I just came across this article in 7x7 Magazine, discussing the supposed "Great Waxing Debate" between men and women--bikini waxing, that is--the understanding being that men are generally in favor of it, while many women say they'll subject themselves to the horrific pain of having hair ripped from their tenderest of regions when their partner agrees to do the same. It's a sensitive conversation (pun absolutely intended), and one I've been privileged enough to mostly avoid throughout the course of my romantic career. For the most part, my romantic partners have been just fine with my neat-and-tidy-but-definitely-still-there approach to below-the-belt landscaping (Dad, now would probably be an excellent time to switch over to espn.com), but once, when I was seventeen, the discovery of my then-boyfriend's impressive collection of Playboy magazines sparked one such discussion. It was a long time ago, but it's one I'll never forget.
Finding the magazines wasn't hard. They were prominently-displayed on his bookshelf, organized chronologically, and we lay on the floor of his bedroom on our stomachs, flipping through their thick, glossy pages. He tried to distract me with the interviews in the back, but I had never seen pornography before and I was mesmerized by the smooth, tanned models, their hairless nether-regions looking absolutely nothing like mine.
"How come they don't have pubic hair?" I asked him.
"Because they wax."
"They wax their vaginas?!"
"It's called a bikini wax. Haven't you ever heard of it? Lots of girls like to do it."
I may have been naive, but it should be noted that this particular boy was in no position to be discussing what "lots of girls" like.
"Wow. I had no idea."
"Yeah, totally. It's so hot. And I heard it makes you so much more sensitive because there's no hair getting in the way. You could do it, you know. I would be so into that."
He looked at me hopefully. I stared back at him in disbelief. We hadn't even started having sex yet and he was suggesting I have my lady-bits manicured like Jenna Jameson's.
"I don't know...it sounds really painful."
"I bet it's not that bad." Another thing he was in no position to be speculating on.
I was skeptical, but, alas, eager to please, and so after several days of staring at the Yellow Pages, flipped open to "Waxing Salons," I picked up the phone and made myself an appointment for the next day.
My hands shook at the steering wheel of my parents' Volvo station wagon as I pulled it into the salon's parking lot. I parked and then walked into the little salon and gave my name to the receptionist. She took me into a lavender-scented, candle-lit private room. An Enya song swelled in the background.
"Take off your pants and panties and lay down on the table under this sheet," she instructed. "Your waxing technician will be in in a few minutes."
I did as I was told and tried to relax. Moments later, a large Russian women in a white smock came into the room. Wordlessly, she lifted the sheet and inspected my...situation.
"So hairy," she said, matter-of-factly.
"Um, I guess that's why I'm here," I whispered, silently shocked that she would share such a summation with a paying customer.
Then she went to work. She dipped a tongue-depressor-looking wooden stick into hot wax and spread it thickly over the top of my labia. She covered it quickly with a fabric strip, pressed down, and then tore it off in the opposite direction. It was, without a doubt, the most painful thing I had ever experienced.
I let out a wail. She ignored me and continued the torture. Provoking cries of pain were, I guessed, a daily occurrence for this woman.
With every rip, she glanced down at the hair-covered fabric strip and scowled, adding insult to injury.
Mercifully, she finished about ten minutes later and smoothed some kind of cold gel over the inflamed skin.
"Don't touch or you will infect. You pay at the front desk." And with that, she left the room, closing the door tightly behind her.
I lay on the table, breathing heavily, tears streaming out of the corners of my eyes. Eventually I stood up. I looked down at my red, raw crotch and then, horrified, immediately turned my eyes away. Pulling on my underwear and jeans proved to be an excruciating task--every bend and stretch hurt. I hobbled to the front desk, paid the receptionist and made my way home.
After a few days and some very careful showers, the pain eventually went away and I had the opportunity to show my boyfriend my new look. Unsurprisingly, he was thrilled.
Ultimately, however, I decided that that, for me, looking like a porn star is not worth the physical pain or monetary cost of regular waxing. My best friend swears that my perspective would change if I just made an effort to find the right waxer...and maybe someday the wind will change and I will.
But you know what I'll never, ever do? This.