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)
Here are two posts I really like: Sixty Things I’ve Learned in 60 Years, parts
two. As always, I apologize for my little spacing problem.
Moulting, well, I have to admit I’d not quite thought of it that way. Of course, the vision I have is of a newly hatched vulture chick, but there you go.
A woman at a bar was telling me that she knew her son looked at PLayboy so she told him, “You know real women don’t look like that down there.” She said this with much authority, assuming everyone in the room was au natural. I didn’t dare tell her that I was as bare as they come in that moment. I find it helps me get in the mood and I do it for myself. But I find the male perspective interesting. I guess they never know what they are going to meet when they go south for the first time. Anything could happen.
Laughing too hard to write a cohesive comment-4 typos just to get this sentence right. thanks!
The pain factor is definitely a consideration… Not sure what I think but I’m not in a hurry to get one…
Apparently, it isn’t just the nether region in jeopardy. I got in a conversation with a bunch of colleagues at a conference last year, and it seems in some parts of the country … pretty much having hair anywhere but your head is old fashioned.
It seems some are even waxing their forearms, etc.
Hairless. Pretty soon we’re all going to look like these naked sphinx cats.
Didn’t know what it was called, but my teenage daughter finds it amusing that I think what she and all her friends apparently do is rather unappealing!
I have just one word for Brazilians. OUCH. Oh- and another one. NO.
Oh gosh you make me laugh! I had not a clue what a Brazilian was, until my (now X) daughterinlaw took me in for one, when she was getting her’s. I could hear her screaming from two doors down, I didn’t scream, but it sure smarted. No thanks, never again, course I’m probably not going to get lucky anytime soon, either…
No way, not ever, not in a million years. Hey, it’s tough enough for me just to deal with face hair — when I start getting more than my husband, I know it’s time to pluck. Yes, I’ve tried waxing, and it just ends up being torturously painful and doesn’t work. Nair doesn’t work either.
Maybe I’m some throwback to ancient cavewomen who sported mammoth amounts of non-budging hair. Hmmm… maybe I need to live by myself in the woods and slay rabbits for dinner, then strap their carcasses on my feet for warmth. On second thought, I could never kill those adorable little things, so I guess I’ll keep plucking.
Laughing and wincing at once!
So is this the new “picture the audience naked” trick for nervous public speakers? Picture the audience and wonder who gets Brazilians?
I sport a full beard. I would never consider waxing my chin. As for Brazilians, I prefer Argentinians– they all know how to Tango. Olé!
I get very political on this one — grown up women have pubic hair and little girls do not. Now young women tell me that young men are disgusted by pubic hair and I conclude that this is another way of infantilizing women.
And to think in my day the big issue was when we got called “girls”.
Still, I admit to being in favour of tidy pubic hair. Maybe not a Playboy landing strip, but I think you should consider taking action when it approaches your knees…
Thus the growing (!) need for merkins, which appear to have been employed in Hollywood longer than Brazilians have been fashionable.
For about a year, I went for monthly waxings, the kind where the lady heats wax in a pot, pours it on you, waits a couple minutes, and then says, “Brace yourself!” Not worth it, ladies. But go ahead and decide for yourself.
At a fancy schmancy salon recently, two beauty experts stared at my face and arms, tisked to themselves, and offered a deal on hair removal called “sugaring.” It’s not supposed to hurt, but based on the price tag, I don’t really care to be sugared. Tisk all you want.
Casey made me snort. I am indeed going to begin wondering who imbibes (as it were) and who does not. I’m pretty sure they couldn’t make a Brady Bunch episode about that, though.
Brazilian women have nothing on French women when it comes to fashion in the pubic area, at least from my experience at a very “in” Turkish bath in Paris a few years ago. I visited with an Austin friend, and we were not really expecting the mandatory nudity, but found ourselves trying not to stare at the elaborately sculpted mounds, one actually in a heart shape. We supposed that there must be expensive salons where one can choose a designer shave.
Moulting? You always make me laugh, Ruth. Hilarious.
I have sensitive skin. Waxing and/or shaving relatively tough legs can cause nasty-looking, angry red mini-pimples where every hair once sprouted.
And this would be better than pubic hair how?
I’ll preface this by noting that I’m fairly slack about even shaving; I don’t mind a bit of hair, and I’ve tended to have the sort of boyfriends who don’t notice this sort of thing so much.
However, I’m not quite on board with the Brazilian wax signaling the end of feminism, unless (big unless) someone feels she has to, but that goes for pretty much any appearance-or behaviour-related thing.
I’ve had Brazilian waxes, and probably will again. I first tried it to satisfy my own curiosity (I wasn’t involved with anybody at the time), because my sister mentioned that she was toying with the idea, and I decided to look into it (research!). It does hurt the first time or two you do it, then the roots become (temporarily) very shallow, and it’s only mildly uncomfortable. Like any long-protected area, waxed skin is extremely sensitive, which is rather fun (caveat: I’ve also contemplated shaving my head, because I’ve wondered how things would feel against my bare head).
If you do it because you feel like it, a Brazilian waxing is no more inconsistent with feminism than shaving your head for kicks; if you feel that you must do this to be acceptable to potential partners, it is definitely disturbing, whether you are a woman or a man (some men do this too, andit is supposedly even more painful… loose skin).
HOW did I miss this the first time through?? Love this: “I’m pretty sure my parents would be happy they’re already dead.” Can you imagine??