Dear Dr. Wallace:
Count me in when it comes to your “defend yourself when all else fails” philosophy when dealing with bullies. Even though I am an 88-year-old great-grandfather, I read your column about teenagers with interest. Please allow me to share a story of my son who was being bullied when he was 15. He was small for his age, and the country-consolidated school he attended had to get him a special uniform so he could march with the school band. At the start of his sophomore year, a big kid who was new to the school started demanding that my son give him 10 cents a day or he would beat him up. For two days, my son gave this large boy 10 cents, but on the third day, my son said he would not give him any more money. The big kid then told my son to get ready for a fight after school.
Not wanting to get suspended for fighting on school grounds, my son went to the principal and explained the situation. He asked if he would get into trouble for fighting the bully off of school grounds. The principal said no but asked, “Can you defend yourself?” My son’s answer was, “I’ll try.” The fight started after school when the big kid pushed my son down. My son got up, dusted the dirt off his pants, walked up to the big guy and punched him squarely on the nose. The big kid backed away and took off running home. That ended this particular incident of bullying forever.
— Old-School Great-Grandpa,
Dear Old School: I believe that school personnel can stop bullying by following proper procedure, but unfortunately, many school procedures are not entirely effective when it comes to continuing bullying. When teachers and administrators cannot stop this kind of abuse, defending oneself is an option under certain circumstances. Your son obviously felt like he wanted to take matters into his own hands, and fortunately, your story had a happy ending. Unfortunately, bullying continues to this day despite more societal awareness about it than ever before. The key is to take action, either by speaking up to seek help and intervention or by pushing back in some manner — either figuratively or literally — depending on the individual and the situation.
Dear Dr. Wallace: I’m a 16-year-old girl, and I have a lot of noticeable hair on my legs. I want to shave my legs, but my mom won’t let me. She says that the hair I shave off grow back a lot thicker. I don’t believe this is true, but I can’t convince my mom. I’m embarrassed to wear nylon stockings because they make the hair more noticeable. I’m a brunette, and the hair is very dark. Help! Mom always reads your column, so she might listen to your advice if you agree with my point of view on this topic.
— Hairy Mary,
Hairy Mary: Shaving the hair on your legs will not cause the hair to grow back thicker. If that were true, all the bald men in the world would be shaving their heads regularly!
I think you do have a point here. At the age of 16, you should be allowed to look as feminine as you wish, within reason. And shaving your feminine legs does qualify, in my humble — albeit masculine — opinion. So, here’s my suggestion: Ask to talk privately with your mother one evening or weekend afternoon when things are quiet and she has some free time. Once you two are alone, ask your mom earnestly what she uses to remove the hair from her legs. She obviously has a method — likely either shaving or the use of a product like Nair. Ask her to help you. If she does shave, ask her politely if she could shave your legs for you the first time to show you how to do it properly and safely.
You’re a young lady now, and Mother Nature is telling you this in no uncertain terms. You deserve to be taught a method to remove the hair from your legs so that you can be confident in your appearance.