Faster Pussycat, Wax! Wax!

A Brazilian bikini wax changed Gwyneth Paltrow's life; it can change yours, too!

Topics:

Faster Pussycat, Wax! Wax!

I am lying flat on my back, naked, holding my butt and legs up in the air while a middle-aged Brazilian woman peers at my crotch. She leans a little closer and moves her fingers between my flesh. While this is a position normally reserved for bedroom activities, it’s business as usual at the J. Sisters International Salon in midtown Manhattan.

The salon is named for seven Brazilian-born sisters: Jocely, Jonice, Joyce, Janea, Jussara, Juracy and Judseia Padilha, whose claim to fame is introducing Americans to their hometown phenomenon of “Brazilian bikini waxing.” What it is: a very thorough waxing where every bit of hair — and I mean every last bit — is removed except for a thin landing strip. Think porn star. Think pain. But also think fanatic devotion.

Celebrities love this procedure. Kirstie Alley has said, “It feels like a baby’s butt, only all over.” Paula Yates, the widow of INXS rocker Michael Hutchence, flies over from London to have it done (salons in the U.K. refuse to do it for hygienic reasons). The salon’s walls are covered with celebrity photos and their signed testimony to the miracles of waxing. “You’ve ruined me for anyone else!” scribbled Jennifer Grey (or is she talking about her plastic surgeon?). “You’ve changed my life!” crowed Gwyneth Paltrow.

So I decided to see how a Brazilian bikini wax was going to change my life. I knew it was going to be a funky experience from the get-go. When I called to make an appointment, the “hold” music was the Wu-Tang Clan. And inside the salon, which is housed in an elegant townhouse on West 57th Street, thumping Brazilian music fills the air (probably to mask the screams of the clients).

I’m led into a small room by Juracy, my J sister of the day. She doesn’t speak much English but she knows enough to tell me to take everything off and lie down. She runs her hands down my legs and pulls them away abruptly. “Ohhh, you shave!” she says, clucking and frowning at me in disapproval. She makes me feel like I’ve just been caught cheating on a test. “Well, I’m Mediterranean, you know, and shaving is just easier.” The frown deepens. “You let it grow and come back see me in three weeks.” This woman means business.



Juracy grabs my legs and bends them toward my chest, and plants a hand under each knee. It’s hard to act nonchalant when you’re bare-assed, twisted into a yoga position and giving a stranger a bird’s eye-view of your nether region. As I’m concentrating on the cherubs and moldings on the ceiling (just like being at the doctor’s!), Juracy spreads baby powder all over my crotch and butt. And I mean all over, inside and out. This woman is not shy about touching strangers. She tilts me up slightly, frosts my butt with warm wax and wham, bam, there goes the hair. I didn’t even know I had hair down there. (Yup, everyone does. Butt waxing is part of what differentiates a Brazilian wax from a regular wax.) The pain isn’t bad at all but I become alarmed when she grabs my labia, folds them back and spreads wax on them. Riiiiiiiip. I gasp and my eyes bug out. “Owwwwwww.” Juracy grins.

She twists my body from side to side as she works her way up, and at one point my leg is thrown over her shoulder. I feel like she’s going to cart me off to the woods, cave-man style. The waxing is over in about 15 minutes. Then Juracy goes over my body with tweezers, plucking stray hairs. And for the grand finale, she grabs my pubic hair between two fingers, pulls it up, gives it a good whack with scissors and dusts me off with more baby powder. I’ve been too afraid to look until now. I peer down at my body. It’s a mess, glowing red and swirled with baby powder. Ugh.

I walk over to the mirror and once I get past the stricken look on my face, I see for the first time the magic Juracy has performed. My pubic hair has been shaped into a neat little upside-down triangle, with the point ending right above my lips, which are clean and smooth and bare. I feel like a 12-year-old, but a naughty, Lolita kind of 12-year-old. This is hot. Then the pain sets in. I can’t think straight.

So why do women go through with this? “Part of it is the thong thing. It’s not attractive if you’re hanging out of it,” says Suzanne Biallot, the company spokeswoman. Suzanne was being very polite. What it really boils down to is sex. Women get it done because it makes sex better. Jonice, the youngest J sister, offered her explanation to the New York Observer last year.

“Makes you sexy. Makes you fashion. When I don’t have my bikini wax, I don’t feel like to have sex with my husband. I feel dirty. And even himself say, ‘Try a bikini wax!’ I feel free. I feel clean. I feel sensuous even when I take a shower.”

My friend Chad’s girlfriend had one done recently so I asked him if, as with Gwynnie, a Brazilian bikini wax changed his life.

