I am constantly confronted with the person I will never be. That sounds so very Fiona Apple, I know. But it’s true. And these people are usually the type my father would say have jobs, not careers. Semantics aside, these are people I admire for having attributes that I am too self-conscious to develop.
The gregarious, yet penniless, bartender. The relentlessly positive, yet pig-faced, barista. The cleaning woman who knows all the best dirty jokes. The hairdresser whose body is 2/3s covered by tattoos. These are all women that I outwardly mock but inwardly envy.
From my point of view these are all women who have a Buddha-like understanding of the world. Somewhere along the way they figured out that the world’s demands on them were all a bluff. Just some silly ruse. And the world’s judgment didn’t matter. How else do you explain a 27 year-old who makes a living brewing coffee and emptying dishwashers for an ad agency–essentially mothering another bunch of 27 year olds?
So the straight-laced, stuffy, uptight me did something that would finally lump me in with all the other free-spirited and of-the-moment ladies I admire.
[pause for effect.]
I went for a Brazilian wax.
As I think about it it’s less free-spirited than it is lazy. Ok, lazy with a dash of slutty. I’ve gotten a concussion from being dumb enough to walk across my bathroom floor with wet feet. I really can’t be trusted to put a razor anywhere near my baby maker. (That just won’t end well for anyone.)
So the straight-laced side of my brain still in the lead, I diligently combed Yelp to find the best place to get shorn. Luckily, in the midst of Greek seafood restaurants, Greek men’s clubs, and Dunkin Donuts there is a well-reviewed spa in Astoria. (Which makes sense when you think about it.)
I arrived a few minutes early to my appointment. The moment I sat down I started sweating. Nervous sweating. Which is the worst type of sweating there is. I was so nervous I started making small talk with the 5 year old next to me. His mom was sitting in one of those hair-drying contraptions that looked like she was trying to teleport to Jupiter or communicate with other life forms. She gave me a glance that said she could care less that some strange, overly sweaty 20-something was chatting with her son. The kind of look that was also slightly suffused with hope; hope that I would follow through on what she assumed was my kidnapping scheme so she could get her nails done in peace.
I jumped when I heard my name. Now when you go for something like a Brazilian wax you get an idea in your head about who is going to be taking care of you. Like when you get a Swedish massage you expect a blond-hair, blue-eyed, the-hills-are-alive-with-the-sound-of music kind of beauty with hands that could strangle an irascible alpaca.
For a Brazilian wax, I was expecting someone even more muscular. Someone who bespoke strength with her intimidating presence. I imagined someone named Hildeberta or Irmtraud. Someone who could easily be mistaken for the opposite gender. Someone who adhered to the Rocky IV workout routine.
The someone I got was a 90 lb. Greek girl whom I could’ve easily packed in my purse with room left over for the 5-year-old.
I don’t know if I can impress upon you just how small this girl was. Teeny tiny. Itsy bitsy. There was no way this would end quickly or painlessly. She was no match for my cruel Eastern European genes.
I followed her back the dimly lit hallway. The lighting was probably set for relaxation purposes but all I could imagine were dungeons and medieval instruments that would hold me in place while the deed was done. (Damn you, Game of Thrones.)
She told me to take off everything on the bottom and lay on the table. I hesitated a second, waiting for her to leave the room. Then I realized, considering what she’s about to see, what’s the point?
Now, I’ve gotten used to having my lady bits out and about. Since my 17th birthday I’ve had a yearly “women’s health” check-up. But with an OBGYN there’s more conversation and somehow that makes it ok that someone is hanging around down there in broad daylight. Granted it’s not dinner conversation but “Would you like to get tested for gonorrhea?” somehow lightens the mood.
With a Brazilian wax there’s no ceremony. She got right down to business. To fill the (what I thought was) awkward silence, I jokingly apologized in advance for my swearing. She frowned and told me to stop sweating. It would only make things worse. (To which my body replied, “What? You want me to sweat more? Ok!”)
She finally picked up on my nervousness and asked me if I was from around the area. “No. I grew up in Pennsylvania, but I live on 35th sTREEEEEEET!” She had already applied the hot wax to my right bikini line and proceeded to rip it off. It was bad but not horrendous. She moved to my left bikini line. “Are you from around here?” I asked as nonchalantly as someone who is spread eagle on a table (and not giving birth) could.
In between “Oh good gracious!” and finally “Shit!” she told me she lived in Forrest Hills. I was practically panting when I asked if it was a nice area. I could see her trying not to openly laugh at my pain as she replied that it is. She explained that she lived out there with her husband and kids but they wanted to move to Jersey to get a house.
The banter was helping keep my mind off the searing pain that a 25-year-old can only equate with birthing a fully-grown human. (i.e. Someone who hasn’t actually given birth or experienced real pain.) But even though this was my first Brazilian wax, I wasn’t as naïve as you might think.
