I Was ~This Close~ to Lasering Off My Pubes for Life—Here's What Stopped Me
I'm not saying everyone needs to grow a bush, but you might be overdue for an internal dialogue about why you're thinking of getting rid of your pubes (or not!) in the first place.
Unlike so many gender-isms and beauty standard "rules" that seeped slowly into my brain throughout childhood and adolescence, I do remember the exact moment I learned I was "supposed" to be shaving off all my pubes.
I was hanging out with friends at age ~14 when my friend casually referenced her hairless vag. (She had an older sister, so she was the first one to, like, stop shopping at The Limited Too and start shopping at Hollister, play R-rated movies at sleepovers, and learn what the word "boner" meant.) I can still feel the whiplash that happened in my brain at that exact moment, the millisecond where my consciousness of my pubes went from "oh, those exist" to "other people get rid of them on purpose" to "I should be getting rid of mine too." Although I hadn't so much as had my first kiss at that point, I was aware that the weighty motive behind this newfound thinking was all about boys; they were expecting me to shave it all off.
Of course, in hindsight, it's beyond ridiculous to think of my 14-year-old self shaving off the only thing on my body that signified puberty was actually happening (more than 10 years later, I'm still waiting for my boobs to show up to the party). But that habit stuck, and I continued to religiously shave off every last inch of my pubic hair for years and years. I mastered the art of running a blade around the most sensitive part of my body and made sure to perfectly time shaving for first dates, sleepovers with boyfriends, special occasions, and pool parties, lest the hint of stubble or the 5-o'clock shadow of my dark Italian body hair see the light of day (or someone else's sheets).
By the time I was 25, I was tired—of maintaining this hairless aesthetic (for many sexual partners who, honestly, weren't worth it), tired of carefully shaving only to have my dark hair follicles still show up on the pale skin of my bikini line, and tired of how much time and energy I spent grooming these damn things that just kept growing back. Then I got a single gnarly ingrown hair that thoroughly stressed me out and pissed me off—and I decided I needed to figure out a better alternative to shaving.
So, I looked into laser hair removal.
At the time, a friend had just started laser hair removal and was singing its praises. There were so many perks I hadn't even thought about: no more irritation when cycling or wearing tight shorts or leggings for a long period of time; no more of that awkward scratchy feeling when the stubble is growing back razor-sharp and catching on even the smoothest pair of underwear; no more razor burn or ingrown pubic hairs. I found a Groupon for a ridiculously cheap package at a nearby medspa, and decided it was time; I'd laser off my armpits and my pubes, Brazillian style (translation: take it alllll off), and never have to shave those areas again. After all, I'd already been removing all my pubic hair nonstop for more than a decade—would my mind really change about wanting to have it there? And if I invested now, I'd save money and time for the rest of my life. It was a no-brainer.
Then, I went in for a consultation at the medspa and had an overall ~meh~ experience. The office itself was clean, but the building was dingy. The laser technician answered my questions but was clearly over having to deal with these apprehensions from every laser first-timer who walked in. I thought I was going in just to chat about the whole process but ended up doing my first session right then. (FYI, it takes an average of 4-6 sessions every 4-6 weeks to truly get the hair to stop growing. See: Everything You Need to Know About Laser Hair Removal, According to the Professionals Who Do It) And, yeah, it's not pleasant being zapped by lasers mere millimeters away from the part of your body with the most nerve endings.
I left the medspa and went home, crotch and pits burning, to watch Netflix with icepacks on my junk and think about what I'd done. Suddenly, I didn't like this plan at all. Maybe it was because of the pain (which, truly, wasn't that bad—but I think physical discomfort has a way of spurring mental clarity). I felt guilty for subjecting one of the most intimate parts of my body to a literal laser gun—and for what? Why was I so dead-set on eliminating this hair from my body, anyway? I'd been doing it without much thought for years, and this was the first time I really sat down and thought about why. Not just the immediate, superficial reasons—like, "it's less itchy" and "it looks better in a bikini"—but why I ever felt like I had to get rid of my pubes and underarm hair in the first place. Was I doing this "for myself" because I truly felt better with a fresh shave? And if that was the case, why did I feel better that way? Because the world told me it was the only acceptable way to be a female-presenting human being?
