Girls and bikini waxes. It’s complicated.
This article first appeared in the May 2012 issue of More Magazine. It’s reprinted here, in an edited form, with a PS you won’t see coming.
“Why not go bald?” my husband asked, as if ripping the hair from my most tender area was as easy as booking a blow-dry. I was horrified.
The obvious agony aside, I was born lucky in the body hair department — able to get away with a quick shave here and there. My best friend tried baldness once, at the urging of her boyfriend. The wild itchiness she endured as her hair grew back taught me that hairlessness is no one-shot deal. I’d be in for some costly pain, and I’d be in it a dozen times a year in upkeep.
But I realized being bare had benefits. It was annoying having to arrange my legs just so as I sunbathed. I was sick of hunting for my nail scissors whenever I needed a trim. Maybe it was time to make life easier and just pave the way.
So the next time I hit the torture table for my June must-have bikini wax, I broached the subject with my esthetician.
“These days, everyone’s bald,” she said with a shrug.
As I lay there, splayed and helpless, she gave me what she called in her clipped South African accent her “summer cut.” Buckets of sweat and a few screams later, I was home showing off my new do. Long hair up top, none below.
Once I got over the shock of seeing what had been hidden since I was 10, I found myself buoyed by my refreshingly smooth persona. I felt younger, lighter. The best part was I had sidestepped the dreaded bath conversation: explaining to my toddler why Mommy’s vagina was all hairy, and hers was not.
That was a decade ago, and since then I have lived happily hair-free — until said daughter turned tween.
This development put a kink in my waxing plans, which had become a religious ritual on every fourth Friday without fail.
As much as my hub and I both enjoyed my look and feel, now there were ahem, hair-raising questions looming. What was I teaching my child about aging gracefully and accepting herself the way she was made? And since I don’t want my man turned on by prepubescent girls, what was I doing resembling one?
As soon as she noticed the changes in herself, my daughter drew proper privacy lines, insisting on bedroom and bathroom knocks. My actions were more disturbing: hiding out in my closet to dress, bolting for a towel the second I heard footsteps. I was more nervous that my daughter would catch me nude than the other way around.
It was only a matter of time before my daughter asked me why, down there, I looked younger than she did.
Waxing was not news to my girl. As a toddler, she’d been toted along to that dreaded June session every year. She would sit in a corner with her Barbies watching the routine with wide eyes while I forced a teary smile.
“It’s just like taking a Band-Aid off a boo-boo!” I’d squeak to her, as though I couldn’t feel my inner thighs about to bleed.
Then, once I was safely dressed, we two Barbies would sit side-by-side to share the reward of a pedicure. Today, we still break from the boys to do the girl thing – we sip smoothies in mani-pedi massage chairs, we feel our pulses race as we mall shop.
I remember being 11 and swapping clothes and posing in heels with my gal-pals. Now I have a daughter who was that awesome friend I liked and wanted to be like. She’s the smart, girly one who can blend your eyeshadow, flat iron hair flat, and shop a rack at Winners like nobody’s business.
Recently, she discovered the power of a razor, and she’s already expert at swiping her legs before swim class. But waxing – as with tampons and condoms and wine – still has a yuck factor, saved for stuff floating out there, in her female future.
Waxing is one of those activities that girls of a certain age buy into. No one wants hair on their face or arms or back. But the slope is slippery. Once you’re suffering anyway, it’s easy to become wax happy and be done with it all.
Right now, my daughter’s body is in flux and she’s deciding, with every peek in the mirror, how she feels about that. When hair appears, it has meaning. It marks her entry into a tribe of women. The last thing I want to do is suggest to her, by example, that perhaps she looked better before.
With so much contemplation of my nether regions, I found that for the first time in a long while, I wasn’t eager for that hot wax. Normally, while toweling off post-shower, I’d spot those stubborn hairs fighting their way out and grin. Little did they know that once they reached the light, it was only a matter of days before my mighty esthetician would grab hold of them.
My pubic hair – the thrilling first sign of my walk into womanhood – had become an enemy to banish, and every month I declared war, and won. And I was scared my impressionable daughter would see that – just as she had seen me blend eyeshadow (I’m hopeless), flat iron my hair (I’m impatient, therefore, hopeless) and shop a Winners rack like nobody’s business (I’m good, but my daughter is better) – and take up the rip-from-the-roots gauntlet.
I could always play the “adult” card. (You know the one: “Adults can do lots of things kids can’t.” I won’t list them all here) but it’s the example that matters most. Yes, as an adult, I can experiment with my hair all I want because know I look beautiful no matter what. And, let’s face it, I’m not the only one who enjoys my body. There is a guy involved here. And yet…
As I waited for the wax to bubble and boil, I weighed the options. I love the feel of my baby skin but I wanted back into the tribe. I didn’t want to look younger than my daughter (not then, not ever) and it was time to grow up and grow it out. And show my girl – and my man and myself – that womanhood is something to embrace.
I placed my order: “Clean me up but leave a nice, wide landing strip. It’s time to show off what a real woman looks like.”
POSTCRIPT: Now that my daughter is 14, and off at overnight camp, I’m going short for the summer. I’ve got weeks to let it grow, and in this heat, I miss Brazil.