Elective Maturity

I can't remember the last time I shaved my legs. Wait -- yes I can -- it was the day of prom. So, I shaved my legs most recently on May 13, about a month ago. No, I am not going for a longhaired, European look. I am simply blessed with extremely fine, light-colored leg hair that grows extremely slowly. When I say blessed, I feel as though this attribute is a gift from heaven. I don't enjoy the awkwardness of trying to balance while wielding a dangerous device in the shower. The first time I cut myself shaving, I worried that I would bleed to death. I had had a large bug bite under my knee, and as I shaved one evening in the shower, I severed the bump from my skin. Blood oozed from my leg. Now, I bear a scar that reminds me to be careful with razors or to avoid shaving at all.

Unlike most girls I know, maintaining the hairless look of a naked mole rat has never been my goal. I didn't start shaving my legs until late in the seventh grade. I became self-conscious as my legs became hairier than those of my friends. (I knew a girl who had been shaving since third grade.) At first, I was too shy to tell my mom that I wanted to shave my legs. After I began shaving, I so disliked talking about shaving that I rarely told her when I was out of gel. Instead, I learned that it is even less pleasant to shave using soap. Writing an article about shaving would have been inconceivable to my middle-school self. Although shaving has become a chore, the appropriateness of clean-shaven legs is not missed by me; the commencement of shaving marks the transition of girls becoming young women and calling attention to their figures. -- Megan Zapanta, El Capitan H.S.

I was in seventh grade when many of my friends began to shave their legs, and I felt uncomfortable for being one of the girls who did not. I had a friend in fifth grade who had begun to shave (among other things), and I remember being jealous of the fact that she was allowed to do such mature things. Girls are always sensitive about who starts doing what and when. After asking my mom and sitting through a talk about responsibility and the fact that once one begins to shave, the hair often grows in darker and/or thicker, she gave me a razor and showed me what to do. I remember sitting on the bathroom countertop with my feet resting in the sink and my disposable pink razor in hand. My mom told me to shave gently so as not to cut myself, and I did so successfully. I loved the silky smooth feeling of shaving for the first time.

Newly shaven legs still make me feel fresh and clean, and when I haven't shaved in longer than usual it resembles the feeling of walking around with unwashed hair. All of my female friends shave their legs and underarms, and I have several male friends who shave their bodies to improve their times for swim competitions. -- Naomi Serling-Boyd, Mt. Carmel H.S.

While females of 26 or more years spend their time trying to look younger, us teenagers attempt to look older. Make-up, hair-styling, and purses help, but nothing shows a commitment to appear more mature than shaving one's legs. Something about having smooth, shiny, hairless limbs... When I was but a lass, I'd see my mom and older sister's bald legs and look forward to the day I had permission to remove what I considered the symbol of my immaturity: the hair on my legs. Older girls were allowed to shave their legs, but my mom advised me to wait until I was at least nine. I couldn't wait that long, so I rebelled. I justified my decision to shave by telling myself it would be good for the free market (increased sales of razors and gels). Okay, maybe not, but I did use that excuse to disguise my deeper motive: shaving gel was fluffy and smelled good, and I wanted it.

Now that I'm older and have gotten a taste of "real" responsibility, shaving and other forms of elective maturity have lost much of their appeal. However, whenever I don't feel like shaving, all I need to do is wait for Skintimate to produce a new fragrance. As soon as I smell that artificial sweetness, I'm reminded of the pride I should feel whenever I wield a razor. -- Mary Lindquist, El Capitan H.S.

'But, guys, you don't get it! I have the legs and underarms of a gorilla!" I exclaimed to my amused yet unyielding parents. This exasperating routine went on for what seemed like forever: me, saying my life would be over, and my parents, laughing good-naturedly, would say no. Eventually, they let me mow the 13 years of lawn that had grown on my legs. Whoever said that shaving was a breeze must have never come into contact with a razor. I strode into that bathroom with my brand-new razor and shaving cream with all of the confidence of a field mouse. If you don't count the twin gashes I gave myself on the soft skin behind my knees, I did all right. I remember the sting of walking afterward. It took forever to heal, yet I bear the two thin scars with pride, a tribute to a phase in my life.

To me, shaving was a rite of passage. So, can you imagine the shame of walking down the street, thinking you look great, while people stare at the trail of hair you missed on the right side of your leg? I remember blushing when someone would tell me, "You missed a spot." After awhile, I made it my mission to incorporate patience into my hasty routine.

Four years later, I've got the hang of shaving. Sometimes I don't shave for a couple of days at a time. It can be bothersome, so I'll wear pants to cover my legs. But, I do understand that in today's world, all women want those super-smooth legs that draw attention. Image has become a big factor, and we feel pressured to look like models.

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