“I didn’t think I’d get into the bald eagle look until my girlfriend surprised me with it,” he said. “She made certain the lights were off and when I felt her it was like, oh my God, an unbelievably primal welling of emotion. First from the shock and then from the whole little girl eroticism of it. It’s hard to describe. I guess it was like tasting forbidden fruit. Oral sex was definitely better because there was no hair to get in the way. Even regular old missionary position sex was better though too. Until she started growing stubble.”

Sexiness aside, what about safety? Is it bad to remove all your pubic hair?

“Nope,” says Dr. Sandor Gardos, a licensed clinical sexologist and all-around groovy guy. “We’re not entirely sure what the purpose of pubic hair is. The best theory is that it helps trap pheromones, the odors that make you sexually attractive.” He also pointed out that waxing is preferable to other forms of hair removal, like depilatories, which can be too harsh for mucus membranes.

When I explained the ins and outs of a Brazilian bikini wax to the good doctor, he was vaguely alarmed at the image of the aftermath. “Oooooooh, you’re going to have some unsightly little bumps and it’s going to itch like a motherfucker when it grows back. Not to mention that ugly 5 o’clock shadow.” Thanks for pointing that out, doc. It’s been a week since my wax, and so far I haven’t gotten any ingrowns or bumps. Suzanne, the J. Sisters spokeswoman, suggested using a loofah to prevent ingrowns. A loofah? Is there no end to the Brazilian tolerance for pain? Ahhhhhh!

So as I was limping back to my office, I started to wonder what else can be done to pubic hair. Why is it that women can cut, dye, trim and straighten their hair, but not their pubes? Personally, I think everyone could benefit from a little trim now and then. Why not a special design for special occasions? Bring on the pubic hair topiary! Why don’t we celebrate our pubes instead of yanking them out? In the ’70s we did, or at least fashion designer Rudi Gernreich did. He gained notoriety designing the first topless bathing suit. But his last hurrah was perhaps the greatest — the “pubikini,” a sliver of fabric that wrapped around the hips and crotch in a V-shape to reveal a thatch of pubic hair dyed green. You can read all about in “The Rudi Gernreich Book” (Rizzoli, 1991), written by his model/muse, named, deliciously enough, Miss Moffitt.

Or let’s say you get a Brazilian and are feeling a little breezy with the autumn winds coming along. My friend Ben tipped me off to merkins, or pubic wigs. They’ve been around since the 14th century, when randy aristocrats would wear them to conceal oozing syphilis sores. One man in London is single-handedly trying to bring about a merkin revival. Rick (“Muff Daddy”) Stonell, owner of the Archive and Alwyn salon in London, offers a wide variety of custom-made merkins and a “full-service pubic salon.” (They also do regular hair for the straight-laced types.) Stonell started with chin wigs and from there, it was a natural progression … south. So the first question I ask Stonell is, “Why?”

“It’s a body ornament, body furniture, really. We’ve gone through piercing, branding, shaving. People want something more natural,” he says. Although what’s natural about a fuzzy pink heart hovering between your legs is beyond me.

Stonell’s merkins come in three sizes: small, medium and “Oh my God, bring out the bush whacker!” Customers come in for repeated fittings. “We don’t mess around,” says Stonell. They can be cut and dyed into any shape. His favorites include corporate logos, bull’s eyes, stars and stripes, targets and love hearts. “We even had a lord come in and pick one out for his wife. We suggested the family crest. It’s really all very interesting,” he says about his line of work. That has got to be the understatement of the year.

The merkins are held in place by a transparent G-string or fastened onto pubic hair with adhesive glue. They’re made from human hair, nylon, or — no joke — yak belly hair.

“I had a yak sweater once and it smelled when it got wet,” I muse out loud.

Stonell grows silent.

“We don’t have that problem,” he replies.

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -
-

I’m still wondering how a Brazilian bikini wax changed Gwyneth’s life, but her publicist won’t return my phone calls. Maybe it’s the reason she broke up with Ben Affleck?

I can honestly say that waxing has changed my life, but not in the ways you would think. Just last Friday I was crossing the street with merkins on my mind and got hit by a cab. It smacked me in the leg and by some weird reflex I never knew I had, I jumped up on the hood of the cab so I wouldn’t get run over. I’m staring the cabbie in the eye and the nice old couple in the back seat are horrified. I roll off the hood, finish crossing the street and buy a cup of coffee. After the adrenaline wears off I end up in the emergency room, where a cute scuba-diving fireman asks me out in the waiting room. So all is not lost. And by the way, the waxing hurt more than getting hit by the car!

Another note: Getting waxed is also like getting a haircut. No matter how good the hairdresser, you need a few days to get used to it and wash and style it yourself. I love my pubic crewcut even more after a week. Just walking down the street is fun because you glide. Running errands is a blast, and I would cheerfully walk 20 blocks for a cup of coffee. Plus, getting waxed is one of those hidden female pleasures, like wearing trashy lingerie under a business suit. It’s your little secret that makes you walk around with a smile, and puts an extra swagger in your step.

