real life

Letting yourself go.

Picture this. With spring in the air and summer on the horizon, you glance down in the shower one day and realise it’s time to mow the lawn. “Goodness,” you exclaim. “I really should do something about my bikini line”. Wandering past the bathroom, your partner shoots back drily, “What bikini line?”

This actually happened to a girlfriend recently and it seems to be a rather common exchange – even if it doesn’t always occur out loud.

In most cases, there’s a direct correlation between the amount of time you’ve been with someone and the amount of effort you put into personal grooming. The words ‘inversely proportional’ spring to mind.

Remember that old joke about the bride with the big smile walking down the aisle? To paraphrase the punch line: ‘she’s smiling because she’ll never have to perform a certain bedroom activity again’. But it could just as easily be ‘because she never has to have another Brazilian’.

There are two things that deplete a woman’s interest in hair removal: winter and love. Not new, buzzy love but the years-and-years, comfortable and secure kind. The more of it you have, the less hair you feel compelled to remove.

As the years pass, you trade that buzzy feeling for something deeper; knowing you’re loved for who you really are, no trimmings necessary. But there’s a line between feeling secure and just…letting it all hang out. Or, in many cases, grow out.

And it goes both ways. “Last week, my husband asked how much longer I was planning on letting my winter coat grow,” grumbled one friend. “My response was to snap back about a new phenomenon sweeping the world called ‘manscaping’”

When I asked a bunch of women aged 26-45 about how romantic status affects grooming, I received some candid responses. “I used to want to be all smooth and pristine for my husband but now I figure he’s lucky to get any, and he isn’t going to complain about petty details like furry legs,” replied one woman. “And guess what? He doesn’t. “

Or as another woman put it: “I don’t call it ‘letting upkeep slide’, I call it ‘contraception’”.

That noise you can hear is the sound of personal grooming standards whizzing down past your ears somewhere around the two to five year mark. You would not believe what occurs in some long-term relationships. Or maybe you would because your own standards are similarly slip sliding away. Like the woman who goes to sleep each night wearing nose pore strips. Or the couple who floss their teeth together IN BED. “I mean, that’s the beginning of the end really, isn’t it?” acknowledges the female half of that couple. “How do you make love to someone after you’ve watched them examine what comes out of the crevices between their teeth?”

Somewhere between the first time he sees you naked and happily-ever-after, some women discover their motivation to look good shifts from pleasing him to pleasing others. “I shave my legs for my physio, not my boyfriend” noted one woman. “I only bother with nice undies when I have a gyno appointment” admitted another. “I don’t wear make-up unless I’m leaving the house,” concurred a third.


Like Brazilians, fancy underwear seems to be an early casualty of marriage. “ I used to wear matching lingerie pretty much every day” mused one friend. “These days, do old black Bonds hipsters and a black maternity bra count?” (Not really, although I maintain birth exempts you from all personal grooming for at least a year).

Interestingly, many women are reminded to lift their game by children not partners. “I only remember to shave my legs when my three year old tells me I’m spiky” remarks one. “I still wear a little bit of makeup every day but it’s for the kids,” agrees another. “My son said to me today ‘Mummy I can see your wrinkles. They’re worse in the morning. You should put some cream on them.’

The friend who was most sheepish to reply to my question was the one who brushes her hair and spritzes perfume before her husband comes home. “You’re going to think I’m so 1950’s housewife,” she apologised. “But I go to the waxer every three weeks.“ She also has some very strict and detailed rules about bathroom etiquette, which I’ll refrain from sharing. “It’s hard to maintain romance and mystery and excitement in a relationship, so why make it worse?” she asks rhetorically.

One newly single friend admits she let things slide when she lived with her ex but has suddenly lifted her game. “Now, I do it all: waxing, self-tanning, blow-drying, makeup intact at all times.” There’s one exception, however. “There is this guy…” she told me. “You could call him as a friend with benefits and I don’t bother to wax for him, or crack out the nice lingerie. When you’re excited about someone, you bother. When you don’t care what he thinks – either because you’re not emotionally invested, or you’re TOO emotionally invested (long term relationship) you slacken off.”

I think her theory has legs. Unshaven, naturally.

What’s your policy for hair removal and other bits of up-keep when you’re single vs coupled? Do you think men notice / care? Should some basic standards be maintained by both parties?


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