However, she's also cursed with my hairy legs. Which, honestly, I didn't think I'd have to really worry about until she was in her early teens.
My mother didn't allow me to shave until I was 13. Thirteen. I'm pretty sure I must've been basically wolfmanish for years prior, though, because by then I was just covered. I remember distinctly the sheets of thick, dark, black hair. I remember how it was in such discord with my blanched skin.
I remember, kind of vaguely, more in the distant parts of my mind where I think I've buried all the bad shit that'll return to me on my deathbed and have me haunting so many of you like Flatliners, being teased relentlessly about it. And that's because there were primarily Latinos in my school, for crissakes.
But I'd made both the basketball team and the cheerleading squad in the summer just before 7th grade, and I just didn't think I could bear it -- all grizzly puns fully intended.
I can't really remember, because I'm pretty sure I must've blocked it out, how long and how hard I had to have lobbied and begged for that moment to finally happen. I can't even begin to imagine what those arguments sounded like, but the fact that my mother eventually did cave (and if you've ever been on the receiving end of an argument with me) should give you some idea.
But then I was obsessed. With not wanting anyone EVER to see even the teensiest bit of stubble (which, seriously, appears within an hour of a clean shave). With not wanting anyone to ever get too close, to see too much, to have to stop and convince themselves that it didn't matter.
And yes, of course, I love who I am. I love everything about being Latina. My dark wavy hair, my wide twin-bearing hips, my overly dramatic and hot-blooded temper, and my passion for, well, for passion. I love it all. But the hair. The hair has been a tough one to swallow. [ack!!]
And, yes, I have had my legs and face and even arms waxed (once). In fact, I tried a full-body waxing just before our vacation to Cancùn a few years ago. But once it grew back, and the unbelievably torturous itching stopped, I just couldn't ever do it again.
It wasn't really a maintenance thing. Or even a pain thing. In fact, I found the full-body waxing experience to be a whole lot like getting a tattoo. Kind of calming and numbing...and even a little sexy.
But despite comments I've actually received from friends and former lovers, and more than a reasonable number of fits with razors and waxing strips and hair removing foams, I really do embrace my body, my skin, my color, my hair, my whole Latina-ness. I can't say that I didn't love, for those glorious two weeks in Mexico, the hassle-free, smooth-as-silk, hairless dog experience. There were definitely some advantages.
But in the end, when all is said and done, this is who I am, and no amount of hair removal products or services can or should change that.
But I do still shave my legs and underarms. (I may live in Cali, but it ain't in Berkeley.) And I tweeze and occasionally wax my face and keep my eyebrows from Frida Kahlo-ing all over the place. But I'm not quite so self-conscious anymore, although, clearly, I still maintain.
So how do I get across to Saia, who is only 7, that even though she has more hair on her legs than her brother and Mommy combined, we're just not going to go there? Not yet. And not for a very long time. She's Latina. Just as her mother before her, and her grandmother before that. And although my maternal grandmother passed on the hairless Mexican Indian gene to my cousin Missy (whom I will NEVER EVER forgive), it is a trait that I associate very closely with my history, with my culture, with my family, and with my being. And I need her to feel that, too.