A major factor was the permanence of it all; if you go for the proper number of laser treatments, the hair in that area will never grow back (barring big hormonal shifts such as pregnancy or other conditions). Not to mention, I never even tried growing them out to see if that was something I'd like. If I'd never really given my pubes a chance to ~hang out~, how could I be ready to zap them off forever?
Luckily, I had six weeks until my next session to figure it out.
And I thought about it a lot. I saw pubes (or lack thereof) everywhere—in Netflix shows, on giant billboards, on social media, on celebrity Instagrams, at the beach—and suddenly I became so involved in other people's pubic hair grooming habits. Virtually everything built for public consumption (read: mainstream media) contained perfectly maintained bikini lines; not a hair to be found. But then IRL, I saw stubble, razor burn, and "I forgot to shave" insecurity everywhere. I talked to friends who agonized over scheduling a wax before they went on a date with a new Bumble prospect, or forgetting to bring a razor on a weekend getaway. Suddenly, I realized that this whole getting-rid-of-pubes business was complete and utter bullshit. Why were we all so worried about something that literally every human has on their body?!
I continued to have regular mental spirals until my next appointment: I don't have an inkling of baby fever, yet I was wondering what I'd tell my future daughter about why mom didn't have pubes. What kind of message would that be sending to a young, impressionable girl? As someone who's worked hard to love my wild curly hair, how could I champion embracing the naturality of the hairs on my head, but then disavow those on my body? How could I truly accept myself, in all its forms and fluctuations, if I was going to these lengths to permanently change it?
The decision became bigger than me and my pubes.
How could we move forward as a gender if we're still willingly complying with the oppressive beauty standards that are part of what's holding us back from being seen as equals (not objects) with our own agenda? How could we continue to fight against societal control of our bodies (hi, birth control and abortion legislation) if we were still letting society dictate what we did to it ourselves? And how could I truly care about changing these things if I was a willing participant? Suddenly, dealing with (or not dealing with!) my pubes was no longer just a random hygienic chore, but a statement. They were visual proof of the acceptance of my femininity, of my humanity—and now, I really wanted them back.
So I decided to keep my pubes—at least some of them. I'll admit; as revolutionary as this all sounds, I wasn't ready to embrace #bushlife quite yet. Ok, and I had already paid for the Groupon. So I decided to go through with the "bikini" laser treatment option instead, aka "clean up the sides." I figured it was a happy medium between what I was used to and what I wanted to become (which is a pube-proud body hair warrior). Plus, it would offer me a lot of the perks that drew me to laser in the first place (bye, chafing). I finished out my Groupon deal, which left me one or two sessions short of permanently getting rid of all the hair in those areas. What's left is a light frosting of armpit hair and a few strays in my bikini line. Now, I let what's left grow long—and I've got to admit, I love it. It's much, much less than the dark hair I had before, but enough that I'm oddly proud of it. I applaud these stray-hair survivors as part of my moderately rebellious cause. They're my sisters in the revolution. (Hey, they survived like five laser attacks.) Instead of a nuisance, I think they're badass and sexy. (I'm not the only one. Read why these 10 womxn decided to embrace their body hair.)
I realize that I'm not exactly the poster child for pubes—after all, I still went through with partial laser hair removal. But what I see on the outside is only part of it; the real transformation is how I feel about those little, simultaneously unimportant yet so important hairs. Because, in the end, womxn should feel empowered to do whatever they want with their bodies and their body hair—but if you never stop to think about why you want to keep it or get rid of it in the first place, how can you be sure it's truly what you want?