Spa Stories: Close encounters of the beauty salon kind.
Today’s Spa Story comes from The Sheriff, the hilarious lead author of the Fornicating Feminists. She wrote about her first Brazilian waxing experience last week and I immediately begged her to let me cross-post it for y’all. (Since, you know, Brazilian waxing is something about which I have a lot of opinions.)
Before we jump in, here’s a little reminder about what this new little series (written by you!) is all about:
Spa Stories is a place to share how your relationship with beauty (your own or other people’s) evolves when you spend time in a salon or spa. And by “you,” I mean consumers, sure — but I’m also talking to you, salon employees. If you read the comments on my Slate story, you’ll see a lot of folks feeling highly anxious about what to tip and why it took me two hours to do all that waxing. It’s one thing for me to keep regaling y’all with Beauty U tip stories, but clearly, I cannot speak for the whole industry! So hair stylists, estheticians, nail techs — I want your stories here. And when I say “stories,” this can be an epic saga spanning years a quick life-observed moment from a comment made by a client last Tuesday, the tale of your first brush with waxing and other extreme beauty sports, or… You get it. Email it to me at beautyschooledproject [at] gmail [dot] com.
Now here’s The Sheriff.
I consider myself a pretty ballsy person: I’ve broken noses, been in my fair share of mosh pits, and I’ve got four tattoos and a VCH piercing as further evidence. But a Brazilian wax? Wax on my asshole? Could I handle it? I was perpetually curious. Having had my eyebrows waxed before and thinking it wasn’t so painful, I balked at the Brazilian only because of the price tag. And then for Christmas, Meatball offered to pay for one for me, if I still wanted it (for the record, he has never expressed any opinions about my pubic hair, and this is definitely not a subtly coercive present on his behalf). Economic barriers removed (68 bucks?!), I made an appointment and read about the procedure online, reminding myself that I am tough and I’ve got a genital piercing: how bad could this really be?
Well. The experience was certainly interesting.
The woman doing the waxing was very young (conversation later revealed she was turning 21 in June), and tattooed and pierced, which comforted me that she wouldn’t be confused by how to wax around my VCH barbell (although it did wind up covered in wax anyway). I told her it was my first time, and she explained that I needed to strip from the waist and cover my lady bits with a hand towel, and that there was a piece of dark chocolate for me to eat if I liked. This particular detail was a cute but hilarious touch: chocolate and a Brazilian wax at a spa? Could there be any more of a stereotypically “feminine” combination? The aesthetician gave me an unusually long time to undress, which also struck me as funny: if you’re going to have your hands and face all up in my genitals for half an hour, does it really matter if you walk in before I’m undressed fully? Though I suppose it’s more for client comfort than anything else, as most people are probably not as lax about nudity as I am.
She jumped right to it, explaining how to best position my legs so she could get to my hairs with the wax, chatting away and asking me friendly questions to distract me as she smeared pink wax that looked like melted silly putty along my inner thighs. The first rip was absolutely the most painful, causing a little twitch and gasp on my behalf but she kept comforting me, saying I was doing great, that the reddening of skin and the little spots of blood are totally normal. Things got less awkward and painful as she continued, but each time she asked a question (“Where do you work?” “Do you like Smith?” “Where does your boyfriend plan to live after you graduate?”) before ripping away another strip of wax, I had to pause so as to not shriek mid-sentence.
The most humorous moments were the ones where decorum and manners forced her to use euphemisms. To refer to my asshole, she said “under.” I’m getting a Brazilian, lady: I know what I’m here for. For that part of the waxing (which was actually the least painful part, but perhaps the strangest sensation of my life), she had me lie on my side with one knee angled, and then asked me to “hold here,” referring to my buttcheek. I had to try hard not to laugh at her delicacy in instructing me to spread my cheeks wide so she could get up in there.
|what the fuck..|
I found it a little sad that she kept directing the conversation back to me: I’m sure this is a tactic used to make the client feel comfortable (who doesn’t like talking about themselves?) and to engender a better “connection” for a better tip, but I felt like a jerk being the woman paying for something, knowing nothing about the provider of the service. By the end of the experience, she knew about my piercings and tats and their stories behind them, where I’m from, what my parents do, where my boyfriend goes to school, what he studies, that he wrestles and is in a frat, my major, my post-Smith plans, where I live, that I’m a head resident, the kind of car I drive….and I knew her name and that she grew up around here. And that’s all.
It’s also interesting that this somewhat mainstream procedure owes its popularity to porn. In porn, it serves a very practical function: hairless vaginas show more action. In real life, does a Brazilian wax serve any real purpose aside from aesthetics? I find it’s more sensitive and somewhat easier to orgasm to without a full bush, but I also usually shave, rather than paying a stranger a lot of money to pour warm wax on my crotch. But it just doesn’t have the same practical application to a non-porn star woman. In either scenario, it’s largely something undertaken with an eye to the male gaze: porn is catered to men, who want hairless vaginas so they can more clearly see what’s happening, and men who are over exposed to porn want their female partners to have hairless vaginas…for the same reason? I’m not really sure about the male POV.
Overall, I found the experience to be an odd one. Body hair is a deeply personal issue, and to bring in a second person to assist in its removal is inherently a strange process. But also to subject yourself to that kind of pain, every six weeks, VOLUNTARILY (and not just in the name of blogging/curiosity, as I did)? I couldn’t imagine doing it. I love my vagina far too much to be a regular. Plus, let’s face it, at around 80 bucks and up including tip, my measly stipend would never allow me to be the kind of lady who does this regularly anyway. It’s very much a bourgie experience. And I don’t know about it being “empowering,” as I’ve heard it referred to. Empowerment, according to Wikipedia, “refers to increasing the spiritual, political, social, or economic strength of individuals and communities. It often involves the empowered developing confidence in their own capacities.” Doesn’t sound like a hairless crotch will do that for you, but maybe I’m wrong.
I still feel pretty badass now though for surviving (though I was sweating by the end).
How do you feel about pubic hair removal? Ever tried a Brazilian?
PS. VA again: Also highly worth a read (but it would make me super lazy if I just cross-posted her whole blog) is The Sheriff’s take on the Victoria Secret Catalog and the infamous mermaid vs. whale debate.