My friend and former next-door neighbor, Leila Levinson, is normally a very serious person. She teaches, she lectures, she writes on post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) in her recent non-fiction account and memoir about the liberators of the Nazi concentration camps, Gated Grief.
When Leila goes on one of her extended rants about other, less weighty matters, she’s easily one of the funniest people I know. Which would account for why I was doubled over in hysteria last week at Austin’s Hike & Bike Trail — where some of the most momentous conversations of my life take place, obviously — while Leila fulminated about Brazilians. I’m talking about a full waxing of pubic hair and not the country’s locals, in case there’s any confusion.
Since I read a fair amount of material of questionable taste and value, I’d already heard about Brazilians, but — how to put it? — they just hadn’t made much of an impact on my life. Leila, the mother of two sons and a far more serious person than I am, had just gotten the Brazilian memo and she was appalled.
“It’s the end of feminism!” she announced. “We went through the women’s movement for this? So a new generation of women can demean themselves like this? It’s exploitative, it’s sexist, it’s painful, it’s expensive, it’s — ”
“Let’s just focus on the pain,” I said. “I once got my legs waxed and it almost killed me. Can you imagine how painful it is — ”
“It’s barbaric,” she went on. “It’s all about oral sex, you know. What’s wrong with getting a few pubic hairs in your mouth? What does that hurt anybody?”
Fortunately, we weren’t passing anybody on the trail and that particular moment. Leila went on to say the source of this alarming news flash was a 46-year-old friend of hers in Chicago who’d recently gotten divorced. She started dating again and, when matters began to get intimate with a new man, he’d pointed to her au naturel pubic area and announced, “You’re not getting any action there.”
“Can you imagine that?” Leila said. “I told her she should have thrown him out of bed.”
“What did she do?” I asked.
“Oh, she’s started getting Brazilians,” Leila said. “She says you have to if you want to date these days. I’m so glad I’m married. I thank God every night I’m married.”
After our walk, I went to my computer and started researching the matter. (Investigative journalism! I’d forgotten how much fun it is.) According to Wikipedia, you can blame the advent of waxes on the bikini and skimpy lingerie, pornography and Playboy Magazine. Over the past several years, pubic waxes have taken lots of shapes, including leaving a small strip of hair (called the landing or Playboy strip) or a full hair removal (a/k/a Full Brazilian, the Hollywood or the Sphinx).
If you want to know more, you’ll have to research the matter yourself, since I don’t (usually) write that kind of smutty blog. All I can say is, you can find out all sorts of things on the Internet these days and they’re often illustrated, too. I’m pretty sure my parents would be happy they’re already dead.
Since I like to be thorough, I asked my friend M (a semi-public figure who shall remain semi-anonymous) her take on the wax question. She’s 52 and engaged and promptly told me she’s too old to contemplate a Brazilian, thank God. “I’m past the cutoff age,” she said.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
I told her the whole story of the 46-year-old woman in Chicago. M began to look uneasy. “Maybe it’s different in Austin,” she said.
She and I were walking through downtown Austin in the early evening and, a few minutes later, M announced she couldn’t stop thinking about Brazilians.
“I keep looking at all the women we pass and wondering if they have Brazilians,” she said. “Maybe I’ve been selfish. I’ve never asked my fiance if he’d like me to get one. I’m going to go home and ask him right away.”
We kept walking and talking and I worried that Leila would die — just die — if she learned our little discussion had spawned a new Brazilian convert. You just never know where freedom of information and investigative journalism are going to get you.
Besides, if Leila corners me about this one, I’ll tell her what I told M, anyway. At some point, women get old enough that wax jobs are a technicality. It’s kind of like molting. Nature eventually gives you a Brazilian whether you want it or not.
(Copyright 2011 by Ruth Pennebaker)