Sunday, April 10, 2005

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

To wax or not to wax: that is the question.

My apologies to Shakespeare, but life has changed dramatically since Hamlet’s famous Soliloquy. In today’s society, waxing is a big decision for some. Several months ago, when Arnold Schwarzenegger announced he was going to run for Governor of California, he said it was the biggest decision he had made since getting a bikini wax in 1978. A bikini wax, Arnold? Say it ain’t so! Am I that far behind the times?

Having hair removed from sensitive parts of my body--torn out by the roots, actually--did not appeal to me. Just thinking about the process sent me running for an Advil. Yet, despite the pain involved, I noticed a growing trend among co-workers, friends, and cousins to wax on a regular basis.

The first time I realized how effective waxing could be was when my cousin Phyllis showed up for Christmas dinner with two distinct eyebrows. The whole family sat mesmerized throughout the evening as her left eyebrow arched up and down gracefully as if manipulated by a master puppeteer. Almost as intriguing was the fact that her right eyebrow, though unanchored for the first time since puberty, remained frozen in place.

Phyllis’s eyebrows were the most dramatic change I had seen since Uncle Jewell got dentures several years ago. Children ran screaming to their mothers each time he pushed the oversized teeth out of his mouth, past his lips, clacking them together loudly each time a youngster came near. Awed by the brow transformation, however, my female cousins forgot about teeth of Christmas past and huddled to discuss the merits of waxing.

After Christmas that year I began to take notice of co-workers scheduling eyebrow waxes during their lunch hour. My ears perked up as friends discussed appointments at upscale salons where they had peach fuzz removed from their upper lip between highlights and deep conditioning or scheduling a bikini wax before heading to the beach.

“Well, yeah. It hurts,” they all said, “but it’s a quick pain.”

“Oh great,” I replied, “that’s only a glowing recommendation if you’re Marquis de Sade.”

Consequently, fear of the unknown and a low pain threshold kept me from exploring the issue of waxing any further until recently.

While struggling to stay awake through a Chessmaster tutorial late one evening, my attention wandered to a television advertisement for the Ding King Car Dent Remover. Giving my brain a break from Chess Tactics and Positions 101, I watched and listened to the pitch man go through a dent removal process that sounded remarkably like waxing. First, he applied glue to a dent-pulling tab and quickly applied it to the center of a dent, letting it cool briefly. Then, with a quick tug of a special device, he pulled a small dent out of his car door.

“Geez,” I thought, “if the Ding King Car Dent Remover can remove dents from my car, I wonder if waxing could pop cellulite dents out of my thighs”?

It was one thing to try waxing for hair removal, but if there was an added benefit of dent removal from my thighs…well, that called for major re-evaluation. And that is when I decided to try waxing.

The next day I summoned up courage to call a local (and reputable) day spa. I didn’t want to sound totally naïve, but I had a long list of questions:

Is waxing done in a soundproof room in case I scream?

On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is the pain?

Do you offer anesthesia, pain medication, liquor, or a nail to bite on?

What parts of the body do you wax?

Do you wax my body part from the same pot you waxed the last person’s body part?

How long does hair have to be for good results? Will I look like an anthropological study before my hair is long enough to wax?

Are there any side effects of waxing? [I was hoping for cellulite reduction]

When the owner of the salon finally had enough of my questioning, she graciously told me to come on in and give it a try. If, after the first strip of wax was ripped from my skin, I felt the pain was too intense, we would stop the process and credit the fee toward another salon procedure. That sounded reasonable to me and I booked an appointment for a full leg waxing.

I spent a few unpleasant weeks while the hair on my legs grew long enough to wax. It was especially uncomfortable when a special night out called for panty hose. With one-quarter inch razor stubble on my legs, it felt like I was pulling them on over a pubescent porcupine. I definitely understood why cats don’t like their fur rubbed backwards.

Three weeks later, following instructions to limit my caffeine that morning (it heightens sensitivity) and to take an Ibuprofen half an hour before arrival (staying “ahead of the pain”), I made my hairy-legged arrival at the spa. There, Angela, my aesthetician, showed me through a door, down a long hallway, and past a suite of rooms. In hushed tones, she pointed out that each was designed for a unique spa purpose, with an accompanying motif and decorated appropriately with hand-painted murals, fountains, lit candles, and soft, soothing music.

As we stopped at a door marked “Waxing,” Angela stood back for me to enter. None of the Grecian, Caribbean or Egyptian themes for me; the mural ahead depicted a wide expanse of desert, punctuated with patches of prickly cactus that bore a remarkable resemblance to my legs. Someone certainly had a sense of humor.

Angela left the room while I got undressed, handing me a petite cellophane package containing a disposable bikini on her way out and instructing me to get under the sheet she’d left on the table.

“Oh, Lord,” I thought as I hiked up the one-size-fits-most, paper bikini and situated myself on the table, “I look like a Sumo wrestler reject!”

When Angela returned and began stirring a sleek crockpot of greenish goo, I immediately started another barrage of questions and nervous chatter to distract myself. In no time, however, I became so caught up in the wild and raucous stories she confidentially shared (translated: no names) that I totally forgot to yell when she began ripping rows of 200 or 300 hairs off my legs.

The half-hour or so on the waxing table was not nearly as bad as I feared. “Well, yeah,” I smiled sweetly when Angela inquired, “it hurt, but it was a quick pain.”

I thought for sure that I would look like a version of Edvard Munch’s painting, The Scream, when I left the waxing room. Not so, but my legs looked like those of a child with a full-blown case of the measles. They had neglected to tell me that each spot where a hair was ripped out would be identified by a tiny scarlet pinpoint...miniature badges of courage.

I was cautioned not to take a hot shower within the next few hours and definitely no sun exposure that day; no Bath & Body Works perfumed salts, no exfoliation, not even Bitter Apple to keep Pee Pup from licking my legs. By tomorrow, following instructions, I was assured the “measles” would be gone…and they were. In fact, despite their denial that waxing reduces cellulite, I’d swear the cottage cheese on my thighs looked briefly like ricotta.

The next morning, my legs were sleek and smooth, nary a red spot in sight. I was very pleased with the results of my first waxing; though it still seems a bit odd not to reach for my fabulous triple-bladed Venus razor each morning. I even booked another waxing in six weeks, though I think I’ll forego the underarm, Brazilian, or Hollywood waxes.

Oh, but the stories I could tell you.


Anonymous said...

Do you recommend waxing?
It's something I've been contemplating for some time now.
Eventually I'll go for it just like you did, I hope to find an understanding attendant.
The disposable bikini sounds

Anonymous said...

I''m familiar with this subject too