Right now I am thinking about my shaved legs. Yesterday, the neighborhood pool opened, and of course the girls wanted to go. Fortunately it was hot and sunny, but I had things to do around the house and was in no hurry to put on a bathing suit. I promised them if I got everything done by 5, we would go then, so they promptly suited up in their matching one-pieces at 2.
I took a break from yard work and cleaning to take a shower, my second that day. I’d neglected to shave my legs the first time, and as I lathered up my calf, not without a twinge of resentment, I thought to myself that this is Tori’s last summer to suit up for the pool with reckless confidence. She is ten.
The summer I was ten was the summer my mother said I had to shave my armpits. My strawberry blond is not there yet, and I’m deeply grateful, because you can never go back once you cross that threshold. By the time I was 12 I started shaving my calves, and the next summer, my thighs. Finally at 14 I tackled the bikini line after being thoroughly disgusted at the beach seeing a woman who did not take that care.
While I continued to love the beach and its anonymity through my teenage years and beyond, I stopped going to the neighborhood pool at 13. Why give the assholes on my school bus any more ammunition than they already had? Yes, I knew we all had insecurities about our bodies, but that was little consolation, because the more insecure they were, the more likely they’d verbally abuse and belittle me to feel better about themselves.
About ten minutes before venturing to the pool, Tori asked if she could wear her bra (which she doesn’t need but insists on wearing) under her bathing suit. Something inside me died. Insecurity starts early, I guess. I told her no.
“But it feels weird!”
“But no one wears a bra under their bathing suit,” I said. “That’s kind of the whole point.” I was in my tankini (chosen to cover my less than toned mom belly) and I puffed out my chest to display my size A half-rack, which will probably be surpassed by hers in another two years thanks to modern agricultural practices and her dad’s genes.
She complied and did indeed get used to it once she was in the pool, doing water acrobatics and behaving once again like a little girl who doesn’t notice body hair, who still yells, “Watch me!” instead of hiding under a towel on the deck chair.