You take off your clothes and lie there, half-naked, waiting.
Your friends and plenty of women’s magazines told you it might hurt the first time.
You’re not quite sure what to expect, but you’re ready.
Suddenly, someone knocks at the door. “Lista?”
And then she steps in with a tweezer, a big pot of hot wax and paper strips.
Welcome to a true South American experience—depilación con cera caliente in Spanish, depilação com cera quente in Portuguese because from Brazil to Chile, you can get any body part with unwanted hair waxed cheaply, professionally and efficiently.
Every part of the world has unique beauty or health rituals. In most of Asia, you can get a deliciously painful massage anywhere, while France is the place to shop for cosmetics. I love the many nail bars in North America and I still remember these weird fish spas in Thailand.
Well, when it comes to hair removal, Latin America rules.
It may seem like bad timing to write about it on International Women’s Day because most feminists argue we should go natural, and that the myth of the hair-free women must die. Removing pubic hair can be seen as another way of infantilizing women, facial hair shouldn’t be considered embarrassing and hair-free models with smooth legs and bare armpits are just another way for the cosmetic industry to make money selling products.
I kind of agree with all that. I don’t think women’s body hair should be stigmatized, it’s certainly not socially inexcusable to just leave it.
But I also feel that to each his own—removing unwanted hair or not should be a personal decision, much like wearing makeup or adopting a feminine style (think high heels and skirts instead of jeans). There’s no right or wrong way to be feminine and feminist.
I would argue that if hair removal is part of your routine, the hot wax experience is actually empowering. This is a moment where you pay attention to often shamed or neglected body parts—when was the last time you actually look at your armpits, your legs, your pubis?
When I was pregnant, I hated the way most doctors treated me. It seemed that they couldn’t take the speculum out fast enough. These routine exams weren’t my idea of fun either—although speculum dread is way overrated, bigger things usually fit inside a vagina…—but I wanted to know what was going on with my body. I mean, if there’s a time in your life when your cervix and vagina matter, it’s pretty much during these nine months.
A few hours after Mark was born, a doctor came to see me for a quick gyn exam. “By the way, can you tell me how it went? I got an episiotomy, didn’t I?” I asked. In the middle of the action, while I was holding Mark for the first time, I remember one of the doctors was stitching me up but he never really said or explained anything because apparently, my only job was now to be a mother.
“Oh, don’t worry about that,” he replied.
Excuse me? That’s my fucking vagina you may or may not have stitched up, I would love more details!
And this is why, ladies and gentlemen, I know I had an episiotomy (a nurse later mentioned, “stitches I shouldn’t worry about) without further details.
So yes, I do like the no-nonsense way Latinas deal with what North Americans call “private part.” It’s refreshing, it’s empowering, it’s healthy.
Step into a Brazilian waxing salon. Super explicit drawings help you decide whether you want hair removed between your butt cheeks, your labia or how much of it you want left. It’s a great crash course in anatomy, actually and it’s interesting to see your body after.
I also like the casual way waxing is done. I’ve had great conversations with my legs spread out because hey, why not?
I started waxing as an experience, in Chile, a few years ago. I kept it that way because I found my skin was much better—I tend to get ingrown hair otherwise, regardless of whether I shave, wax or just let it grow.
Feng has an opinion about just about anything but he never expressed any preferences regarding body hair, so this is really something I do for me.
Meanwhile, I’m back in Valparaíso and I’ve just been tear gassed after watching a Chilean woman pulling a rosary out of her vagina in front of the crowd gathered on Plaza Victoria for International Women’s day—the event is taken very seriously in Chile, and the police seems to have little patience for these marches and gatherings.
It was fun, though.