Confessions of a Nearly-Hairless Vagina
I asked my parents to pay for laser hair removal as a birthday and Christmas present (for however many years they deemed appropriate since the procedure is certainly no bargain), and they agreed, knowing how much stress my body hair has caused me over the years, and how much plucking, shaving, bleaching, waxing, epilating and rag-biting I’ve forced myself to endure. Eventually, my mother found a deal for a hair removal specialist in a town nearby that mentioned full-body hair removal for the oh-so-low price of $1999—that’s about 668 cans of shaving cream or 700 cheap razors at a wholesale store.
I called one week in May. “Hi, I’d like to make an appointment with the doctor for full-body laser hair removal.”
“This is the doctor!” a cheery male voice said from the other end of the line. “What’s your name?”
It felt like I had called his personal cell phone by accident and that he decided he would chat me up anyway. He asked if I had any questions about the procedure and he scheduled my appointment himself. He then transferred me to his assistant, Julie*, who told me to shave any areas I wanted lasered two days before my appointment.
“So just remember that. Two days before. Set aside the time.”
“Yeah,” I said, “I’ll have time.” I hung up the phone with a sigh of relief and dreams of hairlessness dancing in my head.
The first time I shaved my arms, I was in fifth grade. I sat on my bed with my electric razor, deciding that it was time to do something about my hairiness. Not that I hadn’t already started—at a young age, I hinted to my mother that I wanted to tweeze my eyebrows. She didn’t understand my message, but, luckily, my older sister interpreted: “She’s saying she wants two eyebrows instead of one.” After that, I was comfortable with, years later, asking my mom to shave my legs because they showed when I wasn’t wearing knee socks for school. Once at recess, a friend (a true friend) hinted that maybe I was kind of, sort of, you know, growing a mustache.
But what about my arms? People shave their legs, wax and bleach their lip, but, as far as I knew, the only people with hairy arms were men and me. There was one area on my right arm that was particularly aggravating, a place where I have a large birth mark that makes my hair appear darker. I thought that maybe if I gently trimmed the hair there, my arm would look normal.
I soon found out that I was no barber. After creating a noticeable bald spot on my beauty mark, I found that the only solution was to shave all the hair off of both arms. The next day I went into school wearing a long-sleeved sweater over my gym uniform (a pair of dark sweatpants and a collared polo tee shirt), thinking I was being discreet even though it was an eighty-something-degree day in June. My gym teacher yelled at me (“You’re making me sweat just looking at you!”) and I was forced to take the sweater off. Already sweating, I increased my jumping-jacks speed so that my arms were a blur in my classmates’ eyes.
In the poor circulation of the bus ride home, I finally took off my sweater voluntarily, welcoming a breeze that tickled my hairless arms like invisible feathers. Instantly, one boy whispered to the boy next to me who I had a crush on. I saw my crush look over and my preteen heart stopped beating, not from butterflies, but from embarrassment and shame. This boy definitely liked me—in my gut (and in my diary) I knew he did—but he had liked me before my Panasonic razor came along and told my secrets. I crossed my arms, trying to hide one beneath the other, and took on a series of awkwardly leaned-over postures in attempt to bury my baby-soft arms between my legs and stomach and behind my barely-there ten-year-old chest.
As I grew older, I learned to accept my body just as every mother hopes for her daughter. My mom was actually the first person to mention laser hair removal to me. My reason for turning down her offer was, “Mom, please. If I’m going to set an example for generations to come, what would I be saying by surrendering to permanent hair reduction?”
By the time I asked her if the offer still stood, I had moved on from I-will-not-yield-to-societal-norms to I’m-tired-of-shaving-and-besides-disposable-razors-are-bad-for-the-environment. I realized that laser treatment would actually save me a lot of time and that it would, as much as I hated to admit, erase emotional scars and improve my self-confidence. I worked on becoming more comfortable with my body, if only to release myself of some of my own guilt for wanting what might technically be defined as a “corrective” procedure.
Dr. Minx’s* office was directly off a road in the center of town. It was a small two-story white house with a white sign near the street stamped with the doctor’s name in tiny font. After driving past, pulling over, and cursing other drivers for not letting me in front of them, I found myself parked behind the little house taking deep breaths in my car. Wanting to make a good impression by being five minutes early, I went in.
I walked up the stairs into a comfortable waiting room. The walls were light tan, the furniture brown. There were magazines, informative brochures, a Keurig for making coffee, and a small refrigerator filled with bottles of water and soda. The lighting was right for a romantic dinner.
Despite this setting, my nerves got me worked up and I, like an excited puppy, had a sudden urge to pee. The bathroom, right next to one of the couches, was not hard to find, though I couldn’t seem to understand how to lock the door. I went about my business anyway, wondering what the chances were that for the few seconds I was in the bathroom, someone else would need to use it.
The thing about chance is that even one percent counts for something. The door opened, followed by a chipper male voice. I froze, luckily with my pants up and hands reaching towards the sink faucet.
“Oops! Sorry!” said the voice, interrupting the sentence it was previously working on. The door closed. I was off to a good start in my doctor-patient relationship.
Having flushed my nerves and washed my hands, I stepped back out into the waiting room. As soon as I closed the door behind me, a man in a white coat stepped into the waiting room, beaming a smile that could sell anything from toothpaste to fertilizer. “Hello!” said a familiar voice. “Remind me of your name again? Carina, right. What a beautiful name. Please, take a seat. Now…let’s talk about laser hair removal.”
