I decided to have my legs waxed for my husband's return from war. I know. Maybe I should have planned a party or at least a night out, but all I could manage was a leg waxing, which was decided upon one morning while I happened to drive past a European Wax Center next to Trader Joe's. I was post-yoga, wearing knee-length yoga pants, a tank top and patent-leather ballet flats. I roped another mom into swapping kid-watching duties, as she wanted a pre-cruise waxing herself. She was going for a bikini wax. I was not.
When you get your first-time wax with European Wax Center, you get a complimentary wax - lip, brows or underarms. I was there for my legs, of course, but since I got a free hair removal thrown in, I chose underarms. Fifteen minutes later (who knew you needed an appointment?), I was told to strip down to my underwear.
I only needed my legs waxed, after all, and my armpits. What on earth did she need to have full-access for? The waxer (I'm sure there is a professional name for this, but I didn't think to ask), just smiled and looked at my yoga pants with a hint of resignation.
The worst part of having oneself waxed, by far, is standing there in a freezing-cold waxing room, with a woman (thank God it was a woman) you've never met, who is at least ten years your junior, in a nude-colored maternity thong and the evidence that you have never waxed before, anywhere.
Okay, well, that's her job, right? And I have to say she was a gem about it all. Very sweet and non-judgemental and efficient. So, we got down to it.
European Wax Center uses their own wax, which is very thick and kind of blue and requires no fabric strips at all....just the wax, which is applied with a large tongue depressor (and a bit of flourish). It then hardens and is ripped off one's body in a fell-swoop.
It HURTS. I mean, it hurts. It's as if you can feel every little tiny hair being ripped from its home, and each little homeless hair is screaming and clinging and begging not to go. I like to think they're all like little tree-hugging environmentalists chained to their favorite Redwood, facing down a large bulldozer with brave determination.
Okay. It hurts. I ended up only doing half a leg, because let me just tell you that it doesn't take just one little waxing. No. When you've never waxed at all, you must have several layers of wax applied and ripped off your leg to get each and every last hair, and it only hurts less each time because you become sort of numb to it. My legs were bright red. She kept applying more. She tried to distract me with the art of conversation (I think I've about got her signed up for a stint with the Peace Corps), but there is no getting away from the pain of this experience.
The legs were done. Sigh. Each leg was waxed about five or six times, certain areas more than others, stubborn hairs dealt with appropriately. Then my legs were rubbed down with some sort of soothing lotion (which was offered to me for purchase later), and my hair-removal-friend prepared for my underarms. You can imagine my fear and trepidation. I knew, now, what I was getting into, and I also knew my underarms had to be more painful than my legs.
I was right. It hurts more, if you can imagine, albeit in a different way. It's hard to describe. It's as if the different hairs have different personalities and respond uniquely to torture.
I had to have my underarms waxed 7 times each to remove all the hair. By the end I was sweating. I was holding my breath. It was like the moment just before a pap smear, when you try to be all calm and nonchalant but inside you're thinking: hell. not again. i've already had two kids for pete's sake.
I was done. The hair-removal woman was very excited. I tried to be very excited too, because this was my first waxing experience, and I was assured I'd love it, become addicted and be waiting with heady anticipation for my next appointment. But it was hard to imagine any such feelings with legs as red as lobster tails and pits to match.
The disappointment set in when I got home, took off my pants, showered and applied lotion. I had....stubble? Could it be? Yes. There was stubble. I had a friend feel my legs (I know), and she was also surprised. An avid waxer, she assured me there should be no stubble. "Baby soft," she said, and we both shook our heads. Hmmmm......
I was pretty sure I could get a softer, closer result with a plain old-fashioned razor. And truth-be-told, even the hair-removal expert at the Wax Center admitted she did her own legs with a razor at home. Still....I'd paid my money.
That night, I got out of the bath and was drying off when I felt my leg throbbing. I mean, it actually hurt. I looked down and was shocked to see swelling, redness and a blue streak between my calf muscle and ankle. I looked closer. I saw a large vein bulging and throbbing at the surface of my skin, and the entire area was red and hot.
As some of you may remember, I have a thing about the veins in the backs of my legs, and I realized with horror that the waxing had actually pulled a vein to the surface of my skin, and I had a slight panic attack with the idea that it may never go back. I may have a large, bulging vein there for....ever.
Beyond the cosmetic, what if I'd done something terrible to that poor vein and then it shut down the flow of blood to my feet and I started getting some kind of awful, poorly-circulated blue foot and I had to start wearing support hose and orthopedic shoes?
I swore then-and-there to never wax again. Ever. Not only had I possibly damaged my body, but I'd done it at great pain and expense (okay, $40) all so I could have stubble.
I was done. I swore it off. I admonished myself for another small, petty beauty treatment that highlighted my vanity. I shook my head, literally, and made myself a solemn vow: I'd never again do anything to my body that I couldn't do in the comfort of my own home.
And then.....just when I'd settled it all in my mind and felt noble (much like my tree hugging friends), I happened to raise my arms above my head and was shocked....amazed.....overjoyed?
I had NO ARMPIT HAIR AT ALL.....nothing. No hint of a 5-o'clock shadow. No stubble. No dodgy razor burn. No bumps. No red spots. Nothing but smooth skin.
They were the underarms of the Hollywood elite. I was Halle Berry, SJP, Nicole Kidman......I was shamelessly smooth.
I spent the next two weeks in awe of my armpits. They remained smooth and baby soft for weeks. Not hours. Not days (please). But weeks. And when the hair grew back in, it wasn't all short, prickly and dark. It was soft, dewy baby hair. Even if there was hair there, it wasn't offensive and unseemly. It was....lovely.
And just like that, I became addicted to waxing. The 411 on waxing? No legs (ever) again. I'll likely never muster the courage to get my bikini line waxed, and Lord help me if I ever consider the full down-under, which involves (I've been told) getting up on all fours, buck-naked. No. No, no.
But my underarms? Oh.....yes. Yes, yes, yes. I will be back...for my underarms.
Some things are worth the pain.
Quote of Inspiration
I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Atilla and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar