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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have read your column for years. You are usually right on the money. While having my morning coffee today and reading your column, I came across your reply to "Mother Under Pressure." I couldn't believe you advised that woman that her 10-year-old daughter should be allowed to shave her legs so she could fit in with her friends.

What's next, Abby? When her daughter comes home and says her friends are having sex, doing drugs, drinking alcohol, then she should join them in this irresponsible behavior? Do you not think parents should have standards and maintain them? By the way, my daughter, who will be 17 next month, agrees with me. I'm disappointed in you, Abby. -- OUTRAGED MOM, ERWIN, TENN.

DEAR OUTRAGED MOM: I advised the mother as I did out of compassion for the girl. When a girl asks her mother for permission to shave her legs, it is usually because she is self-conscious. And as a formerly furry child myself, I know how embarrassing that can be. I do not equate that decision with having sex, doing drugs or drinking alcohol. Shaving, when done correctly, is harmless. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I am a 13-year-old girl writing in response to "Mother Under Pressure," who was debating letting her 10-year-old daughter shave her legs.

The girl should be allowed to shave. I know how hard it can be to be different, and she will have to shave sooner or later -- so she may as well save herself some embarrassment.

I had an 11-year-old friend who was not allowed to shave, and even her friends were talking behind her back about how odd she looked.

Please tell "Mother Under Pressure" that we girls are under pressure, too. -- BEEN THERE, DONE THAT, SACRAMENTO, CALIF.

DEAR BEEN THERE: That's true, and when a child is made fun of by her peers, it can color the way she feels about herself for a very long time. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I want to say how right you were in your advice to "Mother Under Pressure." My mother wouldn't let me shave my legs until she finally gave in to my begging and pleading midway through seventh grade. She resisted because she didn't want me to "grow up too fast." I still clearly remember the shame and humiliation I felt about my hairy legs during gym class. It was devastating to my self-confidence at that age.

When my two daughters were young, I made it clear that it was THEIR decision to make whenever they wanted to shave. One started in fourth grade and the other in fifth grade.

You are absolutely right about girls wanting to blend in at that age. Shaving is a harmless way to do so. -- GAIL D., BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF.

DEAR GAIL: Thank you for the support. I would like to add one thing, however. If a girl is just beginning to shave her legs, an electric razor and a few pointers on how to use it are a wise investment. That way there will be fewer scars on her legs later on.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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