It was late on a weekend, painfully prying wax from my bikini line, that I finally gave in and admitted to myself that I was bad, like really bad, at this whole ‘woman’ thing.
I was raised in a predominately female family (single mother, two older sisters, nosy grandmother, cliché, etc. etc.). So, I should have, by twenty at least, mastered the ways of (basic) womanhood. I had all the right pieces of the puzzle: two perfectly blonde sisters who mercilessly mocked 12-year-old me for a steadily advancing brown mono-brow, a dodgy 50-something-year-old ‘beautician’ (I use that word loosely, she operated out of a back room of her suburban home) who waxed my mum’s face while giving me hair advice, and a well-meaning grandmother who constantly asked my chubby PCOS hormone-imbalanced sister what diet she was on that week.
And yet, by 20 I still wasn’t able to follow basic instructions on the back of a box of Easy Gel Wax strips (note: the use of ‘easy’ by this company should be a case for consumer law, really). I set myself up on my bedroom floor, not wanting to alert my housemates by spending that long in the bathroom with no water sounds, and only the echo of Arrested Development playing from my laptop.
From the Ancient Egyptians to now. This is the hair history of pubic hair.
It started easily enough, I peeled back what was essentially two pieces of baking paper to find a rectangle-shaped patch of what I assume to be some kind of glue/silly putty hybrid on either side of the paper. I then placed said mixture/cooking tool onto my intimate areas as the box instructed, then attempted to pull, and… nothing. And then I tried again, and… nothing. By this stage, tears were appearing in my eyes faster than they had in those of the boy who tried to finger me for the first time, failed, and then finally stopped jamming his whole hand towards my intimate area when I said, “I’m sorry, I don’t think this is going to work”.
See, this whole hair thing has been a big deal, since, well forever. I was about 11 when I first produced a few stragglers in my underarms, and upon innocently stretching up my arms in front of the family, got them pulled straight back down again by my very concerned mother. ‘Oh no, we’ll have to take care of that’, she whispered. She let me pick out my own razor from the womanly isle of Woollies I’d had no use for up until the day before, and we never spoke about my hair situation again. In truth, the hair didn’t bother me. It felt no different, it didn’t stop me from doing the things I enjoyed at age 11, like doing flips on the monkey bars until I felt sick and watching Lord of the Rings with my best friends on weekends, exclusively to pause it and swoon when Orlando Bloom came on screen.
In truth, my hair growth never bothered me until it bothered somebody else. My sisters were only the first in a long line of women to give me unsolicited advice on hair growth and control measures. And then came the teenage boys, who at thirteen in our science class pretended to be doing a survey and asked me if I ‘shaved or trimmed’. I didn’t know what either of those things meant. Sure, I shaved my legs by then (my mother let me do it earlier than my sisters, because I was a brunette, and therefore my hair was more ‘obvious’). But by the way these mini douchebags were smirking I had an inkling of an idea that they were referring to what a box of wax strips, years later, would come to call as my ‘intimate area.’