I started waxing my bikini line when I was 16. Nothing outrageous, just to tidy up the stray pubic hairs peeking out from my bathing suit at the beach or pool. I wasn’t too self-conscious back then about my thick, dark hair—it just felt like a nuisance in the grooming department. But by the time I was in my early 20s, I started following the lead of my girlfriends who raved about how “clean” and “fresh” they felt after their Brazilian waxes. We’re talking early 2000s and Brazilians were everywhere—magazines, talk shows, even a full episode of Sex and the City. For the record, Carrie Bradshaw was right—I did sort of feel like a “freaking hairless dog.” But it was also supposed to be sexier, you know, for sexy-sex-sex, and pretty much a courtesy to anyone you’d want to go *down there.* I personally opted for the modified Brazilian, a style choice that leaves a little triangle or “landing strip” on the top. I was told that even those novelty hairs should be trimmed so they were “never longer than a grain of rice.” In short, it was a lot of work.
This hair-removal ritual became my painful, expensive and time-consuming monthly routine till I became a mother a decade-and-a-half later, at 35. I even got a Brazilian wax before my first daughter’s due date, I suppose to spare my midwives the horrors of an unkempt bush. (Remember, dear reader, that pregnant women are already swollen down there due to increased blood flow, so it hurt like hell.)
It wasn’t until after the birth of my second daughter that I started to reflect more on the (unnecessary) lengths I went to regularly to make myself feel more beautiful. What kind of role model am I going to be, I asked myself, if I continue to alter my physical appearance—including my most intimate parts—to fit into a very narrow perception of the female ideal? To be fair, I don’t think my own mother has ever had a bikini wax in her life, but we also didn’t talk about body image while I was growing up, and I wanted it to be different for my girls. I was going to be the feminist mom I always wanted to be, dammit, and maybe that meant I had to sacrifice some of my misguided primping routine.
Moms, you can stop apologizing for your vaginas nowSo about a year ago, as my aesthetician was seconds away from spreading hot wax all over my vulva with a popsicle stick, I stopped her. “Hey, um, please don’t take so much off this time, OK? I’m trying to grow it out. I’m starting to feel embarrassed in front of my daughters. I want them to see what a natural bush looks like.”
She looked skeptical. “Honey, you have bald spots because you’ve waxed for so many years. It’s not going to grow back. It’s like a dead tree.” My heart sunk. “Why would you want to grow it, anyway?” she continued. “Your daughters are going to want to get waxed as well when they start growing hair.”
The statement hit me hard—on many levels. I had overpruned my healthy, blossoming bush—tree, whatever—and I’d killed it. Or I’d let my waxing lady kill it. Either way, it was my fault and now I was going to have to live with it. Never mind that the bush was making a comeback, and all I had to show for mine was a circa-2000 balding vagina.
“I don’t care if it’s patchy for now,” I countered. “Let’s just see how much I can grow. Just the sides, please.”
I felt so sad. Suddenly, because it was no longer an option I thought I had, I desperately missed my bush. Lately, I’ve even started thinking that having more pubic hair would better suit my postpartum body and new curves. I have nothing against my vulva, but I think it would feel nicer to have it covered, all cozy and warm. And I don’t particularly want to look at its patchy baldness every single day—it’s a reminder of my youthful insecurity. And also, I don’t know if this is even possible, but I think maybe I’ve actually gained weight down there, too?
What’s worse, how are my daughters going to see what a real bush looks like if I’m not rocking one? How will I explain my lack of one when they see someone else’s on proud display in a changeroom one day? My girls are now five and three, and they notice everything about me and my body. My firstborn constantly asks me why I pluck and put on makeup. My second child begs to sit on my lap while I pee and is fascinated by my periods. They both get pure joy from sinking their fingers into my squishy belly and calling it their “old house,” and they light up with they catch a glimpse of boob—a first word for each of them.
My husband I are very open about explaining our private parts and the correct names for them. But female genitalia and sexual health is, obviously, mostly on me. And realistically, my older daughter is only a few years away from puberty and scrutinizing her own naked body and all of its changes in the mirror. I want her to see herself reflected in me as well.
Despite my efforts to grow out my pubic hair over the past year, it’s still sparse and sorry-looking. But at least there’s a little more of it now and I’m starting to accept it. Just as I explain to my daughters that we are all different and beautiful in our own way, I will also tell them a story about how I made a mistake when I was younger by overwaxing, and maybe that wasn’t a great idea. It might also be an opportunity to teach them about body positivity and being comfortable in your own skin and with what your mama gave you.
The writer of this story requested anonymity.