It had been a few months since I last saw my aesthetician at the European Wax Center. She lights up when she sees me, and it always brings me so much joy and amusement that I could connect on an intimate level with this European woman, whose homeland I cannot pronounce, all while she is ripping hair from the flesh in the most sensitive and private places of my body. There's always that cynical part of me that wonders if her affection is genuine given the transactional nature of our relationship, but she always remembers me and asks how I'm doing, and shows concern for my well-being. I feel safe and loved in her presence, so I can only assume the best.
It's an odd thing to admit, that I love anything about the waxing experience. I honestly never thought that I would be the kind of person to wax in the first place. But after literally skinning myself one too many times in the shower with a razor, I grew tired of doing it myself. Why remove the hair from my body at all? In the beginning, it was certainly a byproduct of insecurity. It felt like a rite of passage for every teenage girl. I resisted for as long as I could, but swim class ultimately forced my hand.
While I escaped high school relatively unscathed, things took a turn once I got to college and became genuinely interested in dating. A former friend, one I once admitted to having a huge crush on in our high school yearbook, berated me in front of his friends about the pubic hair I must have despite never having lain eyes on mine. Though his friends paid him no mind, I remember feeling my body heat up in embarrassment. He had humiliated me, and all I could do was recoil into my usual tactic when it came to bullies; bide my time, and eventually they will grow bored and go away. Unfortunately, he never did. A few years later, after his drunken calls, texts, and Facebook comments grew increasingly brazen, sexist, and ultimately racist, I severed all ties.
Most of my boyfriends didn't make a big deal of the hair. After discovering the difference less hair made in my own comfort and pleasure, I dutifully trimmed my nether regions before experimenting with full blown clippers. I have a fond memory of entrusting one boyfriend to help me buzz down to the skin. It was a playful moment that I will cherish forever, soured only by another encounter years later, where he asked me of the prickles of hair in my armpits, "Isn't that getting a little out of hand?" Regrettably, I don't think I ever felt comfortable in my skin with him after that. After making some witty retort about his weight, I had all but ensured that he understood what his comment had made me feel like. It didn't make me feel any better. In just a moment, we saw the beginning of the end.
Another gentle memory, a boyfriend affectionately called out the fact that we both had a bit of peach fuzz on our bottoms. He was smiling when he said it, like someone does when someone they love does something adorable, but I could not see the comment for what it was. I froze, all of the negative memories playing at the back of my mind. It almost felt like I was short-circuiting. My chest was tight and my head was swimming. I could not accept the compliment because even after so much time, I was still holding onto old hurts about the hair on my body. I could tell he was uncertain what to say next. He was always so terrified of offending me. It used to bug me then, that he would treat me with such fragility, but I realize now that at the time, it was just what I needed. I laughed it off, and I could see him relax. He had a childlike enthusiasm for identifying and celebrating the things that made us the same, but ultimately, the things that made us different left me feeling lonely. Where he saw an opportunity to build bridges, I saw the Atlantic. I was at sea on a deserted island of my own design.
It's remarkable to me that something so benign can have such a tremendous impact on one's self esteem. In some odd way, waxing became a way of taking my power back. It never made much of a difference to my most recent ex, who seemed all but indifferent to sex and the newfound confidence waxing afforded me, but I started to enjoy it on its own merits, for myself and no one else. Here was a moment where I took time to enjoy the company and care of another woman, adorning myself as I saw fit. Sure, waxing hurts, though, much less now than when I started, but it's a hurt that I chose, and one that reminds me, in some strange way, just what I am capable of. The endorphins afterwards ain't so bad either.