An armpit walks into a bar. . .

I don’t want to alarm anyone—particularly fellow mothers to young girls—but this whole puberty thing? Does not wait until high school. I mean, if it had any manners it certainly WOULD wait until high school, so that our daughters would already be refusing to talk to us about anything, but no.

“Well, how old were YOU when you started… changing?” asked a friend, in response to my detailing recent events in our house.

“I don’t know!” I huffed. “I HAVE COMPLETELY BLOCKED OUT THOSE YEARS!” And it’s true. I have one vivid memory of pestering my mother, repeatedly, that I wanted to shave my legs. I am descended from hairy Eastern Europeans, people. We are blessed with milky white skin and ebony PELTS. Not a fabulous combination at the pool in the summer. So I pestered, and pestered, and finally my mother agreed to buy me some depilatory.

(She was afraid I’d cut myself with a razor.) (She was right to be afraid—years later, the first time I shaved I sliced such a big hunk of my kneecap off, it clogged the razor. You’re welcome!) Anyway, here’s what I remember: I had the foul-smelling bottle of Nair. I took it into the bathroom along with a book and a timer, after my mother and I had read the directions. I applied it to my legs, from ankle to hip. (Did I even have any hair on my thighs? Who knows. I put it ALL OVER my legs, like I thought I was supposed to do.)

I set the timer. I sat down on the edge of the toilet lid to read my book until the timer dinged. It dinged and I hopped into the tub to rinse.

It was then that I realized that coating my first leg all the way up to my thigh and then leaning down to coat the second leg meant that ANOTHER part of my body had pressed against said depilatory-coated thigh while I was bent over. And I turned the water on and washed off all of the hair on my legs, like magic.

As well as half my pubic hair. Oops!

I remember feeling mortified, although who would know? Maybe I was just pissed because it had taken me twelve years to grow those twenty hairs I lost. Who knows.

And THAT is more or less my memory of early puberty.

So when Chickadee’s feet started growing at accelerated speed I thought it was odd but figured okay, whatever, that’ll stop soon. And when she started wolfing down endless amounts of food, well, I figured she needed the energy to GROW HER BIG FLIPPER FEET. But then the day came when she sat down on my lap and something was very, very wrong.

Do you know how babies smell wonderful and children smell pretty good? That was the day I discovered that girls in early puberty are indeed fragrant, but not in a way that is pleasing. I may have bellowed, “Oh DEAR GOD, your pits STINK!”

She may have been offended. And really, had I been thinking about it, that’s probably not the way I’d envisioned talking to my daughter about her changing body and the miracle of maturation. But in the moment—with very little fresh oxygen to the brain—it was all I’d managed.

I tried to make it up to her by taking her to the store to behold the Big Wall Of Deodorant Sticks, and told her she could pick whatever she liked. We spent about ten minutes just sniffing. Because it’s a big decision, you know, whether you want your pits to smell flowery or fresh, crisp or seductive. (“Mom, what does seductive mean?” “It means you put that one back and try a different one!”) In the end, she opted for tropical power, and that—I thought—was that.

Well, there’s a funny thing about that Degree Girl deodorant. They apparently have a whole associated campaign. I had barely noticed that the lid had a sticker proudly proclaiming OMG!, which I figured was just designed to appeal to today’s teens, who only speak in text. Whatever. But Chickadee never removed the sticker.

Last night as I was bidding her goodnight, she was having some trouble settling down; it was a combination of a full day and some anticipation of school today, where her supposed BFF is still being decidedly unfriendly. So in the midst of a lot of whining and tragedy, she decided that she ABSOLUTELY NEEDED some lotion for an itchy spot of skin, and so I went to her dresser to grab the lotion, which was sitting next to the deodorant. The deodorant proudly proclaiming OMG!

I turned back to Chickadee with the lotion in one hand and the deodorant in the other. “Do you want some lotion, or, OH MY GOSH! Do your PITS SMELL? Do you need some of THIS?”

She sniffled a little and I thought I saw a grin, so I pressed on. “OH MY GOSH! Should we use this on your FEET? Because OH! MY! GOSH! they sort of smell, TOO!”

Now she was laughing, and snatched the stick away from me. “OH MY GOSH!” she trilled. “Maybe YOU are the smelly one! Because OH! MY! GOSH! you are REALLY ANNOYING!”

