Wax and Wane

11 Oct

There are few things on earth more annoying than enduring a couple of hours of intense discomfort (or agony if you’re fool enough to try it during menstruation week) in an attempt to render oneself more attractive than God really intended – only to get home and have the man in your life greet you with a puzzled: “But you look exactly the same! What were you doing there for three hours?”

Contemplating ways and means for your early demise, probably. Where do you keep the knives, again?

Men think women are being unreasonable with all this prettification business. So you went to the salon and did your little routine. What’s the big deal? Why should they notice? Well, remember that the next time you run into a woman with a mustache, won’t you? It’s just a little facial hair. So she didn’t feel like going to the salon and doing the same old, same old. You don’t mind, do you? What’s the big deal? Why should you notice?

I can’t remember when I noticed the fact that I had mysteriously spouted hair on body parts that weren’t supposed to have any (my TeeVee said so!) but it must have been shortly after I was thirteen when this leggy young thing from Section C started pulling her hemlines higher and higher, the better to show off that wax job. Sadly, with a stuffy mother like mine i.e. one who strongly disapproved of minors yanking their hair out by the roots in an effort to look more sexy, I wasn’t about to join that club anytime soon.

But as I discovered when I turned eighteen and finally moved into the grown up section of the salon, things were neither as simple as I had imagined them to be nor was I as badly off as some other unfortunates the salon-girls liked to mention.

“You know that girl, Chandramukhi**?” the friendly young thing asks as she busily scrapes molten wax over my half-cooked flesh. “She comes in here to get her chest waxed.”

“Her chest waxed?” I gape as visions of the lovely Chandramukhi transforming at night into a man named Chandru race through my mind. “What do you mean?”

“Some women,” she says darkly, “have hair all over. You’re lucky you don’t need so much work.” She glances disapprovingly at my modest “salon-work” bra (go ahead, punk, drip sticky wax on it. See if I care!), currently hiding much of my non-hairy chest from her inquiring gaze.

Now I may not be exactly hirsute, especially by Chandramukhi standards, but let’s face it: Indians, in general, have more than their fair share of hair. Body hair, facial hair, so much hair that some of us donate the stuff at temples, which then make expensive wigs out of it and sell it for mucho moolah abroad. Waste not, want not.

“Of course,” she continues quickly, pushing the party line of salons all over the world, “if she keeps waxing then it will only lessen as time goes by. Eventually, it will stop.”

That’s true – my aunt doesn’t have any body hair. Of course, she didn’t have much hair to begin with and it only took her fifty years to get to that point. A point, incidentally, that coincided with partial baldness. But hey, the hair growth did stop! Eventually.

You know, 30 isn’t all that far away from me, this isn’t my first brush with wax, and I’m still coming back – you can give it a rest. I’m obviously in this for the long haul. I don’t need the hard sell. In fact, I like waxing.

That’s right – I said I like it. I find it soothing, especially when somebody else is doing all the work. Mind, if my hair came equipped with the kind of extra-strength roots God saw fit to bestow upon my best friend, it’s likely I’d be singing a different opera. But as things stand, I like it just fine. In fact, if I were to compare it to, say, threading I’d say I positively love to wax. If only my face didn’t erupt into angry rashes every time I introduce it to wax, I’d probably stop ferreting out those dreaded threaders in every city I go to.

Waxing is probably not doing my skin any favors but it leaves me feeling fresh and clean whereas shaving just leaves me feeling frazzled and angry. And occasionally dripping blood, but that’s another story. I don’t even mind contorting myself into unnatural positions when I have to do it on my own – at least I can buy my wax in a tidy little container at the supermarket instead of making do with dough, unlike the housewives of Jerusalem in that Tom Hanks movie.

Progress – I’m all for it.

** not her real name. Duh.


Posted by on October 11, 2008 in Life, Personal


25 responses to “Wax and Wane

  1. Pitu

    October 11, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    Heh. My mom dragged me off to the salon when I was 15, to look ‘groomed’ :-p Little did I know how painful the waxing thing was. I do wax when in India but given my beachbum, live-in-a-two-piece-ways here in Chicago, I have no option but to use Nair. 5 minutes and no pain 😀 I did get a chemical burn once though, so now I only use Nair with Baby oil 😀

  2. OrangeJammies

    October 12, 2008 at 12:46 am

    Yeeha! So I’m not the only freak out there. 😀 I can’t say I’m thrilled to have steaming gooey stuff dribbled on me (and yes, it’s bloody agony during leak week) but I so love the clean, smooth feeling AFTER the deed is done, it’s totally worth all the cringing. You’re fortunate to be in New York, though. In the smaller towns, it’s so frightfully expensive because there aren’t any understanding Indian aunties around. 😦

  3. Kanan

    October 12, 2008 at 2:26 am

    HEHAHAHAHA! too much entertainment… I have so much to share a comment isn’t enough. I’ll make a post some day.

