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An Awkward Topic
ASK LORI and LIANE, November 2008, by Lori Clemente and Liane Knoll-Kowk
An AWKWARD Topic
But totally normal!
Dear Lori and Liane,
A little while ago I started to get pubic hair. I haven’t told my mom or anyone about it. I’m embarrassed and want to shave it off. What should I do?
Liane: Pubic hair, it seems to be such a big secret! It’s a private part of our bodies, but at the same time it’s a completely natural and normal event in our lives. Our first thought may be: “Ahhhhhhhhhh!” with feelings of embarrassment and the need to hide it or make it go away. Sorry, I have to say it: “Congratulations! You’re well on your way to becoming a woman and everything is happening as it should!”
Lori: There is a technical word for the appearance of pubic hair, “pubarche.” When puberty starts (anywhere between 8 and 13), the first sign is usually breast development. A growth spurt happens next, then the development of pubic and underarm hair and within a couple years your period will show up. Pubic hair grows as the result of an increase in the hormone ‘androgen’.
Liane: You could be at that age where part of you wants to grow up but another part feels like you have no control over your own body and you fear being judged or teased about your ‘new changes’. You may be worried that if someone knows you’re growing hair “down there”, they’ll be shocked, or even worse, they’ll laugh. Some people choose to shave or trim part or all of it, it’s a very personal decision.
Lori: This may sound strange, but pubic hair actually serves a purpose. Nature made us the way we are for very good reasons. Some of these include: warmth, a place for the collection of secreted pheromones, and as a visual sign of the onset of adulthood. There may also be a protective purpose to pubic hair and some people believe that shaving or waxing this hair completely opens up hundreds of tiny pores that may become entry points for infection. A suggestion would be to just trim this hair without affecting its purpose.
Liane: That’s a great idea, and it is a personal decision you’ll have to make. Remember, if you shave it, IT WILL GROW BACK, and for some, it will be ITCHY! The skin in that area of your body is very sensitive, so be careful. If your decision is to shave, you may want to stick to the ‘bikini line’ only (the part that would show if you wore a bikini bottom). While it may feel as though your body is playing tricks on you right now, the truth is, you can’t stop puberty. Try to relax about it and accept it as an important and healthy part of your journey to adulthood. And if your friends haven’t talked about it, it’s probably just because they are worried like you.
Lori: In the end whatever you do is up to you and how you feel about your body. It is common for girls to feel less attractive or awkward about their appearance as their bodies mature. I remember feeling really embarrassed and uncomfortable with my body when I went through puberty, and eventually I got used to all the changes. Just remember, everyone gets pubic hair; it’s the way a normal, healthy person develops… it just may take some getting used to!
Keep your feet on the ground! ~ Liane
Be strong! ~ Lori