When I was about nine my cousin Mary taught me how to shave my legs. She was very clear about the fact that you only needed to shave the front of your legs, because no one was going to see the hair on the back. Our mothers had a good old laugh over their wine spritzers as we paraded about with our grown-up freshly shaved shins. This was the first of the very hard lessons in feminine hygiene and body hair maintenance that I was to learn over the years.
When I was in ninth grade I transferred from an all-girl school where we had to wear pretty pastel uniforms to a public junior high school where I really went wild. I wore crazy outfits including a skirt made out of the same silver material as a safety blanket. I also went boy crazy and "went with" a number of barely pubescent boys. One night at a "get together" (read make-out party) I was on the beach necking with my then steady, Jerry, when I suggested that maybe he should shave his barely there mustache. To wit he responded "I'll shave mine as soon as you shave yours!" And so commenced my foray into facial hair bleach and depilatories.
As I said, I was, for 1980, pretty damn cutting edge and willing to take some serious fashion risks. The summer after my ninth grade year I spent at the beach with my beau, Jim, and sported a number of questionably fashionable bathing suits. Including a variation of the Elon suit Cheryl Tiegs wore in Sports Illustrated - only in mine, you couldn't see my nipples.
Cheryl Tiegs, ©Sports Illustrated, 1978
I loved the swimsuit and remember strolling onto the beach wearing it with what can only be described as a "take that bitches!" expression on my face. I sauntered up to my beau and his brother, John, who were waxing their surfboards and getting ready to hit the waves. It was John who spoke first, with more than a slight snicker in his tone. "Shit! You're hairier than a fucking gorilla!" You see, no one had bothered to mention to me that women, and burgeoning hot beach babes in particular, were supposed to shave their bikini line. Greetings were then said to razor rash, ingrown pubic hairs, and Nair.
When I went to college in Europe I was introduced to waxing. I had a hard time diving in full bore to the idea of having someone pour hot wax on my legs only to have it yanked back off with small parts of my personage attached to it, but I figured I would give it a shot. If the likes of Princess Stephanie could do it, so too, could I. For the first few years I was only getting my legs waxed and reveled at the fact that once waxed I could pretty much go for a month without having to worry about leg hair. This is bliss when you're inherently lazy. Eventually I sucked it up and started getting my armpits and upper lip waxed as well. Bizarrely enough, I got so used to it over the years that I actually managed to nap on the table during some of the procedures. However, I always drew the line at my bikini line. Partly because it seemed weird to have an unattractive Eastern European woman fumbling around in my nether regions, partly because I lived in a cold climate and wasn't wearing bathing suits all that often, and partly because I wasn't dating and no one was going to see.
At some point in my late twenties I finally decided to give it a go. In the beginning I went with a strictly basic bikini wax, just taking off the hair that would show outside of my knickers. Over the years I got a bit more daring and worked my way up to the Pseudo Playboy - which removes most, but not all, of the hair. Eventually I sucked it up and went all the way with a full Playboy wax. And let me tell ya - it hurt like a bitch and left me looking like an out of work porn star. You don't know pain and humiliation until you've been on all fours with a woman slathering hot wax in your crack and trying to make small talk about your life as she rips every last hair out of your ass.
Oddly enough, I kept going back. Despite the pain and degradation, I liked being hair free - and my husband didn't mind it either. However, for me, there was still yet another hairy hygiene lesson to be learned. Isn't there always?
The place where I went for my bikini waxes is a very popular venue for such beauty treatments and there is a strong celebrity clientele. Lots of famous film stars and twice as many porn stars are regularly on the table laying spread eagle or hunched on all fours getting their grooming done. It was not until I was diagnosed with herpes that it dawned upon me that the dominatrix of hot wax had not, to my recollection, worn latex gloves during any of my torture sessions. I was always so sidetracked by the hot wax being poured on my crotch and the hairs being ripped from their follicles to register this rather glaring disregard for hygiene common sense! Lemme just go on record, again, as saying that I'm pretty sure my herpes belong to a porn star, and I think I'm good in saying that I'm at Ron Jeremy Factor 1. (I'm also at Kevin Bacon Factor 1 for those of you who are keeping score.)
Since my diagnosis eight years ago, I've given up my waxing fetish and gone back to the old school Flicker razor and shaving cream and let my pubic hair grow back. And while I do shave my bikini line, I tend to get a bit lax during the winter months. I'm just lucky that my husband loves me, herpes, hair and all.