Oh yeah, we’re going there…
All right GEM’s. I’m pulling out all the stops—sharing some really personal stuff here. If you tend to be squeamish over topics concerning, well your good girl area, maybe you should tune back in when I’m talking about my son’s grades.
My eight-year-old daughter was in the bath the other night when she hit me with, “Mom, will I have lots of hair on my wiener when I’m older?”
Sigh. Another mom failure. My daughter thinks she has a wiener.
“Um, first of all,” I began, “let’s establish that you do not have a wiener, you have a vagina, or vulva if we’re going to be correct about it. And yes, you’ll have hair on it when you’re older.”
My daughter was dismayed. “Doesn’t it bother you when you go pee?”
“No. You don’t even notice it. Does the hair on your head bother you?” I ask.
“Nooo,” she replied, “I don’t pee out my head.” Well, the girl is witty, score one for me.
“Do people ever cut their hair or shave it off down there?” she inquired. Before I could get an answer out, she continued, “Do you? Cut your hair down there?”
Another sigh. While I believe in giving my children honest facts about life situations, I was at a crossroads as to whether my eight-year-old was ready to hear about Brazilians, trimming, and general hygiene maintenance. I was not ready to admit to being a gardener myself (which would bring an onslaught of more questions), but not willing to subject her to my own upbringing of feminine grooming ignorance. That, and my other daughter will be coming up the ranks in another six years, so I had better figure out what I’m going to tell her.
“Some people cut their hair and some shave it off altogether so it’s smooth,” I reply.
“That’s what I’m gonna do,” she confirms. “Hair down there is gross.”
I nodded, not necessarily in agreement, but just so she knew I heard her. Explaining these finer points of life are never as simple as they seem. I chose to skip the minor details of trimming—like when you do it for the first time you’ll be so itchy down in your good girl area, you may just want to set your crotch on fire. And there are length settings on beard trimmers for a reason. And when you’re wielding a sharp object down in that direction it’s best to hold very, very still. I decided to skip those minor details and just give her the basic facts. I certainly don’t want her to feel like an idiot when she’s thirty and she thinks Brazilians are people who live in Brazil.
I grew up in a relatively conservative Catholic household along with two sisters. I remember my mother telling me if I ever had questions about my body or sex to come and ask her first. She wanted me to have the facts, she said. Didn’t want me to get the wrong information from the school bus or playground. Growing up, I remember feeling empowered by this, like I always had the right answers and if I didn’t, I knew where I could get them.
I’m embarrassed to admit this illusion was shattered in my early thirties after I’d married and had two children. You’d think at that point in your sexuality and personal grooming habits no information could be new. Turns out I was wrong.
While sitting with my fellow co-workers at lunch one day, the subject of Brazilians came up. We were a raunchy group of brutally honest women and nothing was off-limits during our lunchtime conversations. Sure I had heard about this Brazilian thing—something reserved for swimsuit models or famous people, or women who were gluttons for punishment. When the conversation gravitated towards trimming, things got a little dicey. My friends were talking about their preferred landscaping tools, beard trimmers, scissors, the simple shower razor. I was silent. Then it came.
“What do you use?” There it was, the question directed at me.
“Nothing,” I stammered. “You mean to tell me you all trim down there?” I asked self-righteously. The nods went around the table. All six women sitting with me confirmed. “You mean to tell us you don’t?” they giggled. “You’re au natural?”
That’s when the chiding started and I felt cheated. Why hadn’t my mother told me about this? Where was this tidbit of honesty during my formative years? I thought my mom imparted all her worldly knowledge to me. Did she keep me in the dark on purpose? Or worse yet, (gasp) did she not know about this herself?
To make me feel better and hold onto my illusion a little longer, I reasoned it was simply the crowd I was with. Maybe my friends at lunch weren’t a good cross-section of women. Surely I can’t be the only married-with-two-children woman on the planet that didn’t know trimming was a requirement. What’s an au natural woman to do? I called my sisters. If mom didn’t tell me, surely she didn’t tell them.
Turns out, they both trimmed. Dammit. How did they hear of this phenomenon? Why didn’t they inform me about it?
Far as I can tell, my mother covered all the other chapters in the “How To Be A Good Women” handbook. Meals must be well rounded and colorful. Put a little lipstick on before your husband gets home. Tampons will give you toxic shock. Sex is something you save for marriage. What chapters my mother skipped, my grandmother filled in. Baking bread is easy and all women should know how to do it. Learn how to can and preserve jams and jellies. Men like a little meat on their women, eat more.
With all these helpful factoids, no one ever said to me, “Keep yourself trimmed down there.” Now that I am older, I realize there are all kinds of chapters in that book my mother conveniently left out. It still baffles me how I could go through puberty, college, marriage, and two children without anyone ever filling me in on what apparently is common woman knowledge. And how my two younger sisters knew before I did.
Which is why I was in a conundrum as to how to be honest with my daughter, while honoring her eight-year old psyche. How to be empowering while not grossing her out.
I’ve decided I will do my best to cover all the chapters in the “Good Woman” manual with my daughters, even if it means revisiting certain parts of them at different times in my daughter’s lives. This new manual contains many new chapters that were never in the old book my mother and grandmother used. Healthy Sexuality. Working Mother. Alternative Lifestyles. Your Opinion Matters. But there is one chapter that hasn’t changed: Landscaping Eden. I may just turn it up a notch and give them their very own trimmers.
I’m curious, have any of you had to explain to your daughters the finer points of female landscape maintenance? And of course, do you garden yourself? Are you willing to share?
Rachel Vidoni is a professional writer and blogger and former classroom teacher. She is a mediocre mother to three pretty neat kids. You can follow her humor and family blog at www.eastcoastmusings.blogspot.com. You might not be a better parent after reading her blog, but you will feel like one.