DEAR ABBY: Regarding the debate over whether a 10-year-old girl should be allowed to shave her legs, let me share my story. In 1952, I was also 10 years old. My parents were first-generation Italians. Women in my family did not shave their legs or underarms. My legs were hairy, but I knew better than to ask to shave. Instead, I asked if I could wear nylon stockings. My parents finally agreed.
Silly child that I was, I wore the stockings, but they matted my hair against my legs -- and the other girls made fun of me. When I got home, I locked myself in the bathroom. I found my father's razor and started shaving my legs using no water or shaving cream. My tender hair follicles couldn't take it. I started bleeding profusely. I became hysterical thinking I was going to bleed to death.
My uncle happened to be visiting and heard my screams. He broke down the bathroom door, wrapped my legs in towels and carried me out. Not only was I embarrassed, but I was now in big trouble. I had done "the forbidden thing."
To my parents' credit, after that day, I was allowed to shave my legs, but not my underarms. (I started shaving my underarms at 12, but that's another story.) -- A.C. IN N.J.
DEAR A.C.: Traditions are hard to relinquish. It's sad that it took a blood-letting to persuade your parents to relent. However, it's interesting that by the age of 12 you had managed to do what you wanted. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: When I was 13 and playing basketball in the school gym, a classmate asked me why I didn't shave my legs. Looking down at them, I said, "Because I don't need to."
Two weeks later I got my first pair of glasses. I was shocked to see that trees had individual leaves -- not indistinct green clumps! I was horrified when I looked down at my legs and realized why my classmate had asked the question.
More than 40 years later I still laugh at the memory. -- MYOPIC BUT SMOOTH IN OREGON
DEAR MYOPIC: Spoken like a true visionary.
DEAR ABBY: As a single father of three girls (two grown and a 13-year-old still at home with me), I must say to all parents: Fitting in is part of life. Nobody wants to be poked fun at because his or her family's views are different. Growing up today is hard enough. Why add pressures?
There are many topics that should be openly discussed between children and parents, but if a parent feels uncomfortable about it, so will the child.
I remember many times over the years I had to discuss, purchase or attend to things that a girl's mother would normally do. Some made me feel uncomfortable; however, I did them anyway.
Parents should strive for open two-way communication with their children. We pass along the morals, values and rules we were taught so they can modify them and teach them to their own children -- and so on. -- JORDAN ROBERTS IN MASSACHUSETTS
DEAR JORDAN: Right. It's a natural evolution.
Pauline Phillips and her daughter Jeanne Phillips share the pseudonym Abigail Van Buren. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
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