I was invited to speak at Memphis Monologues at the end of 2013, a Vagina Monologue-esque event that benefitted our local Planned Parenthood chapter. I took the challenge pretty seriously and spoke the most honestly I ever have about my body to a room full of mostly strangers.
I'd written it down but hesitated sharing it because, you know, vagina.
It's 2015, yo.
I'm lying on my back on a table, naked from the waist down, my legs splayed like a frog being dissected, and a Russian woman is applying hot wax to my labia. Because I am paying her to.
I've been getting bikini waxes for a long time. It's the early 2000s, and I'm a young woman in a long term relationship in Los Angeles, and getting a basic bikini wax - a little off the sides, around the business, is just what you do. I go to the dentist every six months, I get my roots touched up, and every 6-8 weeks, I pay a woman to rip out the hair around my vagina with scalding hot wax. The magazines tell us to do it because it's fashionable. It's sanitary. Hair is dirty.
Not the sexy dirty.
Waxing will make you feel clean. It will make you sexy. And the boys? Boys want a sexy girl with a clean bikini line. And on the off chance I'm invited to some fabulous Beverly Hills party and I end up waist to eye level with Brad Pitt, I will not be able to blame his rejection of me on a stray pube.
Bikini waxes. Not fun. But understood as a necessary evil to make the boys happy. But then something happened around the early 2000 that was a game changer for vaginas across the globe. Seven sisters, Jocely, Jonice, Janea, Joyce, Juracy, Jussara and Judeseia, like something out of Grimm's fairy tales, emigrated from Brazil to New York City. The women on the beaches of Brazil had chosen dental floss as an excellent bathing suit bottom substitute, and in case they ended up waist to eye level with Brad Pitt at a fabulous pool party, it wasn't enough to take off a little around the sides and them business while wearing a micro thong. That bush had to GO. And the Sisters J made it their business to completely wax your business.
All of it.
Porn stars caught onto the trend, and voila. I was lying on my back, naked from the waist down in a salon called Smile, because everybody was getting Brazilians, and my boyfriend was eager that I be on trend.
The aesthetician tries to distract me from the pain by telling me that she used to be married to a millionaire and lived in a house on Laguna Beach. Never in a million years did she think she would be divorced, broke, and waxing punani for a living. Fantastic. Neither of wants to be here. And then deep breath she rips the hair off of my labia.
The pain. The pain?
Imagine…imagine someone applying hot wax to…well, I can't think of any place worse on your body to remove hair than the folds of your vagina. It hurts like a motherfucker… who no longer has any pubic hair.
But she's not done, because she now goes over my freshly traumatized skin with a pair of tweezers, digging for ingrowns hairs of which there are plenty. And in case I had any diginity left, I am asked to get on all fours to remove the rest of my hair from my asshole. I'm patched up with bandaids and neosporin, and I'm wondering why I thought wearing jeans was a good idea as they are now shellacked with leftover wax to my inner thighs.
I am now officially ready for my boyfriend, micro thongs, and landing tiny planes on the little landing strip that is all that is left of my pubic hair. It is a grueling, embarrassing ordeal that requires a stiff drink, an ice pack, and several hours of recovery. But hey! My boyfriend is a fan of my Brazilian porn star facade. And isn't that what we do for the ones we love? Make sacrifices in order to make the other happy? But as time goes on, I find myself thinking that love could mean I cook more dinners and less hot wax on the labia. Those every 6-8 weeks turn into more like every 3-4 months, and I'm starting to look like a stubbly version of that kids' game where you move the metal shavings around the sheet with a magnet, like, now I'm a pirate! Argh! Neither of us are a fan of my current look, but we're at an impasse. Me and my vagina are done. I don't want to go back to Smile. He wants his girlfriend to have a Brazilian porn star vagina. What to do? We reach a compromise. He will pay for my trips to the waxer. How about that. So now all the money I save from not paying for a wax goes to buying all alcohol to recover from them.
And then as with any great relationship where a guy pays to have your labia waxed, we parted ways. There was no longer a guy in the picture... except there could be, so I kept up with the maintenance with renewed vigor, paying for my own Brazilians and then downgrading to a bikini wax, my thinking being that the next Prince charming could take up the cause. And then Prince Charming showed up, except he hadn't read the playbook. He clearly hadn't read Cosmo. He didn't know how porn stars were wearing their pubes or lack of them. He was just into me.
But I didn't believe him.
Because isn't this what we were trained to do? What the magazines and the porn stars and the boyfriends expected from us? According to the latest standards, your vagina was supposed to look like a twelve year old's with a goatee, and dammit, I was a good girlfriend. I was a GREAT girlfriend. Nothing but the best for my new boyfriend. So I kept going to the waxer. But he didn't say anything about it. And then I started a little experiment. I started going less and less. And he still didn't say anything. I kept waiting for some snide comment about my new 'do down there, like, seen any flying squirrels lately, because I have? Going as the Joy of Sex manual for Halloween? But he never did. Because he didn't care.
And I didn't believe him.
His attitude was fundementally at odds with the way I saw myself as a sexual being. You followed the tips, put your naughty bits on display in the way the movies and magazines showed you, and the men would be helpless to resist. We all had our part to play. I was playing mine. But he didn't care. It actually started to make me a little mad, all this hard work for nothing. I mean, why won't you objectify me? But he didn't care. And very, very slowly, I learned to believe him. I did not have a clean bikini line, and you know what he did, Cosmo? That boy up and married me.