    But I’ll leave you with this hilarious comment that my gal pal made once when we were discussing the woes of waxing: main to bhaaloo ho gayi hoon, yaar!! (translated: i’ve become a bear yaar!!)

    ps. Nair, which I only tried once ever in my life, smells just like ammonia.. yuck!

  4. pitu

    October 12, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Kanan: my gf refers to it as ‘ghar ki kheti’ :-p Nair does smell horrid, but no pain! Can you imagine waxing your tummy? Aiieeee!

  5. Kanan

    October 12, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    Pitu, lol @ ghar ki kheti. I’d never wax my tummy. who the heck wants to see it? and whoever does will have to live with it. 😛

  6. pitu

    October 12, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    Gals who wear bikinis at the beach hafta 😀

  7. A Cynic in Wonderland

    October 13, 2008 at 12:33 am

    ah i like you. so much prefer waxing than other means. and i HATE threading too – sigh. wish. wish i didnt get chinese whiskers and french beard.

  8. E.L.En'd (no relation to Doctorow)

    October 13, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    All that talk about tummy waxing reminds me of Steve Carel’s lovable Andy Stitzer getting his belly waxed, yelling, “Yooooooooow, Kelly Clarkson! ” in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. I’d thought it sweet vindication, except I ended up eventually falling in love with the guy…What a sweet movie, that!

  9. M

    October 13, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Oh I hear you…I much prefer waxing to other forms of agony too…though I don’t see much of a difference in results between the two, and actually, my hairgrowth has slowed down a LOT in the 15+ years that I have been doing this!

    My grandmother swore by the virtues of turmeric when it came to hair growth, but commercial turmeric powders stain the bath too badly for me to consider using them. On a recent trip to India though, I noticed my MIL also used turmeric, and this was nowhere as staining as the usual kind – she said it was a variety called “kasturi manjal” and is known to have exfoliating properties, and is great for the skin as well – I’ve been using it for about a year now and do see a reasonable reduction in growth of facial hair.

    Pitu, I like Nair etc. but after a couple of years of using them in grad school, wound up with a horrible reaction to them…


  10. Amrita

    October 13, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    Pitu – I HAVE waxed my tummy. And it wasn’t all that bad. But then my kheti is more landscaping 😀

    OJ – EXACTLY. I love the feel of my skin afterwards. Actually, NYC doesn’t make much difference. Its such a hassle to find an Indian salon (unless its upmarket place currently fooling Amreekans into thinking waxing and threading is some kind of Eastern voodoo and charging correspondingly) I often end up doing the deed myself at home. But it’s still worth it.

    Kanan – you really should! LOL @ your friend. I tried that one year but I got such wicked eczema I had to go back to waxing stat. My problem with Nair is not the smell (which is not pleasant) but that I never know what to do when I’m waiting for it to work. I always end up standing like a statue in the tub because otherwise I’ll smear it on everything and I feel like a fool.

    Cynic – AHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Join the club.

    ELEn’D (any relation of Ellen Degeneres?) – that was the scene that cemented my love for Steve Carell esp when I found out that was actually him. owtch.

    M – Seriously?! I need to get some of that stuff. I never heard of the turmeric thing before. Besan, yes. Turmeric, no. *runs off to call mom*

  11. M

    October 13, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Warning: you need to wash *Well* with turmeric…and it needs to be turmeric root, not powder – Get a small stone or rough surface, and rub the turmeric against it, to create turmeric paste, apply to face (or whichever area) with fingers, rubbing vigorously…then wash off well with soap, or you’ll look jaundiced!

