My daughter asked me why she has hair on her legs and I don’t.
A simple question, when we were sitting together on the lounge, our legs splayed out alongside each other’s.
I had no idea what to say.
Is this the moment to bring up the patriarchy, I wondered. Or do we just want to keep watching Operation Ouch?
The wisest parenting mentors in my life tell me that honesty is generally the best policy. That kids can smell bullsh*t a mile away, so just come clean.
If I had followed that advice, I probably would have said something like this:
“You have hair on your legs and I don’t, darling, because you are still at an age where you are not yet expected to conform to society’s long-held beauty standards.
“You are, as yet, ignorant of the judgement and ridicule that you’ll attract if you decide to buck accepted beauty norms.
“You don’t know yet that the natural state of your body is considered disgusting and gross, and that if you don’t take steps to alter and tame it, you will be considered a peculiar rebel, worthy of note.
“You are not yet aware that our culture considers the naturally hairy state of a man’s body attractive and manly, but the naturally state of a woman’s body smelly and unhygienic.
“But don’t worry, you have all that to look forward to. You go girl, etc.”
Of course I didn’t say that.
What I actually said was this: "Oh, I just like to shave my legs. Maybe you'll shave yours one day." And we went back to watching the telly.
But it bothered me. It bothered me because every day, my daughter's eyes are on me, watching for clues about how to be a woman. She's gathering data at all times. She's like a spy for the future.
And people, that's a lot of pressure. Because, I don't know about you, but I don't have good reasons for many of the 'womanly' things that I do.
"Why do you wear make-up?" Is another question I haven't worked out the 'right' answer to.
"Why do you wear high heels?" Yet another.
"Why are you standing at the fridge eating pickles out of a jar?" But I digress.
This stuff is basic. How to handle these questions should be taught in pre-natal classes, right alongside how to find the exact piece of teeny-tiny Lego your kid is tearfully demanding in a bucketful of identical bumpy bits. And how to deal with the inevitable, 'What happens after we die?', which is a question only ever asked while a parent is driving a car.