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The most comfortable place I have ever been is lying on my back on a massage table at the front of a room of the Embassy Suites Ontario Airport in Southern California. I was naked from the waist down and a camera pointed at my crotch was projecting a large image of my hoo-hah on a big screen at the front of the room so that the sixty-person audience could get a better view even from the back. [1]

I’d emailed Crickett a few months earlier after scouring the internet for all things Brazilian wax. I was on the hunt for the clinical, professional, data-driven stuff: What percentage of waxes at any given salon are Brazilian waxes? What percentage of those are males versus females? What percentage of clients, if any, come in for health reasons? What are the legal risks involved? What happens with the follicles? My grad school colleagues were filling out travel grants and Fulbright applications for trips to fish hatcheries, medical device factories, Appalachia, Bangladesh. I spent my days calling beauty salons, interviewing aestheticians from Las Vegas. When Crickett agreed to let me attend The Wax Show SoCal 2012 as a “journalist,” I was thrilled. When she called a few days before to see if I was up for serving as the Brazilian demo model, I was elated—in research terms, I’d struck gold.

At the time, my main concern was my hair. I’d only gotten waxed two-and-a-half weeks prior, and you typically want three to six weeks between waxes so that the wax can actually grab and remove the hair, instead of just yanking on your skin. In the bathroom, I tugged at my tiny incoming pubes and sighed. This was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I wasn’t sure I was ready. Crickett had assured me that the few more days of growth time I had left before the conference would be sufficient, and besides, they needed someone anyways. In hindsight I realize I’d forgotten to ask if the models normally get paid like they do in drawing class—I was so excited to be amongst my country’s waxing gods that this job seemed like a privilege, an honor, a dream.

Such is, or was, my innocence. Me revealing myself in a completely vulnerable position and undergoing public pain for the sake of communal knowledge, education, communication, beauty, culture, the free market at its finest, the fluid nature of the body with its million purposes and possibilities sexual and stoic and everything between, the freedom to fully be how you are in front of everyone—it was and is everything I believed in. It’s almost Jesusy.

* * *

Everyone handles their private Christian school experiences differently. I know people who intern for missionaries, live on Skid Row, lead youth groups full-time. Others work in Hollywood, lobby at the nation’s capitol, write for TV, excel within their chosen field of business. Still others have early marriages, subsequent divorces, realize they’re gay, develop a substance hobby or habit. All of it’s an art. We do what we’re good at and somewhere along the line the truth comes out. I was good at writing and I needed to have a come-to-Jesus moment about my Christian upbringing and its confusing stance on sexuality.

The short story is I conflated all my thoughts and actions and ideals and ended up spread-eagle on this table at a waxing conference in Southern California.

The long story is I went to grad school, started having sex, bought a $900 Groupon for laser hair removal, freaked out about being financially irresponsible and called Groupon and cried to a lady on the phone apologizing about how I didn’t really want to spend that money on that process in particular, got a refund, bought a $30 Brazilian wax Groupon instead, had an awful sandpapery blood-and-gore wear-and-tear experience and, since I was in school where everyone was asking questions about everything and turning it into official school projects and the whole point of all this is I just wanted to fit in, decided I’d start doing investigative journalism on Brazilian waxing to find out just how and why anyone would ever tolerate such bullshit.

In the Christian world, this is called “acting out.” In writing school, it’s “stunt memoir.” For me, though, it was coming home. On that table in front of that crowd with Crickett in her latex gloves at my side, I’d never felt more whole. I wanted to learn how my body worked with other people. I wanted to know how we do business together, and why. I wanted to know if love was real; if there was more to things than money, sex, and pain, or if not, just what about those mattered.

In my notes all I have between “2:45pm Brow Lift using Microcurrent with Vivian McClanahan” and “4:00pm Male Brazilian hard wax with Crickett”[2] is “LOL, so I just got vajazzled.” What I remember is an assistant coming to hand me popsicle sticks with gobs of Vaseline-looking stuff on them—pre-wax—and a hotel sheet and saying I could go get ready in the bathroom. I remember checking the hotel hallway both ways like a street to see if anyone was coming and then bouncing across the carpet in bare feet and my insta-toga. I remember getting up there and waving to the audience and camera like an old pro; I remember it not hurting bad at all. I remember being a little disappointed that vajazzling was just kinda like a fancy fake tattoo. I remember high-fiving the male Brazilian model when we crossed paths in the aisle as he made his way up to the pedestal and I made my way back to my seat a little smoother, a little sparklier, a little more secure.

* * *

We do weird things without fully knowing why and have parts of us feel fixed. Half-naked in Ontario, California in 2012, I hit my rite of passage, the turning point of all my pages to date. And yet I worry. You get the courage up to be yourself in this small, obscure way and still you fear your grandma’s going to read your article, your uncle will raise eyebrows, your ex-boyfriend will be traumatized, your mom will be ashamed. To keep being really you forever, your bravery must never end.

What I wanted to say was “make it quick.” I wanted to say you need to rip that wax off real fast like a bandaid so things can air our and heal and everything can be all beautiful and hunky-dory; that, if you’re following the metaphor, everyone in all the different societies and groups and people-types you’re part of will have a hard time adjusting at first but then in time love you and accept you forever as you are and brunches and banquets and butterflies eternally and evermore. I was up for it to hurt, as long as there would be an end reward. The thing with waxing, though, is that your damn hair just grows right back. Your next wax will hurt less, it’s true—in the middle of my “research” I wanted, really, to tell my audience that “it gets better”—but month after month after wax after wax I found that always, every time, it will be pretty bad. This hair, this stuff that’s part of you—one way or another, it’s gonna be a pain.

The semi-logical conclusion to my waxing research is leave your hair in place so it doesn’t hurt anymore when you take it out. Or for the love of Christ at least just shave instead. But here is what I like about it, why I can’t and won’t let go of waxing like my skin won’t let go of hair: earlier that morning at the conference, another leading waxer named Stephanie showed us how to perform the fabled “7 Minute Brazilian.” One thing she emphasized was the need to make physical contact with the client at all times—keeping a hand or a hip against the client’s foot or leg or belly even when you’re pulling off the wax and tossing it aside. The point of this is to make the client feel connected and grounded in the midst of panic, fear, and pain. Sure, it’s only 7 minutes, but to make that happen they have to use the strip wax instead of the hard wax, because the hard wax needs more time to cool and dry. There are business reasons behind this like, if you can fit six 7-minute waxes in an hour, you can turn a pretty good profit in a salon, and there are client-comfort reasons behind this like, 7 minutes of really bad pain is arguably better than 30 minutes of pretty bad pain. But the real point is the thing unsaid, the thing communicated by her touch: it will feel forever-long and far, but I won’t leave you. It will hurt like hell and back and then again, but I am here the whole way through.



[1] Before anyone asks, I do have boundaries: the day before the conference, my liaison had called to see if it was okay to record this particular demonstration for future reference and use, and I’d asked that if it was really alright with them I’d prefer we didn’t. I was here to write, not cause myself a scandal ten, twenty, thirty years down the road.

[2] I was the 3:15: “Female Brazilian with BLING & Underarm with hard wax with Crickett.”



image: Melissa Gutierrez