I had one of those tickle-your-insides moments of stepmotherhood today.
Fourteen-almost-15-year-old Caswell is very interested in body hair. His, in particular.
A year and a half ago, he would show me his armpits and ask me what I thought. Usually, I would respond with something like, “Gross!” or “That’s disgusting — put your arm down.”
But he kept it up, and finally I asked, “What do you want me to say?”
And he told me he wanted me to tell him how impressive his underarm hair was. Underarm hair was a novelty to him at the time. He was growing it! It meant he was getting older! It was an impressive thing!
So, I dutifully complied. When he raised his arms and asked me what I thought of his armpits, I would say things like, “Wow! Those are the hairiest armpits I’ve ever seen!” and “I think there’s a lot more hair there than last time!”
He went away happy.
So, it was easy to guess how he wanted to respond when he started showing off his leg hair. “Wow, that’s impressive!” and “Omigosh, your legs are totally hairy” were met with smiles and pride.
(Before I was 13, I begged my parents to let me shave my legs. My parents demurred, and finally my dad told me I could shave my legs when I could braid the hair. I tried and tried to braid my leg hair but failed, so I had to wait until I was 13 to shave. If someone back then had ever remarked on my leg hair, I would have wanted to crawl into a hole. That’s the difference between 12-year-old girls and 12-year-old boys.)
Today, the hair in question was facial hair. Cas asked me when he would have a beard. “When you’re 25,” I answered, knowing how scraggy most teen-age boys’ “beards” are and conscious that my red-headed stepson’s blond facial hair will take longer to look beard-like than other boys. That was not the answer he wanted. He told me he’s set a goal to grow a goatee by the time he’s a sophomore. “Sure, a goatee — maybe you could have one of those,” I said.
But he needed more gratification: “Here, feel my beard.”
I touched his cheeks and lo and behold, there’s more than peach fuzz there! There is the whisper of whiskers!
My look of surprise was an acceptable response.
He went away, rubbing his face, pleased with his razor stubble.
I went away with a happy feeling inside, that he dared share these hairy wishes with me.