“OH MY GOSH!” I answered, and we collapsed in giggles.

I really do not recall antiperspirant being quite so entertaining, when I was her age. Then again, I lost a big chunk of “it’s NOT! FUNNY!” time to waiting for my pubic hair to grow back, so what do I know?


  1. liz

    Just a thought…when did she start having Tropically Powerful Armpits? Is it at all possible that that’s what has been causing her allergies? Granted, you’re Wonder Mom, so you’ve already thought of that, but I thought I’d ask.

  2. Megan

    See I was lulled because the Older Girl Child sort of wandered sweetly towards puberty – like not hitting it until well into the genuine teen-teens. Unfortunately her sister was doing some sort of evil plotting because while I was still admiring the stick-like figure (and utterly non-hormonal character) of the Older I turned around and found that sneaky Younger HAD GROWN HIPS. Curvy ones. WHO ORDERED THAT??

  3. Em

    How am I going to block out your puberty now? :-)

  4. Beth

    I think I’d rather have grown hips rather than boobs first… I was wearing a bra in 4th grade! blah.

    And I’m so glad you’ve managed to pre-empt the OMG! to a goofy thing, rather than the pissy tween exclamation it truly is. For the tweens of the 80’s, think “Whatever!” in a true Valley Girl voice.

  5. dcfullest

    I lead a camp for 3rd-7th graders in the summer and one of the few packing requirements I have for them is deoderant. Because puberty can’t sneak up, you can smell it from 10 feet away.

  6. Tatiana

    Puberty is a scary thing… ! I remember using my mom’s razor to shave my legs in like fifth grade because I went to school with girls that had older sisters, and since all of their older sisters were shaving, that meant we better do it, too!

  7. Melissa

    I hit puberty WAY to early – as in the 5th grade. It was horrid. I was the new kid in class AND the first to need to shave (I too have ivory skin and a thick pelt, though mine is auburn). My mother thought she could put my changes off by declaring I couldn’t shave until junior-high – ugh, those days were horrid. To avoid being called “Cave Girl” I took to wearing jeans all summer long (in Arizona!).

    Good luck with Chickadee and her tropical scentedness!

  8. ruthwells

    The oldest boy-child started with the stinky pits and blackheads in 5th grade. It’s going to be a lonnnnnnnnng couple of years.

  9. Burgh Baby

    If ever I meet you face-to-face, you should know that I will be thinking about the pube incident. I promise not to laugh in your face. Much.

  10. The Other Leanne

    Puberty, aka “Grandma’s Revenge.”

  11. ChristieNY

    OMG, that is hilarious! And yes, my Mom insisted on buying me that awful smelling depilatory cream as well (hooray for ivory skin and dark hair, woo).

    I lost some arm hair to that at one point and ended up having to Nair both my arms to make them even, good times.

    Also, you should check out Amalah’s “deodorant wars” part one and two, antiperspirant *can* be entertaining! lol

  12. Rachel

    My daughter’s teacher talked to their 4th grade class after PE one day & said they might want to consider wearing deoderant… hint hint. (My daughter’s recollection was the teacher specifically said the boys may want to start, because they are smellier. I doubt that’s what the teacher said, but my daughter thinking “boys stink” is fine for her (in my opinon) at that age!) She started shaving about that same time. The school here does the “puberty movie” in 5th grade, but of course all the kids think they know all about it before they finish 4th. She is now in 6th grade; the PE class has to wear uniforms & part of the required uniform is deoderant. = )
    My son is in 3rd grade & has been OBSESSED with AXE brand deoderant/body spray/body wash for about 6 months. He is 8 going on 18… help me! At least he showers every day. Now if they only made AXE brand toothpaste, that would be something..
    Have you & Chickie read the book by the American Girl Co “The Care & Keeping of You”? We bought it & it reinforces some of the things I have told my daughter, but I am toooooo dumb to know (like you need to wash your hair occaisionally & not to wear head phones too loud). They sell it at Target (Yeah!! One of my fav stores too!) for about $10. Definately worth the money.

  13. melissa

    Uh…I am awesome. The first time I shaved my legs? I only did the fronts. That’s all I could see!!!

    Who knew you had to do the backs too!

