, there are some mothers who don’t think their daughters should ever shave, since they don’t and never did.  Of course, it can be a cultural thing when it is perceived as being far more unnatural to shave then not.  Usually though, that thinking is more prevalent outside the U.S.  

Let’s start with the history of shaving. has an article on shaving that I will pull from for this post.  The link is below if you want to read the entire article.

“Women and men began shaving their bodies as early as caveman times. In the Stone Age, cave men and women used sharpened rocks and seashells to scrape hair away, the first example of primitive shaving. In ancient Egypt, women applied hot wax and strips of gauze to the legs; after it hardened, they ripped the wax and hairs away, paving the way for today's waxing procedures.  Now that is pain! Early Arabian women introduced bandandoz, a precursor to the epilator. They laced cotton string between their fingers to form a cat's cradle, then ran it briskly over their legs to simultaneously encircle and pull out hairs.
Even depilatories, creams, and lotions, which chemically dissolve hair, have an origin in the history of shaving. In the early 18th century, American women prepared poultices of caustic lye, which, when applied to legs, burned away unwanted hair.”

But why?   “We do know that during the earliest Egyptian dynasties, some 7,000 years ago, aristocratic men shaved their faces, heads, and bodies, while women shaved their bodies and their heads. Clean-shaven bodies and faces were clear indicators of wealth, power, and gentility.
As civilizations advanced, to shave or not to shave became a matter of fashion. For early Greeks and Romans, beards symbolized wisdom, maturity, and manhood. But as shaving spread throughout the Roman Empire, beards became a mark of slaves, servants, and barbarians adding to the ever-changing history of shaving.”

Moving along in time, “Elizabethan female hair removal was equally unusual; the Queen herself, along with all the ladies of the court, began plucking the hair from the top of their foreheads in order to make their foreheads appear higher and nobler.”  (Actually, I wondered about the large foreheads on the women in some paintings depicting women in Elizabethan times and thought they suffered from some genetic hair issue that was transferred because cousins married.  Wrong, at least about the hairline.)

In the 20th century, women began showing more of their bodies and fashion dictated that legs and underarms become hairless.  (Never thought that I would admit this, and publicly for sure, but when I was a teen I shaved my arms right down to the wrist.  Even my friends thought that my bald arms looked odd.  But at the time, I thought that is what everyone did.  If I had talked to my mom, bet that wouldn’t have happened.  Another reason for mom/daughter dialogue on even the most common of practices.)  Today, women mostly shave their legs and underarms and it is considered common hygienic practice.  

For Moms:  Mothers with teen girls need to pick their battles.  If you want to do the wooley booley, no need to force that on your daughter.  Your daughter has to take gym with other girls and, most-likely, wears sleeveless clothing in warm weather.  You are being asked about this because your daughter has hair she wants to remove that you may not be aware that she has.  Granted, I wish we lived in the kind of world where it didn’t matter, but it does.  Girls notice each other and don't want to be different on this front.  I say let her do it when she asks.  Use the request as a way to let her know you are listening and respect her.  This is an easy ask, really, as it won’t hurt her and will help her feel more grown-up.  Also, she will be more likely to come to you for some of the more challenging requests knowing that you will, at least, hear her out.   

As an aside, if your daughter has a really heavy hair growth pattern, with hair on her face, chest or abdomen that is not hereditary, you should schedule an appointment with her health care provider.  There may be some underlying glandular/hormonal issues that need to be diagnosed and treated by a medical professional.   

For girls wanting to shave:  Find a time to speak with your mom when there is no one else around.  If fact, you may want to write a note or email her to schedule a time to do this.  Read up a bit about shaving so you can let her know that the request was important enough for you to research it a bit before talking.  Also, you may want to consider doing some of the things she asks of you, like putting the dishes away and straightening up your room, promptly and with a smile.  Tell your mom that you have hair in places that you didn’t before and let her know how you feel about that.  Let your mom talk too.  Ask her about her first time shaving, if she does, and see if she remembers how she felt or if she asked her mom’s permission first.  If she says YES, say thanks for listening.  If she declines your request, and hopefully she won’t, ask her why without anger and if there will be a time that she thinks it would be ok for you to shave. Again, don’t get angry if she says NO.  Anger will make you seem immature.  After all, she may think further about this, appreciate your approach and change her mind.  In any case, I believe talking to your mom is always best.  Good luck!

I want to thank my friend and colleague, Mary Baldwin, who is also a expert.  She and I talk often about the kinds of questions and concerns teen girls have and how best to address them. Mary has a M.S.Ed, with a focus on women's health.   Should I win the Nobel Peace Prize, I promise to give her a bit of the winnings for inspiring me with ideas for my blog posts.  Thanks Mary!!


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