Monday, December 1, 2014

PUBES: A Love Letter to My Mom

I was home for the holiday this past week and whenever I’m home I can’t help but think about… pubes. Because my mom has a lot of them. She’s got a big ol’ bush I’ve seen a lot throughout my life. And while her bush seemed oh so natural and normal when I was little and didn’t know any better, now that I’m older and out in the world, I’m constantly shocked by the surface area and sheer depth of Mom’s bush compared with most of what I’ve seen since I left home. I’ve been a little obsessed with pubes lately, because it occurs to me that I don’t necessarily know what my girlfriends are rocking in their nether regions. And I want to know. Call me crazy but I want to know what everyone’s got going on down there.

I guess I’m the only person who was surprised to find that Jennifer Lawrence is totally shaved in her nethers. I finally caved and looked at the leaked photos (who has the self-control not to look, I mean really).
“Are we surprised that J.Law is totally bald down there?” I ask my friend Heidi.
“No. Everyone is.”
Heidi isn’t. I know that for a fact. I was at the birth of her son.
I share with her my recent experience with the little Jewish Man who criticized my landing strip.
“You have a landing strip and he complained?!” Heidi looks shocked and appalled. I think this is a reasonable reaction. I too was shocked and appalled, thinking at the time that I probably had a lot less pubes than a lot of chicks out there, and he should be lucky. I, for one, thought that Gaby Hoffmann was single-handedly bringing back pubic hair with the flashing of her admirable bush in both Girls and Transparent. Apparently, I was wrong.
This realization makes me want to interview every single one of my girlfriends and find out, once and for all, what kind of bush (or not) they’re growing.


I text a nude photo of myself to my best friend Sadie because I recently sent the same pic to Bartender and had not received any response (validation) in return.
“Wow. This photo makes me feel like I have a lot of pubic hair,” she laughs on the other end of the phone.
“Really? What kind of bush are you rocking?” I ask, eager as always to talk about pubes.
“Oh I don’t really do anything to it anymore. I just let it do its thing.”
She explains to me that she used to wax and groom and all that shit, and then she read Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman, and there was that whole section about how women should just leave their bushes alone. How women are meant to have bush and we should stop trying to look like little girls:
“In fact, in recent years I have become more and more didactic about pubic hair—to the point where I now believe that there are only four things a grown, modern woman should have: a pair of yellow shoes (they unexpectedly go with everything), a friend who will come and post bail at 4 a.m., a fail-safe pie recipe, and a proper muff. A big, hairy minge. A lovely furry moof that looks—when she sits, naked—as if she has a marmoset sitting in her lap.” (Caitlin Moran, How to Be a Woman)

“That was a turning point for me. I was like fuck it. And now I basically act sort of like a dude. Keep it clean but expend as little energy as possible,” Sadie tells me.
Wow. I’m impressed. Especially since my friend is a single, on the market woman in her 20s. Actively going on OKCupid dates and having sex with relative strangers. In a similar situation myself, I can’t imagine not grooming. It’s one thing if you’ve already got a boyfriend and you get lazy about the upkeep. She does live in Brooklyn, however, and I feel the New York aesthetic might be a little less porn-y than in LA.
I ask if a guy has ever said anything about it.
"I've never gotten any complaints," she says. We agree that good guys don't care.
"Do they go down on you?" I pry further.
"Well, I don't really like that."
I laugh. "Oh, so it's a defense mechanism to keep them from going down there."
Then she asks, “Dude. Is that laser hair removal reversible? You should fucking grow a bush and just see what it feels like.”
I deflect this suggestion by explaining that I feel sexier when I’m groomed.
“You should just try it,” she encourages me.
A couple days later, Sadie admits that, “After we talked last time I did lots of shame grooming.” This upsets me—I tell her I love that she has a loud and proud bush and don’t want her to change the way she feels about it because of me. It sometimes feels like our womanly pride is too precarious and easily toppled. Maybe I should grow a Bush.


Truth be told, with the laser hair removal I’ve gotten on my bikini line, I’m not sure how substantial of a bush I could actually grow at this point. I remember reading an article about merkins in Hollywood and how Kate Winslet had to wear one in The Reader because she couldn’t grow a full period-appropriate bush due to years of waxing in her youth. (The Reader is set in the 1930s, when getting a Brazilian simply wasn't an option.)

“Maybe the reason I feel sexier shaved is because I associate big bushes with my mom,” I wonder aloud.

Then we start musing about whether we think pubes are still political. And whether choosing not to shave is still a meaningful act, or if it’s just a personal choice thing at this point. I’m not sure. I mean, I’m a feminist and I have a pretty groomed situation. I don’t know if it would make me more of a feminist if I let that shit grow. Just like I don’t believe that hair color defines who you are. I choose to be a blond and don’t think that makes me any less smart.