    (slapping forehead and praying my kids will have more sense.)

  14. Jill W.

    I am blessed with the same skin/hair combo. Ain’t it fun. My 3 year old daughter seems to have inherited her dad’s olive tone skin and light hair, thank God.

    I was one of those girls who needed a bra and deodorant in 5th grade, too- it may have even been 4th. I have blocked a lot of that out, too.

  15. All Adither

    You’re a brave, brave blogger.

  16. Heather

    I have not laughed so hard (EVER) as I did at your accidentally lotioning off your pubic hair. I’m sorry. No, I’m not…it was dang funny! :) If it makes you feel better I have the same fair skin/dark hair combo and I spent the better part of my adolescence in the bathroom of my parent’s house with Nair, until I realized that the hair was too thick and dark to work before it started to eat off my first layers of skin and leave the hair clinging to my remaining layers. I then moved on to bleaching, which also didn’t work. Oy. I am so glad I’m no longer a teen/tween.

  17. The Other Lori

    Chickadee is so lucky to have you guiding her through “the change”. You know, navigating the minefield of Nair and Degree Girl. Cause OMG, I’m LMAO just reading this. Or ROFL. Or LOL.

  18. zeghsy

    i got hip bones first. then a butt and thighs. then THAT. THEN i got boobs. but the hip bones came first. because my body was determined to turn me into a woman, regardless of the fact that ballet and been keeping all the fat off me. then i turned 13, knew EVERYTHING and quit. OH MY GOSH! i was so stupid. because of ballet, i needed deodorant early on.

  19. Ariel

    You know when your boobs start to grow? How you have little lumps that HURT?
    Well… I didn’t know my boobs were growing…No…
    I thought I had cancer. And I was too afraid to tell my mom I was dying. And I didn’t think it was fair, I was 9, I’d never worn a bra and I was dying of breast cancer…

    So I eventually told my mom and she LAUGHED. Laughed until she cried, actually.

  20. Michelle

    My niece had to start using deodorant when she was 8. That girl’s feet are horrendous smelling too. She just uses Teen Spirit right now though; it’s not that pungent, it just gets her in the habit of putting it on.

  21. ~annie

    Please don’t shoot me for what I am about to tell you. Run and hide as fast as you can! You were ahead of the curve with the pubic hair incident. Today’s boys ask their girlfriends to do just that for them. Not kidding.

  22. Therese

    Too true, Annie. This mother overhead teenaged boys talking about such things (believe me, way TMI for me!) They think it’s a normal thing for a girl to get darn near hairless in such areas. I think my ears are still bleeding.

  23. KarateMom

    I don’t know which made me laugh harder – the Nair story, or the “twenty hairs” part of it! Too funny!

    Oh, and does every single aspect of every product out there have to have a website attached to it? I mean, c’mon! A DEODORANT website?!? Give me a break!

  24. jennielynn

    I thought the Nairing of your pubic hairs was the funniest thing I had ever read, until I got to Ariel’s comment and I just peed my pants.

  25. merlotmom

    OMG! I can’t get my 12 year old to listen to any advice puberty related. Maybe I should get some OMG deoderant! Thanks for making me laugh so hard.

  26. Headless Mom

    Uh, I had to start buying the Boy1 deodorant last year, just shy of 8yrs. old. How does that happen? I didn’t start using it regularly until I was about 18. Really, no one ever said I was stinky…wonder if they were just being nice or if I really didn’t need it?

  27. Astrogirl

    Ok, so the big question is, how is Mr. Otto handling the beginnings of puberty? If he’s anything like Bunker Hubs, he’s sitting in the living room, very determinedly reading something on the computer and NOT. PAYING. ATTENTION.

    Just think, Chickie is probably the easy one when it comes to puberty-related hygiene issues. Whereas Monkey will probably just shrug when you tell him his pits stink. Boys…

  28. Jodi

    Deodorant is a required accessory starting in 6th grade gym here. If they have gym they have deodorant. And they are instructed to apply liberally after gym. Otherwise the poor teacher in the next class walks around emptying a can of febreeze.

    And can I just scream OUCH! to your shaving story? Good gracious girl! I cringe just thinking about it. Oh, and both my older girls (12 and 11) are shaving already. I figure when they start asking you might as well let them try it.

