I was born with so much hair on my head that the nurses used to argue about who would get to braid it. The only problem was that my thick mane wasn’t limited to my little head, it continued down my face from my forehead right to my one solid eyebrow. Initially, my relatives said that I was “lucky” to have so much of my face covered in hair but the fact is, for me, it never felt lucky. It marked a lifelong fight with my follicles that would shape and then reshape my relationship with what is considered conventional beauty.
When I was in my late teens and visiting with family in India, I was getting tired of the constant pressure to consider finding a mate so I decided I would let my facial hair grow out in the hopes that it would alleviate the incessant nagging. Maybe, if they thought I was a boy, I foolishly reasoned with myself, they’d leave me alone.
The unibrow and mini moustache that first grew in wasn’t enough to dissuade the proposals. Once the soul patch and then full goatee took over I was constantly being asked to go to the “salon” and get myself threaded or waxed. One Aunty looked over at me during a wedding ceremony and whispered in my ear, “Darling, don’t be having all this hairy schmairy on your face. Go get it waxed, na? You don’t want to be single forever.”
“What does that matter?” I said. “I’m a natural woman and body hair is natural.”
“You can be natural after marriage. Right now you are looking like a teenage boy in heat.”
What did it matter? Why was it okay for every other Indian man on the street to sport a moustache, but not okay for me to enjoy a little peach fuzz over my lips? Why is excessive body hair acceptable in some cultures but reviled in others? What really is the motivation for hair removal? To beat the heat? To be aerodynamic? To be attractive?
For me, I acquiesced and removed the ‘stache when I found enough crumbs to make a cake on the edges of what threatened to become handlebar extensions. Sure, I might be exaggerating a bit, but the fact is, by virtue of my heritage, I have always been covered in more hair than what I see on the majority of my Western friends and I have struggled with ways of trying to control and make peace with it.
It was in my early twenties that I firmly took charge of my body hair and started waxing, shaving, plucking and threading everything from facial hair to my leg and arm hair.
Finally, by my mid-thirties, I felt like I was in better control and that I was redefining my personal sense of sexy keeping just enough hair everywhere I felt it needed to be. That is until Lamby brought up the subject of pubic hair and how sexy he thought it was for a woman to have no hair there at all.
“Why would I do that?” I asked. “It doesn’t seem natural, plus it sounds painful.”
“Well, if you’re scared…” I could tell from his expression that he didn’t think I would do it and that he was challenging me more for his own personal amusement than for my benefit.
It wasn’t until after I left him that I decided, strictly out of an ill placed desire to stick it to him and prove that I was indeed brave enough to try it, that I endured my first Brazilian wax.
Many people ask me how much of “Sex & Samosas” was based on my own life and I can honestly say that my protagonist Leena goes through a very similar first time experience.
Here’s an excerpt from my novel when Leena, along with her best friend Mahjong, has her first wax done by an esthetician named Hannah who works out of the basement of her suburban house.
Hannah took a wooden stick dripping with wax in her hand and gently touched the tip to her exposed wrist above her gloved fingers. She pressed it against the mound of flesh on my pubic bone and slowly scraped it down the edge toward my thighs. The gooey wax was more comforting than I thought it would be. The feeling was so warm and soothing it started to relax me.
I began to settle into the paper covering on the table. The smell of the wax made me think of more tropical climes. It wasn’t hard to imagine the paper on the table was a hammock on the beach, the sun beating its lovely warmth down on my tinted skin where the wax was spread.
Hannah started to make idle chatter with Mahjong asking her about her clothing shop and how business was going when the muslin strip of cloth came down to cover the wax.
The cotton felt warm on my skin. I thought I could smell suntan lotion. I waited patiently for my rum to be delivered. I perked my ears up to hear what Mahjong was getting ready to say about her spring line when suddenly my island retreat exploded under volcanic ash and hellfire.
There are no words really to describe what ran through my mind next: hatred, evil, murder. My first instinct, being the primate animal that I am, was to take my fist and ram it down Hannah’s smiling head knocking every one of her big teeth to the back of her throat. She held up the wax strip in the air, long lines of my curly black hair suspended from it like released prisoners waving their wiggly arms. I clenched my fists as if to punch her. The only thing that stopped me from doing so was the ear-piercing wail heard throughout the room.
“Aaaah!!! Son of a bitch!” I screamed. “Don’t touch me ever again!”
My cry was followed by an equally deafening silence and then after a short pause, the roaring laughter of both Hannah and Mahjong.
“That hurts!” I whined. “I’m bleeding! I know it!”
“Calm down, darling,” Hannah said, stifling a smile.
As I tried to rise up from the table to run for the door, she pushed me back and with one hand applied more wax to the next small strip beside the first. I’m not sure how that little woman managed to do it, but before I could come to my senses or even get half way into an upright position she was yanking off the second strip and I was begging for mercy again.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!” I cussed. “I can’t take it! I’m bleeding! I have to be!”
“You are not bleeding, darling,” Hannah continued. “What doesn’t kill you makes you –”
I cut her off and barked: “Stronger? You better not say that! Don’t feed me that crap! What doesn’t kill you makes you lame! I’m lame!”
“Actually,” she said holding back a laugh, “I was going to say what doesn’t kill you makes me a winter house in the Keys.”
Mahjong tried to muffle her own laughter and smacked Hannah on her behind.
I was unaware of anything else. I wished the pain would take me to that sickly sweet dark place where I would pass out from it and wake up in the hospital on the road to recovery a large bag of morphine already dripping directly into my veins.
“I mean it!” I said. “I’m done! Stop it! For God’s sake!”
“You know my other Indian clients aren’t nearly as delicate as you. I am just trying to get you to relax, especially now that the worst part is coming.” Hannah spread more wax between my legs.
“The mound,” Mahjong said knowingly.
“Yes, love, the mound. But really the worst is over.”
I heard her say the words but they meant nothing to me as she ripped another strip from the other side between my legs.
Perhaps Hannah was sent by the devil. Or perhaps she was the devil. How much would the papers pay, I wondered, to find out that I had discovered the cavern of Satan where you could be tortured and get a pedicure at the same time?
It wasn’t of course until much later that I realized no amount of body hair on me or off me defines what is sexy. Sexy comes from the feeling inside – from that connection to myself that exudes confidence no matter what my facial hair is doing.
So as spring rounds the corner and you consider removing your surplus of winter body hair, know that this fuzzy friend feels all your follicular frustrations and thinks you’re beautiful exactly the way you are.