When I was in beauty school, I saw a lot of vaginas. At the time, students training to become estheticians weren’t required to learn any pubic hair waxing more risqué than a bikini. Some schools didn’t even teach Brazilian waxing and apparently a lot of spas in Utah County didn’t offer them. However, my Master Esthetics instructor just so happened to be a Brazilian specialist with a lot of outside training and practical experience. This, combined with the fact that half the girls in my class didn’t want to look at or (heaven forbid!) touch another person’s vagina meant that the steady stream of Brazilian clients coming through my school all went to a small handful of students, including me.
Let me reiterate: I’ve seen a lot of vaginas.
And it was alright. A couple times we had friends come in together who made the experience seem like The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood. Those appointments made me feel like I was presiding over a rite of passage. I was just an ephemeral featured extra in one of the many anecdotes I’m sure they had.
Sometimes we’d have boisterous clients. They’d laugh and make dirty jokes and loud exclamations about the pain. I’m sure that people do it in a lot of other places, but for those of us in Utah who don’t subscribe to the strictest tenets of Mormonism, we often feel the need to send out signals about where we lie on the orthodoxy spectrum. Those clients brought a lighthearted, Sex and the City feel to their appointments.
You’d also get women who were quiet and uncomfortable. When you’d come back into the treatment room after having them change out of their bottoms and cover up with a towel they’d already have every muscle in their body tensed up. Those clients make you feel like you’re the overseer of damned souls in the beauty-hell known as “pursuit of perfection”. Those clients make me feel like a misogynist.
One of these anxious clients in particular made an impression on me that has stuck all these years. After she got checked in and settled, I noticed that her hair wasn’t even close to the quarter inch you need in order for the wax to grab the hair. I told her the service likely wouldn’t be a smooth one and it would be better if she came back in a week. Better yet, two.
She really wanted to get it done that day. She was pretty insistent, actually. So, knowing that some people take to showing better than telling, I said we could give it a shot and see how much hair came up. If it wasn’t going to take, we’d know in the first couple of strips, and we wouldn’t make her pay for an incomplete wax. She could schedule another appointment on the way out and she would [eventually] get what she wanted. The client was okay with that.
Now, if you think you’re confessional with your hairstylist, that’s nothing compared with what some people talk about to the person ripping hair out of their crotch. Even in school, I heard a lot about sex, divorce, adultery and even things as secretive as domestic abuse.
During the course of her short, ultimately unfinished appointment she revealed that this was the first time anyone had seen her vagina, which included her husband of 6 months. She also said that she’d never had an orgasm. Her gynecologist had told her that she may not be able to have one after his suggestion of putting a pillow under her hips during sex didn’t work.
I can’t say that I felt prudish or remotely uncomfortable, but I was painfully aware that I was not the person with the answers she needed. Back then, I could count the number of times I’d had sex on one hand. I wasn’t equipped to give thoughtful advice about her dilemma, so I sympathized before eventually sending the tearful client on her way.*
It may sound like an odd thing to say for someone who does this for a living, but a Brazilian isn’t for everybody. If the reasons you’re not wild about your vagina hinge on the one issue of having a bush down there, I can probably help you with that, but if you weren’t crazy about how your vagina functioned before, this service doesn’t do anything to change that. It doesn’t magically make your boyfriend better at cunnilingus or make you into a lady in the street but a freak in the bed. If you didn’t like vaginae before the appointment, you’re still going to be the owner of one after; only this time, it’ll be devoid of any distractions.
In the end, aesthetic appeal may turn out to be the last missing piece of the “loving your vagina” puzzle, but it is not the whole thing.
I wish that I’d had the wherewithal to relay this sentiment to my client back then, but I’ve thought a lot about it since. There were a lot of things going on with her whole situation and she was obviously looking for advice in places that she felt would be informative without being immoral. If I had that appointment to do over again, I wouldn’t do my best impression of Samantha Jones. I’d give her the following list…..
The [Über] Beginner’s Guide to Loving Your Cooter:
(…And maybe, someday having an orgasm)
Go see (or read) The Vagina Monologues. When I saw this show performed for the first time in my very early 20s, it changed my life. It made me want to understand my body better and it made me feel like my own experiences with sexuality and body issues were all part of a bigger picture: the female experience. It changed how I aspired to talk about myself and…it just made me more aware of what being a woman means.
Get a vibrator. If you can’t get yourself off you can’t guide someone into getting you there.
Do yoga. Especially focus on breathing. Having fun during sex has a lot to do with being able to let go and relax, and being able to relax is a skill that can be developed if you have the right tools.
Go to a different gynecologist. If, when you tell your gynecologist that you’ve never had an orgasm and ask him for suggestions on how to achieve them, and he says that if putting a pillow under your hips didn’t work you may not be able to have orgasms, it’s a lost cause, you should focus solely on your husband’s pleasure: your gynecologist is the reanimated corpse of Fred Phelps. WALK OUT OF HIS OFFICE IMMEDIATELY. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t even like women.**
Don’t get waxed. Your vagina has already become a source of stress and pain. As much as I love Georgia O’Keefe, no amount of painful hair removal services are going to reveal it as the flowery work of art it was all along. At the end of the day, a vagina is a vagina. As many as I’ve seen, I can’t say that I’ve come to think of them as beautiful or anything like that. They are what they are, which is what any of your individual body parts are: tools which serve specific functions to help you reach your own sense of wellness.
Save the waxing for another time.
*I think the tears were a combo of the pain – which she did not handle well – and bringing up what she felt deep down was an epic failure on her part. It just made you hurt for her.
** I realize that a gynecologist doesn’t fall under the same category as a sex therapist, but come on! There are plenty of acceptable things he could have said along the lines of, “I know what works for my partner and I, but this isn’t my area of expertise. You might try talking to X…,” or “I have another patient waiting now, and this is a complex subject but I’d be happy to talk to you about it in greater detail if you’ll set up another appointment…” I don’t care how long you went to school for, telling a woman they may not be able to have an orgasm after that one trick you know didn’t work is shitty.