    NYC salons – I can recommend one: Perfect Shape(s) – I think they have 3 or 4 locations – last I checked, they were reasonably priced. The owners are from Bombay – I just googled them and they seem to have mixed reviews on some of their locations, so buyer beware 🙂 (Full Disclosure – the owners are related to my SIL, and the owner herself is an excellent beautican, but she doesn’t do much in the salons anymore, I don’t know the quality of the other employees – I’ve been very happy the few times I used their services, but then I probably got the “Family special”!


  12. pitu

    October 13, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    M: How often does one use the turmeric root? Also, does it arrest growth/slow down growth or actually get rid of stuff? Coz arresting is fine in the long run but swimmers need actual err… results :-p

    If I can wean myself off chemicals like Nair, I’d love to.

    My grandma used this mustard oil/turmeric combo (or was it sesame oil/turmeric?) that she maalish’ed my mom and maasis with and all 3 evil women have NO HAIR! They’re like friggin babies- so damn smooth. I used to get so mad at my mom for not doing the same thingy for me but her excuse was that you didn’t get these ingredients in Nigeria. Also, apparently that daily maalish thing only works to arrest hair follicles when you’re an infant. In other words, too late now :-p

  13. Shrabonti

    October 14, 2008 at 2:56 am

    hey Pitu,

    Will this terrific combo work on my almost two-year-old extremely hirsute daughter?? DO find out, and the exact ingredients please. I live in Bangalore, so any exotic Indian stuff should be easily available.

  14. M

    October 14, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    To all looking for turmeric (And turmeric-oil combos) – AFAIK, it slows development of hair ina dulthood, used from childhood, it does stop it! And Pitu, like your mom, my grandmother used it all her life – her daughters are relatively hairless as well, and Gran herself was like your mom – hairless where needed! I know the combo as sesame-oil+turmeric for babies, plain turmeric for adults. I know my gran and MIL used it everyday when bathing – I don’t have the patience (my weekday showers taking all of 4 mins before I hear the we’re-going-to-be-tardy yells), so do it once in a couple of weeks, as part of my oil-bath routine.

    Shrabonti, it should work on your daughter – I used it on mine on our last trip to India – it also has a good effect on eczema, which my daughter has a mild case of. I see a decrease in hair on her legs and torso.

    Again, be warned – this turmeric is what gives older S.Indian women the stereotypical “yellow face” – you need to be diligent with soap after the turmeric!

    Anyone here experienced rubbing away hair (literally) with a pumice stone? I WELCOMED waxing after THAT attempt! It was popular in Delhi in the 80s as a way of hair removal that did not cause ingrowths…but unless you have fine/sparese hair it hurts like H***

    Amrita, you mentioned homemade wax – I’ve found homemade wax works just fine – the sugar/lemon variety – this was popular when I was in college in the late 80s – we were poor students and sugar and lemon could be obtained from the hostel mess!


  15. terri

    October 14, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    My grandmother has used kasturi manjal all her life and she’s hairless. Her skin isn’t yellow, though. I don’t know how or why. And she used besan instead of soap until a few years ago. I suppose this stuff actually works.

  16. sachita

    October 15, 2008 at 2:57 am

    A question that often crosses my mind is, how many hours do we typically spend on all this plucking/deforestation compared to what is expected of men, which is just shaving.

    oh, Turmeric, my friend told me that her doctor uncle told her (!) roughens up the skin, coz turmeric is rough.
    I used it for the first decade of my life.

  17. pitu

    October 15, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Hmm interesting. On my India trip, I shall try to do this haldi thing, if only to guilt my poor mom 😉

    Sachita: Well, once we wax/epilate we’re good for a while. Guys have to shave ‘everyday’ which I think is even more annoying. Also, I guess nobody is forcing us to do all these things- in fact many feminists forgo these kinda beauty treatments. Me, I will never stop. Given the other shit we deal with for our gender, looking pretty is a joy. I guess the question is- are we doing it for others or for ourselves? I don’t care if I am in a colony of blind people, I’d still doll up 😀 I went camping once in Alaska, we were in a remote part of Talkeetna and Denali. I’d taken my tweezers along to make sure my eyebrows looked perfect. My hubby laughed and laughed. Who do you want to look perfect for? The FRIGGIN bears??! :-p

    Sry for ‘waxing’ philosophical mwahaha!

  18. Kanan

    October 15, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    I think for maalish it would be the sesame oil. My grandpa used to do it every day before bath until he was 93 (that’s when he left us) and it has more goodies in it than just for hair. I think health reasons like blood circulation, skin moisturizer, etc.