  29. breedemandweep

    I am giggling like I am 12. Maturity, slipping away. You said ‘pubic hair.’ Tee hee! I am going to read Tiger Beat now.

  30. Stephanie Chance

    My poor daughter inherited my hairy gene. This summer she spent every day in the pool at summer camp. So her legs (and arms!) are a nice, dark shade of tan. And her hairs are dyed a brilliant, shiny white. She looks like a fuzzy caterpillar. I dread when she starts feeling self-conscious about it like I did. And she is only 6!

  31. Katie in MA

    My four-year-old is already asking me when she can be grown-up and shave her legs. No, she doesn’t “get” it, but I am still seeing many, many vodka-filled years in front of me. (For *me*, not her!)

  32. Kris

    Kasia is 11 years old – just started shaving her legs, just starting boob buds, worrying about tampon usage (even though she hasn’t started her period yet) and “gets” all the adult jokes and innuendos that are tossed around on the TV and in the house. nothing is sacred anymore. I swear she was hairy enough at four years old to start shaving (but of course we waited until the kids made fun of her for having DARK hair on her arms and legs, to the point she wants to shave her forearms!)

    She’s got the family hips, and genetics are NOT going to be her friend (although all the boys who like big boobs will be).

    I call it payback.

  33. Randi

    OMG. This scares the crap out of me. I mean, my daughter’s only 4, but my son is swiftly turning 8. Does this mean he’ll start needing deodorant and the S-E-X talk soon?? Wait, does this mean he’ll stop believing in Santa Claus?!?!?!

  34. lindsay

    Ariel! I too thought I had cancer when my boobs started to grow, because one was bigger than the other. For shiz, puberty is so difficult.

  35. Amy-Go

    My plan is to hide under the bed until Jack is finished with puberty. What? That will totally work!

  36. Flea

    OMG! This is, like, so hilarious! I think I bought deodorant for all of my kids before they actually needed it. Told them how to use it and when they began to stink, told them to use it. Not much worse than a stinky kid.

    But that’s not the end of the story. NO! Wait a week or five and you’ll smell it. Again. And again. They forget to use the pit cream. And think it doesn’t matter. OH HOLY MOTHER OF GOD. Stinky teens who forget to use deodorant – in your enclosed car – nothing quite like it. After a full day of school, including PE and stress inducing tests.

    Have fun! :D

  37. Amy

    I was the hairy, chesty girl in 4th grade, and my mom also wouldn’t let me shave (oh the humanity!). At least she let me get a bra when I needed it – I know some girl’s who weren’t ‘allowed’ to wear a bra until they were 13 – as if boobs won’t appear if there’s nothing to hold them in.

    I don’t remember being stinky, but I do remember when I was 9, my mother gifted me with my very own Secret powder scent roll-on deodorant, so I probably was stinky.

  38. ML

    My six yr.old (hairy like me and 4’3″ in first grade) has already told me, “Mawam..You know I don’t watch that show anymore. You KNOW I’m a teenager!” It’s going to get bad up in here. We recently had a 16 yr.old boy move in the house next door and if she happens to spot him taking out the garbage or something she runs into the house shrieking ” the Boynager is in his yard!!! Hide me; I’m not dressed good.” 6! I’m going to get her laser treatments when she’s 13. I loves the laser hair removal!

  39. ellbee

    Oh Lord. I don’t remember exactly when I started wearing deoderant, but I remember IN GREAT DETAIL the events that transpired when I got my first period. It wasn’t the period that was memorable, but the fact that my mom took me out to a very fancy resturant downtown for a “just us girls” evening. Now, looking back, this was a wonderful gesture to acknowledge a big milestone, but I was MOERTIFIED.
    “MOOOOM!!! Everyone will KNOOOOOOWWW”
    “MOOOOM!!! What if the waiter asks what we’re CELLEEBRAATING?”
    “MOOOOM!!! Here comes the waiter!!!”
    As it turns out, the waiter did ask what we were celebrating, and we both pointed at each other and said, “her birthday.”
    Now that’s a memory I will never forget and will always treasure.

  40. ellbee

    And also MORTIFIED. Aparently when you’re 13 you can’t SPELL, either.