In the town where I grew up, and where I spent Thanksgiving with my parents, the women not only no doubt rock formidable bushes under their homemade hemp skirts, many of them also enjoy some pretty serious armpit hair. And that is something I NEVER SEE in LA.
My friend Heidi tells me she kinda wants to let her pits grow but that she always lets it get to a certain point and then shaves.
“People treat you differently when you have hairy armpits,” she shares with me.
“Really? Are you sure that’s not just your own self-consciousness?”
“No! I swear to God, they treat me differently. They’re not as friendly. They look at you a certain way.”
This surprises me because Heidi runs in a pretty Earth Mother crowd. She slings meat at the farmers market amongst a flock of sustainable, organic, Los Angeles hippies. Even these people judge armpit hair?

I remember seeing an Us Weekly with Julia Roberts on the cover. She was wearing a sleeveless shirt and had her arm raised, ostensibly waving to fans. Under her arm, there was a little flurry of reddish armpit hair. Obviously this was the reason she was on the cover of this magazine, and the public was going ballistic. America's Sweetheart has body hair?! I remember feeling a little inner sigh of relief. Ahh Julia Roberts is a human woman who grows hair under her arms. Furthermore, in my young eyes, this immediately made my mom seem instantly cooler. For she too had hairy armpits all throughout my childhood. Now she shaves.


When I’m home for Thanksgiving, Mom tells me a story I’ve heard before but I always enjoy hearing again. When she lived in NYC in her youth, one Valentine’s Day, she shaved her pubes into a heart and bleached one half of it blond and dyed the other half black. She presented this “gift” to her boyfriend at the time, who was a designer and told her that her little romantic effort “lacked definition.” I tell her if you did that to a guy in his 20s now, he would run out of the room screaming.

I know at least a couple of my girlfriends have a fully shaved/lasered situation going on down there. No hair at all to speak of. One of my girlfriends who usually goes totally bare is doing a full nude scene in a low-budget sci-fi film and wants to know my opinion on what kind of pubic look she should rock. I suggest she leave a little triangle of hair because we’ve got a responsibility to not publicly propagate this notion that women should be totally hairless down there. I suggest it as a political statement.
Best Guy Friend chimes in.
“You should leave a little hair on top because it’s more aesthetically pleasing.”
This surprises me coming from him, who is usually so verbally opposed to hairy pussy because he doesn’t want to get hair in his mouth when he’s going down there. He explains that he doesn’t mind hair on top, he just doesn’t want it inside the pussy. And to be fair, he too is very groomed. He and I then get online and start looking for examples of good and bad pubic hair. I show him Bianca Stone, who is a porn star known for having an incredibly hairy pussy. Best Guy Friend can’t even stand to look at the photo of her spread-eagle. He can’t deal with the hair between her vagina and asshole. He just can’t.


When I go to the Korean Spa, I always enjoy looking at the different pubic variations. It is Los Angeles after all, so many women are pretty well groomed. But I don’t see many totally hairless pussies. Most women have something comparable to what I have going on. I love seeing the different sizes, shapes, and colors of women walking around totally unselfconscious. Strolling from one hot pool to the next. It’s also amazing to see all the different varieties of breasts. No breast is alike. I always feel an incredible sense of calm at the Korean Spa—like this is what the world would be like with no men. Not that I want a world without men (that would be boring), but there is something so peaceful about a room full of just women. Also because everyone is just letting their bushes and business hang out for the world to see, and no one gives a fuck. I once glanced across the room and saw a woman lying on her back on the heated floor. Her blanket had slipped and I found myself staring right up her vagina. I thought, how great is it that this is acceptable behavior at the Korean spa? Can you imagine if you were at a restaurant and you saw up a woman’s skirt and into her vagina, how appalled you would be? Not here in this Paradise without men, known as the Korean Spa.

I took my Mom to the spa when she was visiting me in LA. As we moved from the incredibly hot mugwort tea pool into the cold dip, I was suddenly overcome with love and emotion and I almost started to cry as I looked over at this woman who birthed me and who has been with me since the beginning. As I opened my mouth to express myself in some cheesy and heartfelt way, trying to keep the potential tears at bay, Mom eyed the parade of women walking past us, their crotches at eye level.
“Women in LA don’t have much pubic hair do they?” She said. I smiled and followed her gaze. No, Mom, no they don’t.