    As for the chinese whiskers, I recently read in some Indian magazine this lady suggested take a couple of pinches of salt and rub over it daily. It eventually removes the hairs. Not sure whether it stops it. I don’t know what I’d do if waxing didn’t exist. I once made a mistake of shaving and regretting it since. Nothing, note, nothing comes close to waxing. Though I dearly hate the ingrown hairs but found another goodie – these glove things that work like a miracle and I’ve been using them daily since May. Aah they’re a blessing. Hate the pumice stone too. The waxing salon lady had recommended it for my ingrown hairs and once I ended up peeling some layers of skin and it burned like crazy, not to mention the big scar they left behind. I hate those things. I think that net-like thing that comes from a lauki-like vegetable (we call it galka in Gujarati) is better. I remember my maid back in India used to use it to rub clean her skin and I now see it everywhere here in drug stores.

  19. Amrita

    October 15, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    I just talked to my mother and it turns out she knew about this thing all along but never felt like sharing because “it’s a lot of trouble and I didn’t think you’d be interested”. MOM!!!! It’s one thing to sit around and wait for your skull to absorb oil, it’s another to work towards that blessed day when no thread shall hurt my face.

    Plus, I know what menopause and HRT look like and I’m NOT looking forward to spouting a beard. 😦

    For those of you looking for a smoother face, I suggest red sandalwood. My aunt used to mix it up for me as a child but I believe you can buy the powder.

    Also, I’ve never had an inborn hair problem but now I know what to do thanks to you ladies! And M – rubbing your hair away with a stone = EEEEEYYYOOOWWTCH! Never heard of that.

    Pumice stone, yes, especially if you have dark armpits. But you have to be very gentle with it. Coz, you know, it’s a pumice stone.

  20. OrangeJammies

    October 15, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Wait, so where is this kasturi manjal available and how is it different from ordinary turmeric? And more importantly, where does one find it in Bombay??

  21. pitu

    October 15, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    “But you have to be very gentle with it. Coz, you know, it’s a pumice stone.”

    Eeks imagine using a pumice stone instead of a bikini wax 😉 Bwaahhaha!

  22. Amrita

    October 15, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    OJ – Manjal = Turmeric. Find an ayurvedic shop and ask them for Kasturi turmeric. That’s where my mom bought the stuff. You might even get it freshly powdered so you don’t have to pound it yourself.

    Pitu – My cootchie just fainted. 😛

  23. Kanan

    October 15, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    hahaha after all when it comes to beauty stuff.. the natural is the best. I found out the name of that veggie thing I was talking about. They call is the loofah sponge. I am sure women in India used it long before it came out in the Western countries. Thank you, Mother Nature!!

    Btw, good info about the manjal turmeric stuff girls. I will try it out. Don’t you feel that the freshly made stuff from the root is better than the packed powder? I’ll have to find out whether the local stores sell it. I really need to give it a try as I’m really against bringing wax anywhere near face.

  24. desiGirl

    October 16, 2008 at 5:07 am

    >“But you have to be very gentle with it. Coz, you know, it’s a pumice stone.”

    I wish someone had told eejit 13 year old me before I scraped a whole layer of skin off my left leg! sigh. I wasn’t a very bright child.

  25. M

    October 16, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    OJ, I imagine any of the predominantly Southie areas of Bombay would have stores that sell KM. For those looking for the root – it looks just like the usual turmeric root, (like a more yellow, dried up piece of ginger), the ID is that it doesn’t stain so badly as regular turmeric, and smells more pungent! (Very scientific, precise description, I know :-))

    Amrita, a pumice stone in the armpits? Really? (cringing thinking of it)

    Red sandalwood – is this “marapachi”? If marapachi, we used to use it to “heat” sties (in eyes) and sundry childhood boils…it usually creates a head, and the boil/sty can be popped after that (grated potato is the US equivalent) – I use normal sandalwood. Thanks to religious minded parents and in-laws we have a large supply of temple sandalwood, which is usually pure (freshly ground every day) – my MIL (bless her) collects it all, dries it, and grinds it into a fine powder for use of SIL and me!

    Kanan, yes loofah sponge is fantastic, isn’t it? My grandmothers used to swear by it – it is a weed in India – I nearly fainted when I saw how expensive it is here!


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