The Best Time I Got a Bikini Wax
by Helen Rosner
A girl’s first bikini wax is much like her first kiss, in that (a) she always wants to tell the story of how it went down, and (b) no one else cares. But I’m going to tell you my bikini wax story anyway. It should be noted, as long as we’re going to get intimate, that I am not really a terribly hairy lady to begin with. So the fact that I waited until I was 23 to even notice the existence of bikini waxes as a concept — let alone get one — speaks less to any prudishness on my part than it does to a simple lack of necessity. Plus I hadn’t really dated anyone who did that gross thing where they say, “It would be cool if you wanted to go bare, you know; it could be fun for both of us.” (Yay for dating guys who, on balance, managed to keep their considerable dickishness from spilling over into the pubic-grooming department!) But when I broke up with someone after several years together, one of my friends was like, “You should get a bikini wax. But make sure it’s a Brazilian because otherwise why even bother.” So I said, “Okay!” (because I was in one of those post-break-up phases where you say “okay!” to literally everything that is presented to you, no matter what), and I did.
At that point, the only person I knew who had ever talked to me about her Brazilian bikini wax was a friend from college who I ran into one day on the street when she was immediately post-wax. She described the experience as “not that bad,” mostly because, and I’m paraphrasing here, “I had a glass of white wine first, and I hardly felt a thing.” (This is a sentence that turns out to be astonishingly applicable to many things in life.) As a result of that, somehow I’d gotten it into my head that the pre-wax glass of white wine was a necessity, like you legally could not get a wax without it, which was going to be kind of a problem given that I had made a 3pm waxing appointment at a nail salon a few blocks from my office. The good news was that the walk from where I worked to the nail salon involved passing a liquor store, so when I ducked out for what my boss probably thought was an awkwardly late lunch, I went inside and bought a white wine juice box, which is a product I had not previously known existed. but in that moment felt like an actual gift from the hand of God.
But I was 23, and for me two years had not been nearly enough time for my underage terror at purchasing and consuming alcohol to subside, and I had absolutely no idea where I could go to drink my wine juice box, and I was freaking out a little while standing on the street. Here’s what I did, and I highly recommend it if you find yourself in need of a place to discreetly consume alcoholic beverages during your workday: I went into a Benetton store, grabbed a random sweater off the rack, and requested a dressing room. I hung that sweater on the hook and did not even begin to try it on, but instead straight-up shotgunned the white wine juicebox (because there was no straw) and then walked out of the Benetton and down the block to my nail salon where I announced, with an extraordinary amount of false confidence (engendered by a white wine placebo effect, probably), that I AM HERE FOR A BIKINI WAX.
I don’t remember much about the wax itself except that it hurt, and I spent the times in which I was not in active pain being extremely surprised by the nonchalance with which a middle-aged Korean woman could get extremely intimate with my lady area. I politely declined the roll-over-and-spread-your-cheeks part. I got a little baby powder on my black tank top.
About that black tank top: It was racerback, which is important, because my bra was both not racerback, and also had those sort of really ugly white granny style lace-trimmed straps. To hide the straps (for both hideous-hiding and professionalism reasons) I had worn, on top of the tank, this really lovely black cashmere cardigan that I had spent far too much of my editorial assistant salary buying from J. Crew, which was not as cool in 2005 as it is now, but was still pretty cool. For the wax, I’d taken off the cardigan; it was hanging next to my jeans (with my panties wadded up in the pocket — seriously, where do you put your panties?) on a peg on the wall adjacent to the table on which I was lying. And when I got up from the table to get dressed afterward, my leg or the tabletop or a minor earthquake or something caused the beautiful, baby-soft, insanely expensive cardigan to slip from its peg. And it landed, not on the floor, but in an open trash can. Which contained something like six cubic feet of strips of used waxing cotton, frosted with — and I almost barfed at this point — dried-up wax studded with other people’s body hair.
But I had to put the sweater back on, because of those stupid horrible hideous bra straps, so I closed my eyes and I reached in to this trash can full of ripped-out pubes and back hair and god knows what else (what if other people hadn’t said no to the spread-your-cheeks option?! This idea literally only right now occurred to me, and I want to die a little), and I grabbed the sweater and pulled it out, and then (I had to open my eyes for this part) picked off all the waxing strips that were stuck to it, and shook it vigorously, and I PUT IT ON. And then I paid, and I left, and I went back to work, and I got home that night and I threw the sweater away, and I cried a little bit.