  41. Wendy

    I saw Rachel’s Axe comment up there. Axe is like the Brut from our days. The boys in my classroom would go swimming in it after their Athletics class. Whew! One in a room was bad enough – but a whole slew of boys that bathed in Axe was toxic!

    I never understood Nair. I have thick dark hair with pale skin. I’d put that stuff on, let it sit, wipe it off and see all my hairs still sitting there taunting me. I wish I could swear by laser hair removal, but after a year it is starting to come back. Darn!

    OMG Deodorant is too funny! I can’t believe there’s a website, too!

  42. dgm

    I just noticed the “OMG” sticker the other day. Truly it should be “OMFG” because OMFG, the smell of puberty is not perty. I started noticing it with my daughter waaaaaay earlier than it hit me, and already she has more leg hairs than I do (but then again, I’m 1/2 Filipino, thank the lord, and I only have to shave my shins every 6 weeks).

    Nice job on the short & curlies!

  43. mama speak

    I’m apparently the missing link in the evolution chain, as evidenced by the amount of hair I have on myself. I have a light olive completion (I’m part Hispanic, but really got non of the color, I just tan amazingly well,) and dark, thick, curly hair (lots of ingrown hairs). Not just hair, but lots of scaring and rashes, lovely. In my 20s I decided forget and stopped wearing regular bathing suits; all board shorts & skirt suits for me. This year (I’m 39) I ponied up the $$ and got the laser hair removal done. OMG! Why did I wait so damn long!? It is worth every. damn. penny. If my girls are like me I’ll be doing this for them as b-day gifts during their teen years.

    I have a similar shaving story. A friend of mine shaved her feet the first time, her razor was also filled w/skin.

    Ariel, I laughed so hard when I read your story.

  44. The Other Other Dawn

    This just made me laugh out loud in several places…

    Now that you mention it, I remember needing to start wearing deodorant and I think it was grade 5, so 9 or 10. But there wasn’t much choice back in the stone age. And no cute stickers.

    I didn’t need to shave as early because I am descended from hairless blond Brits. I barely need to shave my legs at all.

    But since the ravages of menopause have descended I’d rather not discuss my upper lip, if you don’t mind.


  45. Lauren

    Glad to hear my mom was not the only one handing me Nair for fear of her daughter slicing off a limb. Guess we were both clumsy!

  46. Karen

    I don’t recall being given deodorant, but I do remember very well “the talk” where my mother told me about my period:

    Mom “Do you know that blue box in the bathroom closet?”
    Me “yes”
    Mom “Well, you’ll need to start using those soon.”

    The end.

  47. Brigitte

    Oh Ariel, I thought I was the only one! I had the SAME experience (except I was more like 12 or 13). And my mom never explained her laughter, so I thought I was dying AND my mother found it amusing.

    She let me shave, but refused to acknowledge my stinky pits and greasy hair, though I was BEGGING for products to help me, for like two years. I was unpopular already, but that certainly didn’t help.

    Still waiting on the boobs . . .

  48. Sue @ My Party of 6

    Mir, you are so funny AND you have the best commenters! Ariel and Karen – I’m laughing so hard, I”m crying.

    My pediatrician got a good chuckle when I was asking him about puberty in boys and while he was answering, I realized that because I have a boy and a girl two years apart, I will probably have TWO kids going through puberty at the SAME TIME. (And then 3 years later, I’ll have to do it AGAIN!) Seriously poor planning on my part.

  49. tori

    I have had millions of talks with both my daughters about puberty. It never once crossed my mind to talk about the breast bumps not being cancer but after reading all the comments here I think I will be sure to mention this to my girls. I HAD cancer, so in our house it would be an even bigger fear that they might not even want to ask about. Maybe because I never had any boobs, but it never crossed my mind that anyone would think that! Both my daughters are wearing bras and growing up way way too fast for my taste.

  50. Laura


  51. Tootsie Farklepants

    Note to self: Nair works on lady bits. Ditch razor.

  52. tripleblessings

    Hilarious stories in your post and the comments. Alas, both my daughters needed deodorant at age 7, and one is growing pubic hair and armpit hair at 8. For some reason my son doesn’t have stinky armpits (also 8), but he’s had some sneakers that had to be condemned!
    Yeah, pre-pubescent triplets. The next few years are going to be interesting!

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