6 comments:

  1. Such a darling expose about pubes! I rock the totally-bare-down-there look, because I enjoy the "fresh" feeling. During my teenage years, I used to keep a pair of craft scissors in my bathroom drawer. When my bush became unmanageable underneath my skintight, low-rise, kinda-see-through white pants, I would lean over the toilet and trim my hedge the best I could. Even then, I wouldn't feel clean... I wonder what a therapist would have to say about that! Being completely bare does make me feel vulnerable at times -- so if I were to appear in a sci-fi indie film, I would grow just enough hair to shelter the specifics of my vagina. Just a pleasant triangle of pubes :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for sharing! I love hearing about the ladies and their bushes! I've heard this clean thing before--that's actually what my Best Guy Friend has to say about the reason he keeps his business groomed. Because hair traps smells, etc. I don't know what it all means, but I find it endlessly interesting. I think we currently live in a bald pussy culture, especially in LA. And it's hard to branch away from a look that is so ubiquitous. And I think feeling vulnerable and exposed in that way is sexy for a lot of women--I totally get that. I'm really on the fence because my feminist brain says "I don't want to look like a little girl!" But I do feel sexier shaved, at least in the undercarriage. Not sure if my preference is cultural or actually true to my deepest self. I find that distinction impossible to distill.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love this post! Here's what I think: We need to bring back a little hair! I think it would be empowering- in the same way that not all women on TV should have the bodies of little girls. Bring back hips, thighs and pubes! For the most part, women are built differently than girls. (That's how the males are supposed to tell that the female is sexually mature.) It always bothered me popular culture today is trying to make us look like little girls. I think I mentioned this to you before, but a mutual friend of yours and mine told me that as a pre-adolescent, he and his friends would get ahold of Playboy magazines so they could see the "hairy vaginas"- that it was so sexy and exciting to them. It's just a trend- all of it. I'm not into pain, so the idea of lasering it all off scares me. And it's permanent. (Too much commitment!) I've got hair down there, but keep it looking nice and groomed and minimal. Probably like what you have, maybe even more. It varies between landing stip and triangle. If I was dating a guy who specifically said that he likes it bare, I'd do it for him, as it would bring me pleasure if he liked what he saw. I personally like to see a little bit of (trimmed and groomed) hair on the guy. Without it, it just reminds me of bath time with my brother when I was little. And that just doesn't do it for me. ; ) I think that any guy who on a first look comments that he has an issue with what you look like down there is a jerk, and not worth another minute. If you keep dating and he says, "Hey... I'm really into the hairless look" that's one thing, but for some guy to expect the girl to be exactly the way he wants her to be the first go round is just narcissistic. And just.... so LA. Don't play into it. Maybe the 20 something's need a little education. ; )

    ReplyDelete
  4. This point is very interesting, so thanks so much for bringing it up. This idea that hair indicates that a woman is mature and therefore ready for sex. The little girl aesthetic is definitely weird and culturally slightly disturbing. But the other point you bring up is that the dudes are doing it too! When I was first with my ex-boyfriend, first time we got naked I was shocked to find him completely hairless... and he looked like a child, which was disconcerting. He told me he had gotten used to shaving everything because his previous girlfriend didn't like him hairy. I encouraged him to let it grow, baby! But of course he remained a steady groomer, so he struck a nice balance of just the right amount of hair. At times he would take it all off though, and that always turned me off slightly. Actually, the very first night we were together I had not been with anyone for awhile and was just letting my business grow down there. I was a little embarrassed, but even to this day he claims he didn't care/notice that I was particularly hairy that night. I always loved that about him, that he was unfazed by my bush the very first night we were together. Despite his hairlessness, that showed me he was a real man.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Random comment, maybe, but it's nice to see to see a post on pubes that doesn't A) shame women who shave by accusing them of undermining feminism or B) shame women who don't shave by implying they're dirty or undesirable; so many articles/posts I've read fall into one of these traps - which is bizarre to me, because at the end of the day, it's just *hair*. I will say that women who choose not to significantly groom their pubes can have a harder time in the dating world than they would have just 15 years ago, which bothers me. A friend of mine stopped waxing out of necessity for medical reasons and now feels an added level of anxiety before sleeping with a new partner, just because standards for female hair removal have become so draconian. Pubes are simply more difficult to remove than leg/pit hair for a lot of women, because of the sensitivity and vulnerability of the area, so for that reason alone, it really should never have crossed the bridge from personal choice to the new "normal" (though our culture made that distinction a while back, outliers like Hoffmann excepted).

    Anyway, as someone who likes pretty much any style down there depending on mood or season, I just wish this kind of relaxed, accepting attitude toward woman's grooming choices, whether bare, full bush or somewhere in between, was more common!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I’m endlessly fascinated by how loaded the topic of pubes has become. This whole notion of how grooming or not connects to feminism is so interesting to me. Like you say, it’s just hair—why the fuck is it such a big deal? I also wonder how much of this we put on ourselves. I feel like some of the main reasons for grooming—aesthetics, sanitation—are things that women actually care more about than straight men. I think men are usually just happy to be getting some pussy, hairy or not. I agree with you, I look forward to a time when we are more relaxed about all aspects of a woman’s appearance, when we don’t constantly pick apart women for what they look like, for their personal choices. I’m not sure if that time will ever come, but it’s worth trying to enforce in our own lives, starting with not judging other women for how they choose to groom their vaginas.

    ReplyDelete

If you feel moved, angered, inspired, or ANYTHING AT ALL, please share your thoughts here...