I knew that the bikini lines were first, one side then the other. Then the rest of the show is split down the middle and you get it all ripped off in two big swaths, bing bang boom.
So as she’s telling me about her suburban dream I’m getting hot wax rubbed on me like a Ricky Martin music video. At this point I’ve lost track of where the line of decorum lay so I ask if her kids were boys or girls. As she tells me she has two girls as she rips the wax off. “JESUS MARY AND JOSEPH.”
And this is where I’d like to think we became friends. “They didn’t make you come here,” she shot back. By now I’m trying to curl into the fetal position and she’s pushing my knees back onto the table. I start blathering random obscenities laced with “ouches” and “ows.” “You obviously came here for a reason.”
Her sharp wit and almost loving mocking reminded me of a younger, Greek-er, Sophia Petrillo from The Golden Girls. She gave off an older sister vibe that made me reconsider my half-formed plan to crawl toward the exit (pants be damned!).
Then, out of nowhere, like the mighty Zoltan, she asked me very specific questions involving grooming habits and menstrual cycles, guessing (correctly!) things that neither my boyfriend nor my mother knows about me.
“Ahhh,” she said knowingly. Apparently I had done everything wrong. From how I regularly took care of my business to my appointment date. I had aligned all the variables that would make this experience as painful as possible. (“This is your captain, Billy Tyne, speaking. We’re going to turn this ship around. Over.”)
“I don’t know if I can go on!” I cried out pathetically. This was not the Oregon Trail. It seemed as though she would not even think of leaving me behind.
She tried to bolster my confidence. “But you’re practically done!” And “Think how much you going to love it when it’s done!” And “The last part won’t hurt as bad.” I could only half hear her; I was wondering if I needed PTSD therapy and if Cigna would cover it. But her last comment cut through. “I wax myself and I get through it.”
Apparently my look of pain transformed to incredulity because she proceeded to describe how she applied and removed the wax on her own body.
This girl is 90 lbs. with winter clothes on. I can’t see her hefting her lunch to work let alone having enough power to rip her own hair out. (Especially at that angle.)
I don’t know if it was the hormones surging after the sharpest pain had worn off but I was starting to admire this girl. The mix of confidence and sarcasm was a combination that undoubtedly drew me, but what I liked most about her was her total nonchalance around a stranger’s vagina. To her, it was just another part of the body that had a function like any other. Her doing some maintenance on my downstairs mix-up was no different than the lady who would clip and paint my nails later that day.
Growing up the way I did, the stuff inside your pants was meant to be shameful, hidden, and secret. This girl’s total neutrality on the issue seemed wild and radical to me.
And that’s when it hit me. This girl was in the same group as the bartender, the barista, the hairdresser, and the sailor-mouthed cleaning lady. She was bold, witty, and a master of hot wax. She was not looking to please anyone but herself. Working in people’s front yards was a choice she made, and proudly it seems too.
I am not this woman. I am too eager to please; too quick to follow. I’m too self-conscious to follow my dreams because I’ve become so comfortable with a job that pays for my roommate-less apartment. Even if trimming people’s trouser trees was my secret passion, I’d probably never pursue it because what kind of job is that? I can hear my father now, “I paid how much in tuition so you could do what?”
Even though I will tell you out loud that I would never cut hair or bar tend for a living, inside I yearn for the freedom that these women have. I would love to have a job instead of a career. I would love to work as little as possible so I could all the other things I enjoy. Or none of them, if don’t feel like it. I want to not care what other people think. Because when it comes down to it there are no faces to my negative thoughts around that type of lifestyle. It’s not my mom or my 5th grade teacher that are shaking their fingers at me. It’s just fear and insecurity.
Maybe just this once, I could be like those other women. So I gave in to my new, Greek friend’s logic.
She was very pleased that she had talked me into it. I took her pleasure as altruistic but in reality she probably just pegged me for a grateful tipper.
She applied the last swath of hot wax and waited for it to dry a little. She tested the edge and I saw her furrow her brow. (Not good.) She tried pulling with a quick upward motion but that didn’t work. (Really not good.) She gave it one more tug; still nothing. (Seriously. Not. Good.) She came around the table at another angle and put her elbow on my stomach for leverage. (DEFCON 1, people!)
I don’t think I could really describe what happened in the next few minutes. I know there was a white light, yelling, cursing, crying, but I couldn’t tell you in what order or for what duration.
When I regained control of my faculties, my tiny, Greek friend was at the door ready to ring me up. Only $27 for a near religious experience and a smooth bikini line.
I got my pants on, wincing as I hobbled out. I’d done it. I had been spontaneous and carefree. I did something that I never would’ve a few years ago. Unbeknownst to the tiny Greek terror who just led me out – she taught me a lesson. Progress is never made if you stop halfway through. You will never become anything better if you’re paralyzed where you are. And your private parts will look really weird too.