Knees under chin and arse aloft, I’ve felt sexier. However, the therapist gazing into my vagina seems unperturbed. Perhaps it’s the overpowering fug of the strawberry wax. Perhaps it’s that “Sexy Back” has just started on the radio. Perhaps it’s that we don’t know how to get past the fact that I just queefed. My first bikini wax doesn’t have the hallmarks of a stressless social transaction.
Primarily of course, there is someone staring at my vagina. Not that that hasn’t been a central feature of some extremely satisfactory encounters – it’s just that, usually, I’ve met the observer some time before. This brings me to the second problematic issue; that is, my degree of acquaintance with the ‘therapist’, the charming Elena. Elena goes about her work with the enthusiasm and nuance of a speed turkey plucker I once saw in action at a county fair. Unfortunately, she has next to no English; she does, however, know the professional jargon.
“Would you like me to wax your inner labia?”
I frown, sagely, as if considering a tempting wine list. However, my reply, is obstructed by my knees’ remaininghoicked skywards. My silence is correctly interpreted, and five minutes later, I’m hobbling down the high street, relieved of twenty quid and, if the amount of wax used was anything to go by, probably a good pound or two of body hair.
Opinion is divided on bikini waxing. Whilst any radical bush maintenance will get you automatically barred from major OxFem events, anecdotally, it seems that even the most fearsome Greer-wielding feminist will concede a bi-monthly pubic trim. Maintaining some sort of genital order seems like basic politeness to one’s bedfellows, and is a common practice amongst better trained boyfriends. But at the other end of the spectrum, of Hollywoods, vajazzling, and, in a gut-wrenching combination of the two, Bollywoods, lies dangerous ground.
Some bleeding and scarring is inevitable, infection a risk, and the stubbly aftermath period, in the words of one male acquaintance, “feels like going down on razor blades”.
However, if we are going to get political about pubes, the fact remains that very few men have ever had to go through any equivalent experience; for the fastidious, that’s a fortnightly routine of ripping hair from its roots just where it’s most sensitive. Some women feel they have to wax by default with new partners for fear of the terrible consequences of being seen au naturel, and though it’s a somewhat tired argument, ‘what if men had to…’ is still a useful scenario for putting bikini waxing into perspective.
But, ultimately, pubic topiary is decided not by oppression, but fashion. Seventies porn, of course, is fertile ground for the over-bouffanted muff. More historically, the combating of pubic lice meant that full shaving, and the consequent substitution of a merkin, or pube wig, was de rigeur. Today, the need for hard core pornographers to get the full benefit from HD cameras and full frontal shots has dictated a more pared down look. At the end of the day though, one’s pubes are one’s own. As a girl with some interest in fashion, I’ll make a passing nod to any trends I’ll fancy. Pubes are yet another ground for creativity and self-expression, whether the vogue is for waxing, tattoing, dyeing, conditioning, combing, vajazzling or piercing. Personally, I’ll draw the line at braiding.