When my life overwhelms me – which, as an introverted entrepreneur and mother, is often – I try to escape to the one place that I know no one will speak to me, The Korean Day Spa. I spend the entire day there, soaking, steaming, sweating, and watching the glorious variety of women move through this sacred space as the holy bodies that they are. Everyone is naked, as mandated by the spa itself. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors, styles, and when surrounded by them I truly feel as if I am part of something, some magic thing that needs no words or creed. The mere fact of our nipples and wrinkles and bulges, and the fact that we all look ridiculously bad in the little shower caps the spa makes us wear, is enough to refill my soul. If I were the platitude sort, some part of me would probably start singing, “I am woman, hear me roar,” but the rest of me would be all like “shut up, bitch,” and I would return to the silence that I so crave.
The silence is the point. Specifically, the silent people watching. There is one woman that I can’t take my eyes off of, though as manners dictate, I try – not least because eye-contact might look like an invitation to speak, and I do not want to speak to anyone. She is so old that any trace of race has all but disappeared, though she appears faded in a way that implies something other than Irish. Her thick, white hair is just shy of unruly and the wrinkles around her eyes create a deep dark well that you can’t help but peer into in the hopes of discovering a private truth. If I am well past “a certain age,” this woman is ancient. And she is mind-bogglingly beautiful. I envy her far more than I do the handful of young women whose tits still point upwards, as if to remind them “the sky’s the limit.” (Mine, on the other hand, point down now, as if to remind me, “that’s where the babies came out.”)
I am in the hot tub, alone with the ancient woman. We make eye contact. I avoid the urge to run. She speaks. I avoid the urge to shut down completely, and instead I say “of course,” sweetly, when she asks if she can ask me a question.
“Why do women remove their pubic hair?”
This is such a loaded question these days. And admittedly, as a woman in my 40′s, I am older than most of the people who seemed to have embraced the Brazilian. In recent months, prominent sex-scholars have gone so far as to say that removing all of your pubic hair promotes pedophilia, infantilizes women and that the men who prefer it do so because they either like little girls or want women to be powerless. Such talk – and it is rampant – infuriates me. Besides being completely wrong, it assumes that women are somehow powerless to make these choices for themselves.
I don’t know what to say to her. So I just tell her the simple truth. “I do it because I want to.”
“Oh, dear, I assumed that, but I am wondering why you want to.” There is not a hint of judgment in her voice.
I will not have to explain to her that pedophilia is a serious mental disorder, an actual pathology, not something that can be caught when the winds of social trends blow across you, like a cold. I don’t think I have to explain to her that a woman can do whatever she wants with her body. My decision to remove the pubic hair on my body is not a statement that pubic hair is wrong, bad, dirty or gross in general, just that I don’t like it. Which has no deeper meaning, or impact on anyone else. If you like pubic hair, you should have it and celebrate it. If you don’t, get rid of it. It’s as simple as that.
Still trying to keep it simple, I say, “it feels better to me.” And with the innocence that belongs only to the young and the elderly, she asks “what feels better?”
“Sex. Sex feels better to me when I have no pubic hair.” She smiles. I imagine that she is running through years of memory-movies, of great sex she had when she was younger.
She asked how and why. I told her. I started, as I always do, with a simple analogy. Imagine someone kissing you on the top of your head. Now imagine them kissing you on your lips. Which one feels better? She smiled. I believe she really was imagining it. She utters a confirming “oh, yes.”
That is most of why I do it. Your vulva has a bajillion nerve endings, right there, under the hair. And they feel really good when touched. (Or breathed on, or licked, or spanked or…..) As we have learned more about genital anatomy, we have learned that the clitoris is not just a little button, but rather a sort of butterfly shaped collection of nerves spreading out from what is like a little penis, shaft and all. That button is just the tip of the ice berg. I am greedy, I want to feel as much as I can feel. I want to feel not just the pressure, but the tingling of breath, the subtle evaporation as kisses dry. I want to feel it all. Hair just gets in the way, in my book.
There is, for me, an aesthetic component too. I never liked the hair. I was sad when it grew in, but I never knew I could shave it. It just wasn’t done, then. Just a few years ago, when my daughter and I were doing the mother-daughter sex-ed class sponsored by the local Children’s Hospital, the instructor cheerfully told girls that they could shave their legs and the hair that comes out from your bathing suit, but that “you don’t” shave any more than that. My daughter looked at me and raised an eyebrow as if to say, “are you going to correct her?” I did.
I was well into my 30′s before I shaved off all of my pubic hair. I did it as a surprise for my then-husband, who had asked me to several times, but I kept thinking it was “wrong” somehow. But when I did, it became the best gift I ever gave myself. It was the first time in my adult life that I actually saw all of my vulva, my clitoris, every fleshy fold. I loved how it looked. I loved how connected I felt to my own body. And oh sweet mother-of-all-that-tingles, I loved how it felt. I haven’t had hair there since.
I lasered it off. Done. Gone. Aint’ coming back.
I told her all of this. She smiled. Perhaps I’m a bit touchy, I was waiting to get lectured about how I was betraying women, or something. But, no. She just looked at me, widened the pools of her eyes to show me even more generosity and wisdom than I had seen before, and said, “Well, I’m going to have to try that.”
I want to be her when I grow up.