originally published in the Hartford Advocate July 12, 2007
The complete body hairlessness of Brazilian waxing may be coming to a regular guy near you
By Jennifer Abel
"Deep in the Brazilian jungle, where the sun never shines through the dense undergrowth onto the dark forest floor, bulldozers are clear-cutting the rain forest."
That's the family-friendly way to mention "Brazilian," "clear-cutting," "undergrowth" and "where the sun never shines" in the same sentence.
The naughtier alternative discusses Brazilian waxing, a depilatory procedure that clear-cuts a path through one's personal undergrowth down where the sun never shines (unless you tan in the nude).
Incidentally, when Brazilian rain forests are stripped away the denuded land is often used for farming. Thus, there exist both family-friendly and other ways to mention "threshing," "plowing," "cross-pollination" and "what often happens after Brazilian clear-cutting" together, too. But that's for another day.
Truth be told, Brazilian waxing doesn't actually "cut" a path through anything; neither blades nor bulldozers are used. Instead, molten wax is poured on the skin where unwanted hair grows, so that when the wax is ripped off the hair goes with it.
The name, by the way, refers not to Brazil's rain forests but its beaches, where thong bathing suits first became popular. The thing about a thong is, the only way to avoid having hair poke out from the bottom when you're wearing one is to avoid having hair at all.
Thus, Brazilian waxing as we know it today was born, and in 1987 seven sisters from Brazil introduced the technique to America when they opened their waxing salon in Manhattan.
Search online for celebrities who have bragged about their Brazilian waxes and you'll find a list of people ranging from fictional characters like Samantha from Sex and the City to allegedly non-fictional characters like Kirstie Alley and Jennifer Grey.
Note these are all women. Where men are concerned, paring the pubic patch is still rare enough to warrant its own cutesy gender-specific name: manscaping.
It's no surprise waxing is mostly a female activity. Women tend to fuss over their appearance more than men (except for bodybuilders and gay guys, uncoincidentally the two groups of males most likely to get their own yards manscaped). Even if there existed no gender primping differentials, the technique might remain a largely female preserve due to simple logistics. Women's naughty bits, due to their comparative smoothness and lack of squishiness, are much easier than men's to wax: just pour, rip and you're done. Compare that to the experience of an anonymous writer for the salon-review Web site LetsGoSpa.com, after he went to the Danusias Day Spa in New Britain in search of a professional to go lumberjacking in his pelvic forest:
"I started in the area below the scrotum (between that and the anus). I held one leg up and stretched the area taut and Vicky applied the wax. She matted the strip down and Rrrrrrrrip! off it came. I have to say, the pain was not as bad as I had imagined. We did this with my other leg held up as well & the most embarrassing part was next to come. I did want the backside done, and that required turning over and getting on all fours & she asked if I could stretch myself taut again. The only way this was possible (picture this) is to balance on my head and spread my cheeks apart with my hands."
Throughout history, pubic hairstyles have changed almost as much as public ones. Ancient desert cultures, including the Egyptians, used waxing-like techniques to remove hair, more for reasons of hygiene than style: hair's a handicap where sand lice thrive. In Islam, which started in a desert region, hairlessness for the purpose of cleanliness became a religious requirement, since the Sunnah commands adults of both sexes to keep their armpit and pubic regions free of hair.
The first sexist-overtoned defoliation seems to have sprouted (sorry) in ancient Greece. Statues from the era show men looking as hairy as a mammal can get, whereas the women were expected to keep their labial lawns mowed. Two thousand years or so later, this dichotomy allegedly led to a catastrophic wedding night for the Victorian critic John Ruskin. Something — nobody knows for certain just what — about his first sight of a nude adult woman so traumatized him that he never consummated his marriage, nor any other relationship. One of his biographers speculated that, since his knowledge of the female body stemmed from Greek statues, it was the sight of his wife's pubic hair that so sprained his libido.
The Romans took a more gender-neutral stance toward the denuding of the naughty bits, with both genders getting theirs plucked in public bathhouses. When the philosopher Seneca the Younger lived above one of them he complained in a letter about the screams of the Empire's fashionistas keeping up with styles down below.
Actually, Seneca didn't complain so much as brag how the racket didn't disturb his philosopher's sense of inner tranquility. But Seneca's experience doesn't apply to modern times: Rome has long since fallen, and present-day zoning codes make it unlikely anyone would live above a modern salon where painful depilatory procedures take place.
Seneca presumably heard males and females yelping in equal numbers. Trendy places like New York are reclaiming this gender equality in pruning the curled branches, but in Connecticut, which is somewhat more provincial, it's still a largely female preserve. At Cromwell's Parisian Salon and Day Spa, "We'll get maybe 50 or 60 females a week," said manager Michelle Salafia. "For men, maybe one or two in the last few months. At least, we had one or two inquire about it."
Salafia couldn't quite remember whether they actually went through with it, but at least it sounds as though Parisian would sell its services to any male looking to buy them. By contrast, many Connecticut salons that do Brazilian waxes won't accept male customers at all.
"We don't do any men's waxing below the waist," said Michael Sokol, owner of Picasso's Salon and Day Spa in Enfield. "The girls don't feel comfortable doing men. We don't make the girls do anything they're not comfortable with."
The woman who answered the phone at the Lavender Fields Day Spa in Plainville said almost the same thing. "We don't offer [Brazilian waxes] to men because none of the girls are comfortable doing it."
In Seneca's time depilators didn't have the luxury to pick and choose who they'd pluck, since the task of intimate hair removal was left to slaves. Our modern free-will system is better both for the hair-removers and those on whom they work; if you're going to lose your basic mammalian attributes down below, the last thing you need is for the de-mammaling to be done by some resentful, underfed person happy for the chance to get away with inflicting pain on you.
No need for slaves, anyway. As more men show an interest in transforming their shrubbery into topiaries, more businesses like the Danusias Day Spa will find it profitable to offer the service. Vicky, the aesthetician mentioned in the earlier spa review, said when asked that about 20 percent of her Brazilian wax customers are men. She thought that might be a slight increase over years previous, though she had little time to talk to the Advocate, since she had another customer waiting.
That said, if Connecticut's ever going to enjoy a reputation as trendy and with-it as Manhattan's, Nutmeg menfolk are going to have to get on the ball and offer up theirs for manscaping. Simon Doonan recently reported in the New York Observer that the downsizing of the subwaist workforce, at least in Manhattan, is starting to make serious inroads with heterosexual non-bodybuilders.
Even in the big city, however, the bald-balled seem to prefer anonymity. As one nameless man said to Doonan, "I have no fucking idea why you gay guys are so into that God-awful Danish modern furniture. It's freaky and ugly. But I've totally gotta give it up to you on the ball-waxing."