Unlike numerous gender-isms and beauty standard “guidelines” that gradually infiltrated my mind during childhood and teenage years, I distinctly recall the precise moment I discovered that I was “expected” to remove all my pubic hair. I was hanging out with friends at around 14 years old when my friend casually mentioned her hairless vagina. (She had an older sister, so she was the first one to do things like stop shopping at The Limited Too and start shopping at Hollister, watch R-rated movies at sleepovers, and learn the meaning of the word “boner.”)
I can still sense the sudden change in my thoughts at that very moment, the split second where my awareness of my pubic hair shifted from “oh, they exist” to “other people deliberately get rid of them” to “I should be removing mine too.” And even though I hadn’t even had my first kiss at that point, I understood that this newfound thinking was all about boys; when I eventually found myself in a sexual situation, I believed that the other person would expect me to be completely shaved.
Of course, in hindsight, it’s incredibly absurd to think that my 14-year-old self would shave off the only thing on my body that indicated puberty was actually happening (over 10 years later, I’m still waiting for my breasts to make an appearance at the party). But that habit stuck, and for years and years, I religiously shaved off every last bit of my pubic hair. I perfected the technique of running a razor around the most sensitive part of my body and made sure to time my shaving perfectly for first dates, sleepovers with boyfriends, special occasions, and pool parties, just so that the slightest hint of stubble or the dark shadow of my Italian body hair wouldn’t be visible (or end up on someone else’s sheets).
By the time I turned 25, I was exhausted from maintaining this hairless appearance (for many sexual partners who, quite frankly, weren’t worth it), tired of meticulously shaving only to have my dark hair follicles still visible against the pale skin of my bikini line, and weary from the amount of time and effort I spent grooming these bothersome things that just kept growing back. Then, I experienced a single nasty ingrown hair that caused me immense stress and frustration, and I realized I needed to find a better alternative to shaving.
So, I delved into the world of Brazilian laser hair removal.
At that time, a friend had just started Brazilian laser hair removal and couldn’t stop raving about it. There were numerous benefits I hadn’t even considered: no more irritation while cycling or wearing tight pants for extended periods; no more uncomfortable, itchy feeling when the stubble grows back prickly and catches on even the smoothest underwear; no more razor burn or ingrown pubic hairs.
I discovered a Groupon for an incredibly inexpensive package at a nearby medical spa, and concluded that it was the perfect opportunity; I would utilize laser treatment to eliminate the hair in my underarms and my intimate area, the same way as a Brazilian wax (meaning, completely hairless), which would eliminate the need for shaving in those regions forever. After all, I had been continuously removing all my genital hair for over ten years – without doubt, my preference wouldn’t change. Additionally, if I made the investment now, I would save both money and time for the duration of my life. It was an obvious decision.
Then, I went in for a consultation at the medspa and had an overall mediocre experience. The office itself was tidy, but the building was shabby. The laser technician addressed my inquiries but was evidently tired of dealing with these anxieties from every laser novice who walked in. I thought I was simply going in to discuss the process of Brazilian laser hair removal but ended up having my first session right then and there. (For your information, it usually takes an average of four to six sessions every four to six weeks to effectively halt hair growth.) And, yeah, it’s not pleasant being zapped by lasers just a few millimeters away from the most sensitive part of your body.
I left the medspa and went home, with my groin and underarms burning, to watch Netflix with ice packs on my private parts and reflect on my actions. Suddenly, I had a change of heart about this plan. Maybe it was because of the discomfort (which, honestly, wasn’t that severe, but any level of physical unease tends to bring mental clarity). I felt guilty for subjecting one of the most personal areas of my body to a literal laser weapon — and for what?
I hadn’t really even considered why I was so adamant about permanently removing this hair from my body. I had been doing it without much thought for years, and this was the first time I really sat down and contemplated why. Not just the immediate, superficial reasons (like “it’s less itchy” and “it looks better in a bikini”) but why I ever felt the need to eliminate my pubic and underarm hair in the first place. Was I doing this for myself because I genuinely felt better with a fresh shave? And if that was the case, why did I feel better that way — because society ingrained in me that it was the only socially acceptable grooming option for a person with a vagina?
A significant factor was the permanence of it all; if you go through the proper number of laser treatments, the hair in that region will never regrow (unless there are significant hormonal changes such as pregnancy or other conditions). Not to mention, I never even attempted to let them grow out to see if that’s something I would enjoy. If I had never given my pubic hair a chance to truly grow out, I thought, I couldn’t possibly be ready to permanently remove it.
Luckily, I had six weeks until my next session to figure it out.
And I pondered it extensively. I noticed pubic hair (or lack thereof) everywhere — in TV shows, on huge billboards, on social media, on celebrities’ Instagrams, at the beach — and suddenly I became incredibly interested in other people’s pubic hair grooming habits. Almost everything meant for public consumption (meaning mainstream media) portrayed perfectly groomed bikini lines; not a single hair in sight. But in real life, I saw stubble, razor burn, and “I forgot to shave” insecurities everywhere. I spoke to friends who agonized over scheduling a waxing session before going on a date with someone they met on Bumble, or forgetting to bring a razor on a weekend trip. Suddenly, I realized that this whole obsession with getting rid of pubic hair was completely nonsensical. It made no sense that we were all so concerned about something that every single human being has on their body.
I also considered how this decision would align with my own principles. As someone who has worked hard to embrace and love my natural, curly hair, I realized how hypocritical it would be to champion the acceptance of the hair on my head, but then reject the mere existence of the hair on my body. I continued to experience regular mental dilemmas until my next Brazilian laser hair removal appointment.
The choice grew larger than myself and my pubic hair.
Perhaps I went a bit too far, but the dilemma I was grappling with became about much more than my pubic hair. I realized I was conforming to the oppressive standards of beauty that contribute to the unequal treatment of women and femmes, reducing us to objects rather than recognizing our own agency. I didn’t truly desire to remove all my pubic hair; I had just clung to societal expectations so tightly that I failed to acknowledge I had a say in the matter. Suddenly, tending to (or not tending to!) my pubic hair became more than a random hygienic task; it became a statement. My pubic hair became visual evidence of my acceptance of femininity and my humanity. And now, I truly desired to reclaim it.
Therefore, I made the decision to retain my pubic hair — at least some of it. I must admit, I wasn’t quite ready to fully embrace the #bushlife. Okay, and I had already paid for the treatment. So, I opted for the bikini laser treatment instead, also known as “tidying up the sides.” I believed it was a compromise between what I was accustomed to and what I aspired to be (a proud advocate for body hair). Additionally, it provided several benefits that initially attracted me to laser hair removal (goodbye, chafing). I completed my Groupon offer, which left me one or two sessions short of completely removing all the hair in those areas. What remains is a light sprinkling of armpit hair and a few stray hairs along my bikini line.
Now, I allow what remains to grow out, and I must confess, I adore it. It’s significantly less than my previous dark hair, but it’s enough for me to take pride in it. I applaud these resilient stray hairs as comrades in my mildly rebellious cause. They are my sisters in the revolution. (Hey, they survived like five laser attacks!) Instead of being a nuisance, I find them to be fierce and attractive. (I’m not alone. Read about why these individuals chose to embrace their body hair.)
I understand that I may not be the perfect example for pubic hair, considering I still went through with partial laser hair removal. However, what truly matters is how I now feel about those seemingly inconsequential yet significant hairs. Because, ultimately, everyone should feel empowered to do whatever they wish with their bodies and body hair. So, if Brazilian laser hair removal is the right choice for you, go ahead and pursue it — just know that it’s not the only option.
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