Wait, What’s Wrong With A 12-Year-Old Getting A Pre-Camp Bikini Wax?

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girls summer campMy colleagues are pretty horrified that tween girls are getting primped – bikini wax and all – before heading off to summer camp. But I’m not. In fact, I’d argue just the opposite: It’s more detrimental for a swimsuit-clad 12-year-old to sport a hairy bikini line than it is for her to get waxed, plain and simple.

I know, I know, my words are going to outrage many readers who will call me anti-feminist. They’ll accuse me of sexualizing young girls, or of placing too much focus on their appearance. But that couldn’t be further from the truth: I think that choice is what empowers people, including the choice to get waxed. We’re not talking about Brazilians here, by the way. We’re talking about a regular ol’ bikini wax that entails not having long, dark strands of pubic hair on display during free swim.

The New York Times ran a piece called “Off to Camp, but First… a Wax?” It talks about how lots of tweens and teens are prepping for overnight camp at the moment, and that along with stocking up on sunblock and bug spray they’re planning a visit to the waxing salon. This has put many parents in a frenzy, but I just don’t get it.

As makeup icon Bobbi Brown tells the Times:

“It’s about making sure your child is comfortable. If she’s going to be in a bunk with all these girls, and she feels insecure because she hasn’t taken care of the hair on her lip or her legs, you know what? You do whatever you can do to make her feel good when she gets there.”

The key, I think, is to have an actual discussion with your daughter to go along with her underarm wax. I can still remember being in sixth or seventh grade and feeling really insecure about my, er, body hair. That’s around the time my mom sat me down and explained that it’s up to me if I want to wax, shave or just leave it alone. When I insisted we get rid of – stat! – she booked me my very first wax appointment. (Most of my friends were shaving at the time, but she liked how waxing lessens hair growth every time you do it; 20-plus years later, I am beyond grateful.)

I remember her giving me the choice, and explaining how some women choose to keep the hair on their legs, for example. She reiterated what she had always taught me, which is that things like makeup and jewelery and clothes, and now waxing, don’t make a woman more beautiful, that it comes from within. It was all the cliche but oh-so-important stuff that a tween girl needs to hear, and looking back I feel lucky that she presented it that way.

I can also remember being at overnight camp, and how by week three or four I would feel really insecure about wearing a bathing suit because my hair was starting to grow back. No one else seemed to notice – and nobody ever said anything about it – but it made me want to opt out of many activities because, well, I was embarrassed.

And you know what? I still feel insecure donning a swimsuit when I’m off-schedule (waxing schedule, that is). I’m now married with two kids and I’m like to think I’m a confident woman, but I still can’t stand that feeling of not being properly groomed. It’s not because society says I have to be, or because my husband gives a shit, or because anyone else would even notice or care if I’m not freshly waxed. It’s really just my own deal (kind of like wearing sexy lingerie under your ratty old T-shirt – it gives you confidence/makes you feel good).

So when it comes to tweens and waxing, I think it’s only a problem if a girl bases her worth on her bikini line. But I doubt that’s the case. I imagine these girls just wanted to feel good about themselves, and getting waxed is one way that can help them do so. It’s not because they’re expected to, or because they need to grow up too quickly; it’s simply because it makes them feel more secure – kind of like how most grown women I know might paint their nails regularly, or throw on a pair of heels when they’re feeling lousy. Sometimes it’s just about feeling good.

(Photo:Lucky Business/Shutterstock)