To Wax or Not to Wax

I got a bikini wax this weekend. It was a welcome opportunity to do something nice for myself. I really enjoyed the opportunity to lie down for 25 minutes in the middle of the day without feeling like a slug about it. The music, some weird hybrid of spa relaxing and electronica, I could have done without, but overall it was a pleasant break from my normal routine. I got up from the table, paid at the front desk (half off for first-time customers- woot!), left the building, and didn’t think about my now perfectly groomed coochie again. That is, until it did.

And what I thought made me angry. Not the part about my bikini area feeling all cleaned up and tidy – that part made me feel happy. It was the part about being happy to pay thirty five dollars (which is more than I make in an hour, after taxes) to apply hot wax to my skin and then rip it off, just to make me presentable, that made me angry. And the part about how there is an entire industry based on the assumption that waxing your bikini line is like brushing your teeth or wearing anti-perspirant; it is, or should be, an elementary part of one’s personal hygiene. I could go off on a rant about how society has told women we are ugly the way we are and therefore we need to pay to have ourselves waxed, lasered, and threaded so we can leave the house without shame, but actually that’s not true. Our culture is fast becoming an equal opportunity shame mongerer, as men are now also getting the message that their body hair is acceptable only in certain places.

I recognize that the drive to rid ourselves of our natural body hair is just a cultural construct that I am free to accept or reject. I want to reject it, but I’m too vain to do that.

My intellect tells me to ignore the social constructs that most of us assume to be an absolute truth, save my money and my time, and just say no to bikini waxing. (Never mind the fact that it is painful at worst, mildly uncomfortable at best). My vanity says screw critical thought, you’ll never win this battle against society, and even if you stand your ground, everyone at the pool will think you’re a lazy, oblivious, generally unkempt slob, not a free-thinking individual, so you might as well just make yourself feel pretty and take care of your muff. To justify myself decision to wax further, I rationalize: Where do you draw the line between wearing lip gloss, getting a haircut, or plucking your eyebrows, and bikini waxing?

Currently, the score is Vanity 1, Intellect 0, since I just told you I got waxed and I liked it. End of story, right? Wrong. One day my daughter is going to grow up and ask me to drop her and her friends off at the mall and she’ll spend her babysitting money on a bikini wax. And then what? Am I going to ground her for this? Am I going to forbid it? Am I going to be like, “Let me see, did you get a heart shape, a landing strip, are you completely bald, or what?” Honestly, I’m not sure. And chances are, whatever grand plan I come up with now will be irrelevant by the time the situation actually arises.

While I don’t know exactly what the rules around my daughter’s body hair are going to be, I do know that it will be a topic for discussion.* Perhaps I’ll let her know that I’ve been conflicted about the issue myself. At the very least, I will make sure she understands that it is an issue. I will probably give her a copy of How to Be A Woman when she’s fourteen or fifteen because it’s a fantastic read and because Caitlin Moran does a way better job of explaining all this stuff (aka feminism, critical thought) than I ever could.

Does our cultural imperative to get rid of our “unwanted” body hair get your panties in a twist, too? How do you talk to your tween/teenage kids about body hair? Or are you laughing at me because there are way, way bigger fish to fry as a parent of older kids? Do you think I’m too uptight? Do you think I’m a hypocrite? Let me know in the comments.

*Or perhaps it will never be a topic for discussion. I reserve the right to revoke this claim at any time. See Rule Number One of Parenting: Never Know What To Expect

11 thoughts on “To Wax or Not to Wax

  1. Sarah says:

    The first two sentences of this blog are awesome. I got a bikini wax and do something nice for myself. It has never struck me that having my hair ripped out by the roots is “something nice” although maybe it is for masochists. But I am totally with you on the conflict. I spend A LOT less time than I could on socially-constructed preening, but I definitely do it. And I don’t have a problem with doing it. Or not doing it. The only problem I have is when anyone feels like they HAVE to do it. I think it’s natural and probably unavoidable to start liking what we are constantly surrounded by (“tidy” bikini lines), so I suppose overall my feelings are do it if you want to do it. Just be nice to yourself either way. And no shaming of participants or non-participants.

    • Pam says:

      LOL! Yes, bikini waxing is nice, and now that i have a child, even a trip the dentist is quite relaxing. I like your laid back perspective.

  2. Melissa says:

    I was discussing this with someone the other day (I live in Brazil, it makes sense that this would be a normal discussion topic) and then you happened to write about it, so I got to wondering, “when in hell did hooch waxing become the norm?” I did a quick search online and found… well, ok, I found some totally awesome photos of Demi Moore posing in the nude in 1982 – totally showing off a full muff – but, back to the point… I found this little quick history (no citations) of the history of women shaving/not shaving their body hair . Read it and you can probably stop feeling guilty if you consider that women have pretty much been grooming our private areas and depilating since before the Egyptians, and the “let it all grow hippie” movement was more like a hiatus from the mid sixteenth century to the 1920s (falling out of favor gradually ever since). You can tell your future teenager that she is on the popular side of history.

    • Pam says:

      Melissa, this is why I love you. Not because you make me feel better about waxing, because you are so dang curious and smart. Thanks for weighing in:)

  3. Galit Breen says:

    Oh Pam, I think about things like this all.the.time.

    (Not the waxing necessarily, because ouch!)

    But what we do and why and the messages these send. Ugh. Complicated, yes?

    Excellent topic!

  4. Jessi says:

    I actually thought about this a bit while giving birth. Seriously. I thought to myself, damn, I haven’t had the time or energy to groom “down there” through most of my pregnancy and “what are these all these young (and somewhat hip) OB residents and med students thinking about MY pubic hair. I was in the midst of delivering my twins and I actually wasted my precious energy thinking about my pubic hair and the public opinion of it. Oh, and worrying about pooping. But, at least the later didn’t happen. Sad, indeed.

    Dearest Cousin – can you help me impart good wisdom to H + E when it comes time to help mold them into the hairy little fearless ladies I hope they become?

    • Pam says:

      I’m sure the OB’s have seen it all, I wouldn’t worry about that! And no, I don’t know if I am equipped to turn your little gals into hairy, fearless young women! But I will send two copies of “How to be a Woman.”

    • Pam says:

      Thanks, Tracy! My mom used a pastel round razor and she wouldn’t let me use it or get me my own when I was 12 or whenever I wanted to start shaving…She never told me why. I should ask her. I was allowed to use my dad’s electric which I hated so I would secretly borrow the really nice razor he used on his face! I don’t think I’ve ever told him that.

  5. Nina says:

    Pam! This is so timely– did you see all the discussion about the new American Apparel ads? Someone probably already mentioned this. Didn’t read the other comments!

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