It began growing when I was about thirteen. I have no memory of when the hair sprouted – only that it was not there the year before. It was soft and downy, glossy and black. I used to tug at it in the bathtub. One day I had the impulse to trim it. I had forgotten what I looked like without hair, and I was curious to see myself again. In the bathtub, I used scissors – a razor seemed drastic.
I stood up and looked in the mirror. It looked wrong. I looked so young, just naked flesh where my thighs met. It seemed to unattractive. This made a friend of mine laugh. He was eighteen at the time. The less the better, he said.
I took his word, but didn’t understand until I discovered internet pornography at age seventeen. Most of the girls were bald everywhere but their heads. Without hair, I could see how pretty their nether lips were. They didn’t look like an animal with fur. They were fleshy and pink, like a mouth you’d want to kiss.
My habit was to shave myself every Friday – whether or not I had a boyfriend or a hot date. It was insurance – if I met anyone, I’d be presentable. I took pride the way an investment banker can be haughty about his cufflinks. Still, my stubble grew thick, and I knew it wasn’t a long-term solution.
My friend in college gave me a tip. She was either about to get into the shower or was just getting out when she explained the superiority of waxing. The hair grows in so softly, she said, like peach fuzz.
I imagined my smooth skin, unmarked by stubble, perfect. Maybe someday, it would stop growing. I began experimenting with waxing myself, but wasn’t flexible enough to pull it off (so to speak). It still grows in patchy.
In 2009 I could afford a professional. I called my friend Kaylin to drive me to the Connecticut Post Mall in Milford, where we both grew up. She had never had a wax, but was curious about my fate. I was happy to be the guinea pig. We left in her Honda Civic on a Monday night. It was after 9 p.m. and the mall closed at 9:30. I didn’t have an appointment.
We walked in the back entrance, up the concrete stairs to the second floor, down the least commercially stimulating wing of the mall. We stopped at the red neon sign for Nail Pro Beautè Spa, sandwiched between Kani Leather Goods and Pietro’s Tuxedos. The salon was empty but for one woman having a manicure in a black chair. Kaylin asked for an eyebrow wax; I ordered a full Brazilian: all gone for $40.
Kaylin waited outside as I was led into the back room, the “waxing center.” The walls were blank and the room was empty, except for a cabinet and a cot covered in the same crisp white paper doctors use for dressing gowns. My waxing attendant was tall and Asian, and although she didn’t speak much English, I could tell she was irritated that I was making her do this so close to quitting time.
Without her prompt, I shimmied out of my orange and magenta plaid panties and sat down. She gathered a steel tray of necessary tools: wax, strips and a wooden applicator.
I stretched out as if I were sunbathing. I bent my left leg, granting her full access. Then I felt the warm wax on my skin.
I imagined the ripping would be satisfying. A just and violent end to the black hairs I hated, often growing two at a time in one pore. I fantasized about it leaving my body, pulling out the moist bulb – the follicle. I hoped to see rows of bulbs on the muslin strips.
It was perfection I was after, and these hairs – however natural and nonthreatening to some – were obstacles to that ideal. Like popping a pimple, this procedure was just one more example of me editing my natural self according to aesthetics, not ethics.
Then she pulled. I screamed. I tried making words, some of them curses. She looked at me, bored, and asked if she should stop. I asked her to give me a minute.
She began ripping up my left side, then headed right. I caught sight of one of her strips. Just curly dark hair stuck in yellow wax, and some blood.
Then she painted the wax right at the V, above my clitoris, my most sensitive flesh. I told her when to rip, and then I screamed. I caught my breath, touched my damp forehead and thought how I would crumble under torture. Lying on that bed, I would have betrayed my country to stop the pain. The burn kept its heat for about half a minute before easing. In those moments after the pull, I couldn’t do anything but rock my hips and miss my topmost layer of skin.
Unimpressed with my suffering but ready to leave, she suggested that I’d had enough. I agreed. I was dark pink and barren. I pulled on my panties, my shorts and boots.
I limped toward the door.
When I walked out, I felt all eyes on me. Kaylin suppressed a laugh. They all had heard my agony.
Next time, I would make an appointment.