Waxing lyrical about the horrors of hair-removal


For many women, the price of looking good on a sun lounger is a painful trip to a waxing parlour. ANTHEA McTIERNANcasts aside her feminist principles to find out why

‘You want to get what? Crikey,” said Mr Summer Living Editor, looking pretty uncomfortable. It wasn’t going well. Here I was, staring across the abyss that separates the X from the Y chromosome, trying to pitch a story on just how far we’re prepared to go to look good in a swimsuit.

Having hot wax poured on to your genitalia? Feeling anything yet? Having your pubic hair forcibly removed from your body? Just a twinge maybe? Abandoning all your feminist principles to touch base with a procedure you’re convinced is a form of misogynistic barbarism? Well it’s blooming well hurting me. I’m talking about having a bikini wax.

And I don’t want to be difficult or anything, Mr Summer Living, but no gain, no pain. Before we seal the deal, I need to know that The Irish Timesis footing the bill. Look what happened to British Tory MP Peter Viggers when he claimed for that duck island. Or Mr Jacqui Smith and his adult movies. You can’t be too careful with expenses. Accounts departments can be so fickle.

I’m going on holiday in two days, so the time is right. I’m just doing what a sizeable chunk of the female public is doing at this time of year and, to use another expenses euphemism (thank you Douglas Hogg), cleaning out my moat. We’re all winners. You get a confessional chick piece with added naughty bits, I look respectable on a sun lounger.

Please excuse the procrastinating introduction, but it’s an exact reconstruction of the procrastination that has led up to the main event. Five weeks after conceiving of my bright fact-finding idea, with flight set to leave the day after tomorrow, I finally grasp the nettle and call the beauty salon in my local shopping centre. “Just do it,” I say. “We can’t,” replies the receptionist. “If you’ve never had a waxing, you have to have a patch test.”

Damn your hirsute professionalism.

Fine. Incorporate patch test into scheduled supermarket shop. Just a bit of wax on the wrist. Warm though. And that’s just my wrist. Roll on tomorrow.

Sonia O’Neill, a beautician in Simply Elegant in Crumlin, couldn’t be kinder or more professional. We get on like a house on fire – although she’ll probably never recognise me with my clothes on. She tells me to undress. Ladies, think preparing for a smear test. Gentlemen, just don’t think.

O’Neill has a pot of unctuous green wax in a state of perpetual readiness. It’s warm, but not unpleasant – or am I tapping into uncharted masochistic depths? Not too bad, I say smugly. Maybe I was wrong to condemn my pubic-hairless sisters for their false consciousness and capitulation to “the man”. It’s not that bad after all.

Wrong. It is that bad. And I’ve done labour – twice.

O’Neill had warned me. But like labour, I had smugly thought that I’d ride out the storm like the tower of strength that I am. The therapist does everything in her power to make me feel comfortable, but that doesn’t last long. She then uses a piece of soft cloth to do something the polar opposite of soft and tears my hair out. Lads, think supergluing an Elastoplast to a vulnerable part of your anatomy, then . . . crying.

Like a small child, I am cunningly distracted from the major manoeuvres by a dexterous O’Neill. We chat about the demographics of intimate waxing. It’s big in Crumlin. Ouch. It’s even bigger in the summer. Ouch. I’m now part of a club with members stretching from the age of 18 to their late 50s. Thanks Sonia, if anyone is ever going to do that to me again, it will only be you.

And I do now feel part of some weird sorority. I feel light-headed and euphoric – as though I’ve just survived some major surgical procedure. My cotton-wool mind forces itself back to its feminist objections to the pornification of women’s genitals and this worrying trend towards rocking the pre-pubescent look. It’s something we should maybe discuss when I’ve applied some soothing balm.

There’s a smorgasbord of feminine waxing options available. Shapes, patterns, initials, Californians, Brazilians, take your pick. As for my pick, I’m not saying – a woman has to retain some mystery.