So would I do it all again? You bet your merkin I would.

Christina Valhouli is a New York writer and the co-producer of an upcoming documentary about plus-size models, "Curve."

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 7
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    AP/Jae C. Hong

    Your summer in extreme weather

    California drought

    Since May, California has faced a historic drought, resulting in the loss of 63 trillion gallons of water. 95.4 percent of the state is now experiencing "severe" drought conditions, which is only a marginal improvement from 97.5 percent last week.

    A recent study published in the journal Science found that the Earth has actually risen about 0.16 inches in the past 18 months because of the extreme loss of groundwater. The drought is particularly devastating for California's enormous agriculture industry and will cost the state $2.2 billion this year, cutting over 17,000 jobs in the process.

       

    Meteorologists blame the drought on a large zone (almost 4 miles high and 2,000 miles long) of high pressure in the atmosphere off the West Coast which blocks Pacific winter storms from reaching land. High pressure zones come and go, but this one has been stationary since December 2012.

    Darin Epperly

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Great Plains tornadoes

    From June 16-18 this year, the Midwest was slammed by a series of four tornadoes, all ranking as category EF4--meaning the winds reached up to 200 miles per hour. An unlucky town called Pilger in Nebraska was hit especially hard, suffering through twin tornadoes, an extreme event that may only occur every few decades. The two that swept through the town killed two people, injured 16 and demolished as many as 50 homes.   

    "It was terribly wide," local resident Marianne Pesotta said to CNN affiliate KETV-TV. "I drove east [to escape]. I could see how bad it was. I had to get out of there."   

    But atmospheric scientist Jeff Weber cautions against connecting these events with climate change. "This is not a climate signal," he said in an interview with NBC News. "This is a meteorological signal."

    AP/Detroit News, David Coates

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Michigan flooding

    On Aug. 11, Detroit's wettest day in 89 years -- with rainfall at 4.57 inches -- resulted in the flooding of at least five major freeways, leading to three deaths, more than 1,000 cars being abandoned on the road and thousands of ruined basements. Gov. Rick Snyder declared it a disaster. It took officials two full days to clear the roads. Weeks later, FEMA is finally set to begin assessing damage.   

    Heavy rainfall events are becoming more and more common, and some scientists have attributed the trend to climate change, since the atmosphere can hold more moisture at higher temperatures. Mashable's Andrew Freedman wrote on the increasing incidence of this type of weather: "This means that storms, from localized thunderstorms to massive hurricanes, have more energy to work with, and are able to wring out greater amounts of rain or snow in heavy bursts. In general, more precipitation is now coming in shorter, heavier bursts compared to a few decades ago, and this is putting strain on urban infrastructure such as sewer systems that are unable to handle such sudden influxes of water."

    AP/The Fresno Bee, Eric Paul Zamora

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Yosemite wildfires

    An extreme wildfire burning near Yosemite National Park forced authorities to evacuate 13,000 nearby residents, while the Madera County sheriff declared a local emergency. The summer has been marked by several wildfires due to California's extreme drought, which causes vegetation to become perfect kindling.   

    Surprisingly, however, firefighters have done an admirable job containing the blazes. According to the L.A. Times, firefighters with the state's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection have fought over 4,000 fires so far in 2014 -- an increase of over 500 fires from the same time in 2013.

    Reuters/Eugene Tanner

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Hawaii hurricanes

    Hurricane Iselle was set to be the first hurricane to make landfall in Hawaii in 22 years. It was downgraded to a tropical storm and didn't end up being nearly as disastrous as it could have been, but it still managed to essentially shut down the entire state for a day, as businesses and residents hunkered down in preparation, with many boarding up their windows to guard against strong gusts. The storm resulted in downed trees, 21,000 people out of power and a number of damaged homes.

    Debbie Arita, a local from the Big Island described her experience: "We could hear the wind howling through the doors. The light poles in the parking lot were bobbing up and down with all the wind and rain."

    Reuters/NASA

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Florida red tide

    A major red tide bloom can reach more than 100 miles along the coast and around 30 miles offshore. Although you can't really see it in the above photo, the effects are devastating for wildlife. This summer, Florida was hit by an enormous, lingering red tide, also known as a harmful algae bloom (HAB), which occurs when algae grow out of control. HABs are toxic to fish, crabs, octopuses and other sea creatures, and this one resulted in the death of thousands of fish. When the HAB gets close enough to shore, it can also have an effect on air quality, making it harder for people to breathe.   

    The HAB is currently closest to land near Pinellas County in the Gulf of Mexico, where it is 5-10 miles offshore.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>