Six months ago, a lady from Scottsdale with lip injections and radiant skin came into my work selling laser hair removal packages from a training school for people who have always dreamed of firing off lasers at strangers’ genitals. Either she targets women with “ethnic features” or one of my nosy ass coworkers slipped her a ten and told her to hit up the woman who looks like Hagrid’s unfortunate sister because girlfriend approached me with that judgemental smile and sweet voice as she laid out her pamphlets as she said “Oh, you must be Sari.”
Now, if you’re like me (female, possibly ethnic, dominant Sasquatch genes, etc), hair removal has been a part of your life for as long as you can remember, a rite of passage even. I was 9 years old the first time I snuck into my parents’ medicine cabinet to pilfer one of my dad’s white and orange Bic razors which I haphazardly dragged across my legs without shaving cream after a boy in class commented on my hairy legs during reading time.
That guy is in jail now (totally unrelated to making fun of my hairy legs). True story.
He would not be the first person to offer up his opinion of my appearance, especially hair-related. While away at summer camp at age 12, a helpful male from the cabin up the hill who was watching us shave our legs outside our cabin with little cups of water informed us we should also consider shaving our arms because it would “look cleaner”. Looking back on this, I’m not sure if it’s more strange that we were shaving our legs outside our cabin or that this young man was watching, but I digress. I spent the next few years of middle school alternating between whipping up toxic bleach cream to slather on my arms (which burned like a motherfucker) and spending warm, sunny days indoors trying to wax my own arms, which is surprisingly challenging when you are severely uncoordinated with your left hand, save for the fact that it kind of hurts to rip hair out from the roots.
Sure, these memories all come from a place of youthful insecurity and childhood cruelty that we all deal with to some degree, but as the woman with the pamphlets quickly scanned me up and down that day, removing my “unwanted hair” with her laser eyes, I wondered what it would be like to not have to spend so much time being insecure about something that just grows naturally on my body and human bodies everywhere in the world.
I remember my friend Katie once saying how she often thought about how many extraordinary things women could have accomplished throughout history if we were able to devote our time to thinking, creating, reflecting, and learning, rather than worrying about whether or not our thighs touch or if our hands look old or if faint lines remain that reveal we may have smiled or looked quizzically at something. Although I regularly waged an all-out attack on the fuzz above my upper lip, I sometimes found myself covering my mouth while I spoke, fearful that some dumbass would point out my lady ‘stache. Wouldn’t it be awesome if the lady with radiant skin could blast that thing to hell so I could just say stuff without having my hand over my own goddamn mouth?
Although I probably should have requested a total annihilation of everything except my eyelashes and eyebrows and luscious Jew-fro, I purchased a package for face, underarms and bikini. When I called to book my first hair-blasting appointment, the woman on the phone said that I could get a regular bikini treatment, which removes what shows when you wear a bikini, or Brazilian which is all the things that happen south from your navel to your butthole. Although, come to think of it, she worded it more eloquently.
In that moment I pictured my daughter.
I know, it’s weird. She doesn’t exist yet, (because single), but she might one day and I like to think of her and her feelings occasionally when I do things I think I may have to explain to her one day when she tries to understand woman things. I pictured my imaginary daughter maybe 12 years into her life, coming into my room looking sad, wearing an expression that I wear too often that says “what’s wrong with me?”, when she wonders why she has pubes, but her mom doesn’t. And then I will have to explain to her in a strange, modern day douche commercial scenario that it’s totally normal to have hair there (or anywhere, really) and she’s perfect the way she is. But because she is my daughter, an introverted extrovert that feels all the things, she will say, “Then why don’t you have hair there?” And I will feel awful and have to tell her that when I was 28, some woman came into my work, preyed on my insecurities and sold me a laser hair removal package and I paid to have a room full of moderately OCD women blast my pubic hair with high-powered lasers and judgmental eyes.
I weigh the pain of battling absurd beauty standards and the feelings of my imaginary daughter. I compromise and go for the regular bikini treatment. I feel like a trail-blazer of the crotch variety.
Isn’t it weird that its like an act of resistance to just let something that grows naturally from your body (likely for some evolutionary reason) to just, ya know, be??
I think of these things, and many others as small groups of students hover over my crotch or get thisclose to my face so they can examine my “unwanted hair”. They ask me official questions like, “Have you had any recent sun exposure?” or “Have you recently had any Botox or fillers?” [Note: If you have never had the pleasure of seeing my face it is the kind of face that, while youthful and hydrated, bears the lasting lines of interacting with way too many dumb people, wearing a look that says “are you effing kidding me?”, thanks in part to a lot of customer service experience. It’s a face that you can say with certainty has never received any Botox or fillers.]
The lobby of the laser office, although pleasant, has an eerie sci-fi, Stepford wives kind of vibe. Easy-listening music plays while a television commercial on loop depicts other things you probably have wrong with you. This is otherwise known as “other services we offer for your nasty-ass self”. These things include Botox, cellulite treatments, varicose vein removal, skin tag removal and probably some other things, but I was so distracted by the host’s lips that I tuned her out so I could think self-conscious thoughts about myself. Sometimes I feel guilty even being there, contributing to these ridiculous ideals of forever youth and perfection, but is it so much to ask that I not look like I’m sporting a ZZ Top beard by the end of a lazy weekend of crafting and Netflixing??
The small groups of women and the occasional male students that closely examine my parts are kind, and work hard to make me feel like I’m not totally disgusting. Each laser blast feels like a hot rubber band being snapped on my skin. I wince and curse throughout my treatment, they assure me that I’m not the only patient who finds it painful to have a hot, high-powered laser being fired off near my junk, but I feel like they’re lying. They laugh at my self-depricating jokes like we’re BFFs and ask me about what I’m doing the rest of the day (answer: probs icing my crotch and arm pits, thanks). I once told the beautiful technician politely annihilating my crotch that they should open a location at Guantanamo Bay, but she just seemed confused. I try to hide my nervousness by saying things like, “Well, this is the most people I’ve ever had gathered around my crotch!” They laugh politely, thinking I must mean at one time, but I know that I’m referring to the vast history of my crotch.