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It’s not easy being hairy. I imagine it’s not so bad for men. It’s considered masculine — like chopping wood or eating 50 chicken wings. There’s nothing feminine about hair, unless we’re talking about the kind of long, luscious locks that flow endlessly from the crown of Rapunzel’s head. The enchanted tangled forest that weaves itself down her inner thigh is another story entirely, which is why I’m blessed to have grown up in Southern California where a bikini wax is as common as a Fair Trade organic Guatemalan soy latte. Unfortunately, I spend more time abroad.
* Note for the men: You’ve probably clicked this story by accident. Don’t be frightened. Keep reading. Think of it as an educational piece. Unless you’re a porn star or from LA, in which case you already know.
Koh Phangan, Thailand
I spent the morning wandering the sleepy beachside village in search of a decent bikini waxer. By the afternoon I dropped the word “decent” from my search, which was when I noticed another word hastily scribbled on a sign hanging in the window of a hair salon: waxing. I sauntered in hoping to be bikini-ready in time for a sunset dip. I wasn’t greeted so much as ignored by three Thai girls in hot pants. They talked animatedly while sipping brightly colored drinks from plastic bags and looking all of 12.
“Um, excuse me. You do waxing?” I asked, gesturing towards the sign. They stared at me like I was a talking elephant that had wandered in from the jungle.
“Waxing.” I pointed again to the sign. They sighed, seemingly annoyed that I was a customer interrupting their juice party.
“Okay, miss. Lie down,” said one of the tweenagers patting an old stained mattress on a table in the middle of the room. There currently weren’t any other customers in the place, but the front of the shop was still completely open to meandering passersby.
“Is there somewhere more private…” I looked around hopefully. She rolled her eyes, took a long noisy slurp from her bag, then locked the front sliding glass door, pulling the curtains almost closed.
“Okay, miss. We close shop for you,” she said as if doing me a huge favor to the detriment of her booming clientele. She returned and started laying newspaper on the bed. These were the same kind of sanitary conditions my Mom had used when our cat had a litter of kittens.
I really should have left, but I’m like a deer caught in the headlights of awkward situations. I dropped my pants and climbed on the bed. The newspaper crinkled under my bare bottom. Hot wax was soon slopped on my delicate skin and ripped with wild abandon. She continued her lively conversation with the other two girls who were lounging around the bed giggling. At one point my pint-sized child waxer hopped on the table and crawled through my legs to get better leverage. It did little good, as she still had to tug and pull sometimes three or four times. Since she didn’t use cotton strips, she’d ball up the used hairy wax and chuck it back in the saucepan to reheat. Best not to think about that bubbling little cauldron of strangers’ pubes now.
“Okay. Finish,” she hopped off and wiped her brow as if she’d just gone to war. My mutilated muff resembled a war torn battlefield. Bits of dismembered newspaper clung to the last vestiges of hair that refused to surrender. Exploded wax bombs stuck to my skin like shrapnel. Today would not be a beach day. Nope. Not today.
My roommate Carmen informed me that it’s weird to have someone wax you. It’s more of a “do-it-yourself” type project. She sent me to El Corte Ingles, where there were two entire aisles dedicated solely to the pursuit of smooth, supple hairlessness. Maybe the Spaniards are on to something. It was time I took matters into my own hands. I grabbed a harmless looking box, determined to do something about my own shaggy box.
“Cuanto tiempo mas!” Carmen shouted, pounding on the bathroom door. I’d already been in there for two hours.
You should not undertake home waxing unless you’ve grown up as an acrobat and have spent your formative years contorting yourself into a water-cooler jug. There are just spots the normal gal can’t get to, no matter if you’re lying spread eagle on the tile floor, balancing precariously on the toilet lid, hoisting your leg over the porcelain sink, or upside down in the tub. I tried them all. You also have only a finite amount of time before the wax hardens. Then you, semi-naked covered in sticky goo, must bolt out of the bathroom and rush to the microwave to reheat the wax. You will always make it too hot, and unless you’re into that sort of thing, scalding wax is never a good time.
“No mas strips. Now what?” I shouted back to Carmen through the door.
“No es posible. You wash. Use again.”
I always found it endearing when Carmen switched to English. My mediocre Spanish mixed with her basic level of English gave our discussions an innocent childlike quality even while discussing such things as how to best strip your beaver bare.
“Es facil,” she finished in her grownup authoritative language. Easy? I looked into the overflowing rubbish bin and saw my molten mass of used waxy cloth strips melded together in a furry heap. While the environmentalist in me applauds this method, I was not about to actually attempt it, but I had only finished my right side, and I was lopsided. I guess I wouldn’t be going out with Javier tonight. Definitely, not tonight.
Pusan, South Korea
The New York Skin Spa looked condemned, but that didn’t stop my friend Mel and me from climbing the dank gray staircase to check it out. Empty green soju bottles and littered ramen packets paved the way.
A cheerful young Korean woman named Kristina opened the door. Her name wasn’t really Kristina. It was something like Min Kyoung, but she liked to go by Kristina. As she explained, it was very New York. She watched a lot of Sex and the City.
Surprisingly, the waxing room was clean, private, and not unlike the ones used back home. This might not be so bad. I dropped my pants and jumped on the bed. As I was getting situated, another young Korean woman entered. Kristina got on one side of me and motioned for the other girl to do the other side. I didn’t know if I was ready for a waxing threesome. Kristina began showing her what to do. I wasn’t even going to get a quality threesome. This was a training mission, and it didn’t even last long. Without warning they both left the room without bothering to close the door.
The entire situation was a little strange, not to mention drafty. The trainee soon reappeared with a blanket and spread it on the floor beside my bed. Is she going to nap? She’d be more comfortable on the sofa in the waiting room. Right behind her was Mel, who was instantly greeted by my exposed vagina, as the foot of my bed conveniently faced the open door.
“Whoa…” Mel said, backing away, covering her eyes in horror. I didn’t have time to wonder if I should be offended, because Kristina quickly returned, ready for business.
“Okay, lie down,” she motioned for Mel to lie on the blanket on the floor. “One wax pot. We do same time.” Kristina smiled, pleased with her efficient time-maximizing solution. Mel and I laughed nervously. They were going to tagteam us.
“Do you think they’re licensed estheticians?” Mel asked.
“I think your girl has never waxed bush in her entire life,” I answered truthfully. My experience in Korean saunas has shown me that Korean women appreciate more of a full-grown look. I doubt there’s much of a market in the waxing department for locals, so Kristina seized an opportunity: Bushy foreigners were her easy ticket to New York! Just slap it on and rip. They’ll pay loads for it.
Mel and I groaned and grimaced through the whole ordeal. It was a tad disconcerting having to listen to someone else’s waxing moans. As I lay there I started to think. Maybe it was time I quit this persistent battle against hairiness. I should embrace myself in all my wild, succulent glory instead of succumbing to some impractical Playboy myth. Bunnies are supposed to be fluffy; that’s why they’re so much fun to pet. Maybe, like my girl Rapunzel, it was time I just let down my hair.
“Arrrggggh.” I grunted through clenched teeth as Kristina gave a particularly forceful tug.
“Don’t be baby. Many hairs,” she commented casually. Yeah, maybe I should, but not today. Nope, not today.