“Do you shave?” she asked, rubbing her hand up the other girl’s leg.
“Yes,” the girl announced, proudly. “But my mom doesn’t know.”
* * * * * * *
My introduction to the mysterious female world of hair depilation and removal came during a discussion of body hair before a ballet class one time. I was approximately ten years old, and while I knew, intellectually, that my mom shaved her legs (the razor in the shower we shared was enough to tell me that), I hadn’t really thought about doing it myself before that moment. Most of the girls in that ballet class were a year or two older than I was, and all of them were more developed, physically. The few of us 10-year-olds in that class, all pre-pointe, were desperate to catch up with our older and curvier (though not too much, it was ballet after all, where stick figures are coveted) classmates.
Shortly after that, I stood in the shower and contemplated my mom’s razor. I’m gonna cut myself, I thought. She’ll know! I thought. But I tried it anyway. Not that I needed to; at 10 the hair on my legs was still little-kid peach fuzz. But it made me feel grown-up.
I didn’t really NEED to start shaving until I was around 12 years old, and it took very little time – I didn’t have much hair, and what I did have wasn’t really dark. As I got older I noticed that when I’d shave, I’d end up with what I figured was razor burn – rashy, irritated skin that stung if I tried to put lotion on it. Then, it hurt to put lotion on the next day. Because I was a swimmer and in/at the pool every day in the summer all through high school, I did what every swimmer/girl in a bathing suit every day does: I shaved every day. And it hurt. Boy howdy, did it ever hurt. At some point, I think I mentioned how much it hurt to my mom, but she didn’t understand, maybe, since it didn’t bother her. I figured there wasn’t anything else I could do but just deal with it. I tried different razors, different razor blades. I tried a variety of shaving creams, gels, unguents. Nothing seemed to make shaving any less of a pain in the leg skin, so finally I resigned myself to it. (And one time, I tried Nair at a friend’s house, and that was even worse and didn’t get rid of the hair, so I said “Screw it.”)
I went a week without shaving one time in college, and was totally self-conscious about it. College Boyfriend thought it was kind of funny, though I think he preferred me less hairy, but I noticed that if I shaved less frequently, my skin was less irritated, so I started only doing it once or twice a week (more, if I was going to be wearing something that showed my legs or armpits). It never got any better. After we broke up, during my swinging single days, I only shaved when I felt like I absolutely needed to. Then, I started dating Dan, and my shaving schedule (a new, triple blade each time, fancy all-natural shave goo, and no lotion for at LEAST 2 days after shaving = VERY EXPENSIVE) revolved around our visits to one another.
One day, my roommate asked me if I would help her wax her legs. She’d let her hair grow out, and wanted to see what the difference of waxing versus shaving would be like. I was game, and we spent an hour melting tubs of wax in the microwave, while we took turns troweling on and ripping off the wax. It looked semi-painful, but not too bad, and because I’d learned on my friend’s legs it didn’t seem like it would be too difficult to do it for myself. And I figured that it couldn’t hurt any worse than shaving already did. So I let the hair grow, and I bought some wax, and I spent an hour melting tubs of wax in the microwave, and I troweled it on and ripped it off, and you know what? It wasn’t so bad.
The real test came the next day, when I put lotion on and didn’t scream. In fact, my skin was far less irritated than it had ever been from shaving. The hair took several weeks to return, and when it did it was finer and thinner. I never looked back.
Over the years, I’ve experimented some, trying to find the best brand of wax, figure out what works well with my skin – some brands have chemicals that my skin doesn’t agree with, and some smell funny when you melt them. I thought I’d found the holy grail of wax at one point (it had only 3 ingredients!), but they changed the formula a few years later and it no longer worked as well. I was getting ready to figure out my next steps (finding a new brand? buying a melter and going with some sort of pro stuff?) when a friend of mine, who hails from Brazil, mentioned to me at a party that she was finally, after years of tinkering, ready to start selling her wax – a formula that worked well for her and several of her Brazilian friends, all culturally accustomed to waxing. I wanted to hear more. “Next time you’re hairy, give me a call,” she said, “and you can come to my house and I’ll wax you and you can tell me what you think of the wax and my technique.”
The next time I was hairy, I gave her a call, and the rest is history. My friend makes the best wax ever. She’s even improved the formula recently, and is making her living from selling her wax online and providing waxing services to people in her home. Her hope is to grow her business and sell primarily to salons and spas, and to facilitate that process she’s working with her boyfriend to develop branding and a website. On Sunday, perhaps as hairy as I’d ever been, I went to her house and we set up lighting and shots and I modeled her wax (well, I sat there while she waxed my legs) and her boyfriend recorded it for the instructional video on her forthcoming website. Being famous for being hairy isn’t necessarily how I would have chosen my 15 minutes of fame*, but in payment she gave me 2 pounds of awesome, awesome wax.
*No, mom, you can’t see my face in the video.