Having just finished a two-hour train ride and an equally long argument with my mother about “disappearing” to my boyfriend’s house in Long Island, I could barely muster up the energy to put on a smile. Dr. Minx appeared to have enough spunk for the two of us.
Dr. Minx introduced me to Julie, who was going to administer the laser treatment. Julie led me out of the waiting room into the doctor’s office and told me to get undressed and take a seat on the paper-covered patient’s table on one end of the room. At the other end of the room, the doctor’s desk sat in the middle of three cushioned leather chairs that faced the desk in conversation. I imagined Dr. Minx in the waiting room reading the square, cardboard B is for Botox book, wishing he had separate rooms for his office and procedures, crossing his legs and tapping his foot, sipping on a newly-opened bottle of artesian water.
Julie was friendly right off the bat, which made me much more relaxed and more willing to undress (take notes, boys). She explained that every body part would grow back at different rates, that some places might require more treatments than others, and that, typically, full-body hair removal takes about seven treatments. Julie explained that she would start with a test on each area before she began so that she could figure out the power level with which the lasers would be administered. She gave me a pair of shaded goggles and put on her own, making us look like we were gearing up for a shooting range.
Appropriately, the laser equipment looked like a shooting game at an arcade, the laser gun sitting in a box while it calibrated. The actual process was very similar to a sonogram—first some cold jelly was put on my skin, then the gun was moved around on top of it. We began with my underarms and instantly saw results. I smelt them, too, as the scent of burning hair reached my nostrils. Ecstatic, I raised my other arm and welcomed the slightly painful “three-on-a-scale-of-ten” pricks.
Then came my bikini area. Julie explained the options. “We can do just your bikini line, a full Brazilian…whatever you want.”
“Brazilian,” I said.
She looked at me, smiling. “Brazilian? You’re sure? You know that’s everything, right?”
I nodded. “Everything.” Hell, if I was paying $1999 for a full-body treatment, I was going to get a full-body treatment.
By this point, the two of us had been conversing about anything from shopping to where to get good sorbet (we found out we are both lactose intolerant)—you know, the usual stuff you talk about with people when they’re rubbing goop all over your body. Julie administered one shot of lasers a few inches below my bellybutton. “How was that?” she asked.
“Ow,” I whispered.
“I will be,” I chuckled, wanting to tear my Italian-Sicilian genes from my DNA. “You can keep going.”
That was all I said for the next few minutes while I held my breath and counted the beeps of the machine.
After a while, Julie spoke. “Do you have a bad back or anything?”
“Okay, I’m going to need you to bring one of your knees up to your chest and keep the other leg bent on the table with your knee facing outward. Good.”
Beep, beep, beep.
“Your boyfriend’s going to love this,” I heard her say above the beeps, unsure if she was talking about my hairless right ass cheek or the Kama sutra position I had assumed on the table.
After this, the raised back of the table was flattened and I was asked to turn over. I did so, feeling like I was flipping over on a beach chair with sunglasses on at the worst comfort resort ever. Instead of gazing at blue waters in front of me, I realized that I was staring directly out at the parking lot and the main street through a curtain-less window in front of bare-naked me, and that cold jelly, not warm sun, was spreading over the backs of my thighs.
I eventually turned back over and sat up so that Julie could lather up my face. As I was secretly cursing the fact that Dr. Minx does not laser the eyebrow area because of potential lawsuits (Come on! A little laser to the eye never blinded anyone!), Julie passed the laser gun over my face. When she finished my lip, she said, “Sorry!” and administered one shot at the base of each nostril, then threw her hands up and exclaimed, “We’re done!”
After handing back my glasses and wiping my face with wet wipes, I stood up from the table to put my clothes back on. But my body was already covered—at least part of it was—with the paper from the table, which was sticking to my skin as a result of the jelly not being completely removed from the backs of my legs and butt. I waddled over to the doctor’s desk where my clothes were and picked off paper from my backside in slow, ripping bits until the garbage pail was filled with confetti.
I thanked Julie in a thank-you-for-getting-into-my-nooks-and-crannies-and-being-cool-about-it kind of way, and shook hands with Dr. Minx, who had so kindly lent us his office for an hour. I drove home attempting not to stick to my car seat, and jumped in the shower where I soaped up my shaven, freshly-zapped, and slightly-breaking-out-in-hives skin.
Dr. Minx’s rule is that his patients should shave two days before the procedure and shouldn’t shave for at least two days after. On day two of officially being a laser patient, I examined my skin. The redness had, for the most part, resided, and already I was seeing areas that were bald. My bikini area looked like a “before” picture of a Rogaine ad. I could play connect-the-bald-dots on my arms. My armpits were still a bit sore but were silky smooth.
Now that I’ve started, I’m glad I decided to go through with Dr. Minx’s treatment. With about six weeks in between each appointment, the process will take a while, but since I’ve waited so long for it to start, I can surely wait for it to finish. I’m used to waiting—waiting to finish shaving in the shower, waiting for bleach to make my hair light and my skin red, waiting to build up the guts to rip off a wax strip. Waiting is my thing. I have time.
*names of people changed