Photo: Photo Illustration by Stevie Remsberg/Photo Getty
The hair must be as long as a grain of rice to be ripped from the skin. Before my appointment, I consider varieties of rice and their lengths: Wild, basmati, jasmine.
I do it only for a special occasion. This time, a man is arriving from a long distance. I want to be welcoming. This is a form of ritual. This is a form of submission. It will be the blue wax, melting at a lower temperature, a woman in a white coat between my legs. She has seen all of this before.
“Do you want me to take it all off?” she asks.
Since the earliest days, we have wanted to be hairless. Samoans selected the sharpest seashells and scraped their skin to remove hair. Then it was blood and animal-fat ointments, followed by cooked sugar and lemon in Egypt, hot candle wax in Greece. During the Roman empire, only the wealthiest women removed their body hair.
Then we shifted to bandages soaked in ammonia or vinegar in England, the invention of straight razors in France, the ads for depilatory creams that exclaimed Ugly Hair Gone!, cold wax strips, Brazilians, pulsating lights and electrodes.
“Ma’am? Do you want me to take it all off?” She holds up a stick slathered in hot blue wax.
The man coming to see me is a bad man from Texas. I want to be perfect for him.
I nod. She coats my body with the blue wax. I stare up at the drop tiles of the ceiling as it cools.
Beneath the fluorescent lights, she begins to rip the wax from my skin. With each pull, I lose the facts. With each rip, I try to keep my red mind calm. Through the pain, I picture myself like smiling women on screens. I picture myself like confident women on city streets. I picture being touched, going wild, and I grind my teeth against the white roar of pain.