in prep for my trip to belize in celebration of HBD2ME, i decided, to hell with shaving, i’ll get myself a bikini wax. i asked a colleague for a recommendation and she shared her preferred studio. i had done some research and the menu was extensive. full brazillian, landing strip, butt strip, on and on. i was impressed and a bit in awe at the places we have hair and more amazed that there are people who get paid to remove it.
i hadn’t a clue what to expect so i made a quick stop by the ladies room and met katarina who told me to undress waist down, hop up on the table, and she’d be back in a few. any woman who has ever been to the GYN knows the discomfort of the metal speculum, the spread-eagle “position,” and the fear that that the screws will loosen and pinch your lady bits (ok, maybe that’s just me). now imagine that feeling (minus the speculum) only replace the bright fluorescent bulbs, stark white walls, and smell of antiseptic, with soft lighting, cool paint colors, smooth jazz, and the scent of hot wax wafting through the halls.
i did as instructed and when katarina returned i quickly explained, i’m a virgin at this waxing thing. she was jovial and a bit surprised but patiently explained the process. i bent my legs into a butterfly position, heels touching, and she applied powder to my crotch, along my bikini line almost like flouring a cutting board for pie dough. she tested the wax on my thigh and i gave the thumbs up, heat was just right. she applied it along my bikini line, pressed the tape firmly into place and said, take a deep breath. as i did, she RIPPED the tape off my inner thigh. *low whistle* that was the first of the press-and-tear sequences. she revealed her handiwork with a handheld mirror and i heard myself say, let’s take some off the top. i was going for a perfect triangle. more press-and-tear and i examined the shape again, another thumbs up.
when we started this process, as she was press-and-sealing my hair to the tape i casually mentioned that i read about the butt strip. she says, yes, we’ll do that too. *scooby-doo erh?* all i will say about that is, you are a participant. nothing like spreading your cheeks whilst hot wax is applied to the inner walls and ripped away in a swift voila! motion. don’t you feel so clean? she asked. uh, i feel like my ass is raw and 2″ in from my bikini line is aflame but yea, i’m clean. clean out of my wits. damn near 45 and i’m just attempting this wax thing that today’s tweens have likely been doing since they got their periods.
when i shave i often get razor bumps and i’ve had the occasional ingrown hair. i told her this and she advised, make sure you exfoliate, avoid sweating and unnecessary moisture, and apply tea tree oil. sounded simple enough. i did that for a day or two and thought, this is better than shaving! fast forward about a week and there was the ingrown hair i thought i avoided, but it was unlike the ingrown hairs of times past. it was wide, knotted, and sore. i inspected it daily and it seemed to spread and become angrier. less than a week had passed since the wax and i was in full panic mode. was this more serious than an ingrown hair? did i need to contact my partner and ask if he had something to tell me? was i overreacting? i checked webmd to see if this was a typical reaction and to find possible home remedies. i applied tea tree oil, warm compresses, and waited impatiently for the weekend to end so i could schedule an appointment.
monday arrived at a snail’s pace and i made an appointment with my GYN for wednesday, my panic meter at high alert. after i left two messages with the nurse, my GYN called me, listened to my hysteria and told me to stop by tuesday for bloodwork. as my eyes floated over the contents of the release form, i read a list of infections i heard of and prayed i would never have. to regain some peace of mind, i succumbed to the humiliation of signing the form. and then i waited.
wednesday came and i awoke with dread. i arrived early to my afternoon appointment, they took me to the exam room and began the standard questions: date of last period? birth control? i struggled to recall the date and said, i use spermicide. she is nonplussed. what’s that? um…shouldn’t you know this? it’s a gel that kills sperm. sigh. my mind was focused on the nickel-sized knot nestled where my hair used to be. i undressed, not unlike i did 2 weeks prior and waited for my GYN. she entered, gave me a big smile and hug, (i told you, she knows i’m neurotic) and asked for the details. i explained and she said, let’s take a look. i reclined on the flimsy tissue paper, and she pressed the bump. does that hurt? I responded through gritted teeth, yes, yes it does. she looked at me, i think i need to drain it. alarm bells. over the weekend my mind was telling me, she needs to lance it, drain it, and i’ll be on my way, but in the moment my mind said, oh fuck, you’re about to insert a needle two fingers away from…
she switched to doctor speak to the two women in the office (why were there two?) and i heard “lidocaine” and “needle”. she returned her attention to me and said it’s fluctuant. hmmm? come again? press it right here (moved my finger to the knot), see how it’s soft? that makes me think it needs to be drained so we avoid infection. now 5 alarm fire bells were ringing. nurse 2 returned with the supplies and again i heard familiar words, breathe deeply. i sucked all the air out of the room. she inserted the needle and i begin lamaze. ohmyfuckingoodness. she pressed deep and my breathing intensified. your breathing is great. (she knew i was melting down like chernobyl). i heard myself exhale loudly like a balloon, and tried to breathe quietly. she continued the pressure and explained the knot was filled with pus and the tiny hole she made with the needle would allow it to drain over the next few days. this procedure took maybe 8 minutes but while i lay there in a pool of sweat it felt like an eternity. she told me to wear a pantiliner to catch the drainage, that it should be healed in time for me to enjoy my vacation, and that she would start me on an antibiotic.
sisters. in no way did i think that a bikini wax would turn into 7 panic-stricken days of worry all within hours of my 45th birthday and trip to belize. the whole point of the endeavor was to surprise my partner who begged me to “take it all off!” and rock my new swimsuit whilst lying on a sandy beach. instead i cancelled my “clean-up” wax appointment, slathered the “cigarette burn” (that’s what she said the pinprick hole looked like) with neosporin, popped antibiotics twice a day, and prayed that my bloodwork would be negative (it was).
(later i’ll tell you all about my experience with this same GYN where she showed me how to insert a diaphragm. sigh. if you’ve ever struggled to insert and remove a contact lens it’s a similar process.)
when you reach a certain age you think (expect) that some things are behind you. that the foolery of your youth, the boundaries you extended or removed altogether, the rules you wrote and then broke, will not be revisited in your seasoned years. but alas, i’m living proof that choices made for the sake of sexual freedom are not relegated to youth. as a woman in her mid-40s tired of just about everything and everyone, i was brought face-to-face with my decisions and the very real implications of how quickly life can be altered. the stinging pain of the knot nagged at me for days, triggering my panic reflex and sending me into full-blown distress, all of which i endured solo.
perhaps that’s the lesson: that we make decisions in life that cause us pain, embarrassment, shame, anger, guilt, and stress but to face it alone is not only unhealthy, it is unwise. we must find someone (note “one” not a tribe) with whom we can share our troubles who will shoulder the weight with us, not add to the burden of disappointment and question our scruples, morals, or choices. we are quick to beat ourselves up, steeped in regret, failing to realize that such a mindset is self-defeating and serves no purpose. if you find yourself in this space, take stock of the situation, own your shit, make a commitment to do better, and move forward.