What Your Waxer Is Not Thinking About You.

Photo from "Smallest Canvas" series by Molly Surno

Meg gives me a bikini wax tonight both because hey, it’s swimsuit season and because she has “1 Bikini Wax” written on her List and I like to help a sister out. Every week, the teachers write us out a grocery list of services to try to do that week — if you complete everything by the end of the week, you score a Jeans Pass. And you know how we all feel about jeans passes. Which means by Wednesday/Thursday, we’re all scrambling around in a “please-can-I-just-wax-your-arm-hair-for-my-jeans-pass” way.

Anyway, I’m just going to say it: You are never going to feel more unattractive than when you’re splayed out for a bikini wax. Forget the part about your waxer seeing your business. Tonight all I can think about are thighs and how you have to contort into all these angles that are extremely unflattering to them, under what just might be the brightest light ever. This is the first time I’ve been back on the client side of the table in awhile — so strange because just a few months ago, I was the client and had no idea what it was like on the waxer side of things — and I completely zero in on how very vulnerable you feel. And how much you have to trust your waxer to be cool with things.

But here’s a pet peeve I have about many spa clients/some people I tell about this project/probably a lot of privileged white people: When they say things like, “I wish I spoke Korean/Vietnamese/whatever so I could understand what those nail salon ladies are saying about me.”

Okay, let’s break this down.

1) You are not that interesting.

2) Spa services, especially manicures and pedicures, are increasingly performed by Asian people. 40 percent of nail technicians nationwide are Vietnamese, according to the latest Nails Magazine survey, and in some areas, like California, it’s closer to 80 percent. Nail tech training requires the least amount of hours (250 hours in my state to esthetics’ 600 and cosmetology’s 1000), which means you can get through school and start earning money more quickly, which is important when you have a family to support. And while wages are low, they tend to be better than many other jobs available to recent immigrants who aren’t yet fluent in English.

Now, being non-native English speakers, they quite naturally converse with each other in their non-English native language. So listen up, because I’m only going to say this once: When people talk to each other in a language you don’t understand, it does not mean they are talking about you.

3) You are not that interesting.

In fact, I’ve been interested by how rarely we talk about our clients at Beauty U. If a client tells a funny story, maybe we’ll reprise it. If a client is really mean or doesn’t tip, well, okay then. You gripe about your day too.

I’ll admit, earlier this week, Miss Marci came out from helping Brooke negotiate a particularly tricky leg and bikini wax and said, “That woman is so hairy! She even has hair on her stomach, like a man. This is going to take all night!” So yes, it does happen when we’re faced with something extreme.

The rest of the time, we talk about the funny thing someone’s kid said, or who has cramps, or what’s up with our skin. We bitch about the ongoing esthetics-cosmetology rivalry (which boils down to the fact that we give them facials and such all the time because we need people to work on, but they never give us haircuts or blow-outs because there’s a Beauty U rule against students getting free cosmetology services during class time — don’t get us started!). We talk about blind dates and fights with boyfriends and the merits of the various vending machine offerings.

And in between, clients come in and we go to work. And that’s the deal.

So back to the bikini wax: I think it’s probably impossible to be in that situation without wondering, “Oh God, what is she thinking about this?” I know all of the above, and I still have that moment. If you have a language barrier, I get how that adds to the confusion because it creates more uncertainty in what is already a highly uncertain situation. And the many vagaries of human nature mean that I can’t guarantee that your waxer/hair stylist/nail tech doesn’t talk about you behind your back (or within earshot in that Secret Code otherwise known as the language she can speak and you can’t — you know, like how spending every day in America surrounded by fluent English speakers probably feels to her). I absolutely can’t guarantee she doesn’t think something in the privacy of her own brain. In fact, you might as well assume that she does. Because she’s human and entitled to her thoughts.

But I think it’s worth noting that even though you’re naked (or barefoot), you still might not be the most vulnerable person in that room.

[Photo by the constantly brilliant Molly Surno, from her “Smallest Canvas” series that I just cannot get enough of.]

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8 Comments

Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, Customer Cult, In Class, Waxing, Week 31

8 responses to “What Your Waxer Is Not Thinking About You.

  1. Same double standard at my school. Cosmos could come in and get services if we needed to practice. I never once got anything free on the hair salon side of things (although student discounts made it super cheap anyway, I got a conditioning treatment and haircut with blowout for $8 including tip.

  2. KNB

    I often I wish I spoke the language simply to converse with this lovely woman sitting not 2 feet away from me, delicately handling my hands and feet in a way that makes me (if I am not careful) sigh with deep seated pleasure… I wish I could ask her about herself in detail, and thank her with more than just “Thank you so much”.
    Also, my waxer is a native English speaker, and I will have to admit that EVERY time I come in for the standard three (lip, brow, bikini) I apologize that she has to “deal with all that” and she always sort of scoffs and says “Please, honey, I love my job. I love making people feel prettier…and it’s not anything I haven’t seen before.”
    So yes…in the end…whatever you THINK you have going on…it’s just not that bad.

  3. Alix

    I speak two languages other than my native one (and love to listen to people who don’t realize I understand them — I hear a lot about their families, boss, weather, kids, and NEVER me), and I agree — the people they are working with/on are just never that interesting.

    FYI: there’s some evidence that some women who grow unusually thick hair in unusual places or patterns may have endocrine problems (which can sometimes be relieved by medications such as Metformin).

  4. Melissa

    That last sentence is just beautiful. (And the rest of the post is good, too!)

  5. Marian Sole

    I am interested to know how the worker feels if the client ignores them completely and reads a magazine or texts on the phone when they are cleaning up the mess the customer made of her body. Does that make the worker feel more subservient or is it irrelevant?

  6. passerby

    I often feel very uncomfortable in nail salons where all the women are obviously recent immigrants, simply because I worry that I’m participating in exploiting them by supporting an industry that makes them work amongst chemical fumes while aiding privileged white women in living up to our (often oppressive) cultural standard of beauty. But I feel like only going to nail salons staffed with only native-born Americans is just as bad or worse, because it essentially means giving my money only to the already-privileged women while the more exploited women get less money because I no longer spend it on their services…

    How do you feel about this?

  7. Alix, metformin may help with PCOS but have you experienced the side effects yourself? As someone who has hair on her stomach like a man, the metformin isn’t worth it. I’d rather be a hairy freak and not talked about, than less hairy, constantly nauseous with other more messy symptoms and not freaky enough for people to talk about.

    Personally, there’s nothing worse then when I (rarely) go for an eyebrow wax and am told again and again of the other hair removal services on offer. I know I’m really hairy. I know it can be removed. Why do they never suggest a massage or facial?

    Sorry for the bitch. I love your blog. Beauty is such a complicated concept, especially to work with, and I really admire your take on it.

  8. Pingback: What’s Going On With Nail Salons. (And Why They Aren’t the New Massage Parlors.) « Beauty Schooled

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