Cleanup Detail

29 Sep

SouthIndian mothers are all the same

When Jenny McCarthy was on Oprah recently, she had a funny story about posing for Playboy for the first time – the Bunny-to-be had just stripped down for the shoot when she noticed everybody else was struck dumb. The cause? Her hairy hoo ha.

(Honestly, the things you read on this blog! While you’re at work too, you naughty thing!)

McCarthy didn’t know this was a big deal because, well, why should she? Maybe little girls these days are logging on to the internet and learning that their vajayjays are supposed to look a certain way i.e. the way it used to look before they hit puberty (God, I hope not!) but back in the day, the only person likely to tell you what to do with your bush when growing up was your mom and she was unlikely to hold up porn stars as preferred grooming idols.

Well, those days are over. Behold, the concerned parent of the 21st century: bikini waxing her toddlers for their own good. There’s even a term for this handy service that’s ideally supposed to permanently damage follicles in just a few sessions, eradicating the need for any pesky waxing, shaving or trimming as an adult – Virgin Waxing. The “virgin” in this case apparently refers to the hair growth… you know what? Excuse me a moment while I ask of the universe:

Are you fucking kidding me?!

I admit, I’m fairly conservative when it comes to things like children and their upbringing. I don’t have any but this doesn’t stop me from having opinions all the same. It is the last remnant of my conservative childhood and I hang on to it, because nothing I’ve seen out there has really challenged it or made me even come close to changing my mind.

In the way of tweens, I wanted to get my legs waxed the moment I saw a schoolmate sashay down the hall in her short skirt at age thirteen. I had the skirt all right, but I wanted those legs. Those shiny, shiny legs that looked so very adult.

“I think I’m ready,” I told my mother as she got a manicure at our salon.

“Girls are doing it very early these days,” agreed the man who usually waxed her legs, sizing me up.

Ma looked me in the face and laughed and laughed and laughed. When she finally caught her breath, she said one word: “Chee!” And that was the end of that.

In fact, I’d graduated high school before my mother would let me wax anything at all. And when I got my eyebrows done for the first time as a special treat at age sixteen for my cousin’s wedding, it was a family affair with one of my aunties standing over the poor parlor assistant’s shoulder and loudly whispering, “Don’t cry! Remember not to cry!” as my eyes watered copiously.

Of course, being a good mother, we did have talks about personal grooming. From manicure to shaving sets, cosmetics to creams, the best part of growing up with a mother who has sisters is that there’s no dearth of advice on everything from acne treatments to what is the correct amount of toilet paper.

And we eventually talked about pubic hair – but the emphasis was always on hygiene, not sexuality. In our house, grooming wasn’t just about being attractive. It sounds very corporate sloganish but every summer my grandmother would repeatedly remind me (in case my mother wasn’t doing it enough) that good grooming is about having pride in oneself. You take care of yourself because you deserve it, not to impress other people.

“This is not the way for good girls to walk around the house before the first lamp is lit in the evening,” my grandmother would say. “You should first wash, then powder your face, put on a bindi, comb and tie your hair neatly, change into freshly pressed clothes, and then come downstairs to see the first lamp. That’s what a lady looks like.”

Deep in my rebellious phase when I refused to comb my hair and adopted a hobo style (quite an ingenious feat considering my mother was still buying my clothes), I wasn’t ready to listen. But nobody pulled me down and forcibly combed my hair, nor did anybody force me to change my clothes. At the time, I thought it a victory over the Establishment. Later, I was quite puzzled because the Establishment at our home is quite capable of breaking the backs of little guerrilla efforts like that.

It took me years before I realized that part of the lesson my grandmother and mother were trying to teach me was that self-worth is something only you can determine for yourself. If they’d forced me to look presentable according to their stringent standards, as they well could have at the time, it would only have appeased their sense of worth, their image of a family member, not mine.

I don’t even want to imagine what lesson those little girls with their permanently waxed genitalia are receiving right now.

[Thanks (?), Jan!]


Posted by on September 29, 2010 in Life, Newsmakers


Tags: , , , , , , ,

17 responses to “Cleanup Detail

  1. padma

    September 29, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    Great post, but your funny tags really cracked me up too :))

  2. bhel

    September 29, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    It takes real talent to write a post on vaginal coiffing and combine it with lessons on Indian parenting, without sounding voyeuristic or preachy. Very funny and well written.

  3. Gradwolf

    September 29, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    There was a girl in high school who never waxed anything(ok as far as uniforms would allow you to see!) and was quite the laughing stock for some reason. I met her years later and somehow the conversation went that direction, how she was totally oblivious and we had a laugh about it. TMI? 😛

  4. Veena

    September 30, 2010 at 12:40 am

    Yes…start them young, they should know how to get the men, because really, what else is a woman supposed to do?? That picture of the two little girls posing at a beauty pageant gave me the creeps! Poor babies!

  5. A&N

    September 30, 2010 at 12:45 am

    That is my life story right there 🙂 I agreed with every single line and nodded at every single anecdote.

    And it scares me when I think of kids nowadays.

  6. Sumedha

    September 30, 2010 at 3:04 am

    I think I waxed for the first time when I was maybe 14 or 15. Threading was about the same time. And I completely agree with you and your family about grooming: it’s for you, not for others. It’s about what you want to look like, and how a particular look makes you feel, not about what response it incites in someone else.

    Which is why I refused to shave off pubic hair for a long time: why should I do what others think I should do? I would neatly trim it for hygiene purposes. I do shave it now sometimes, mainly because once I actually tries to see what it looks like, I liked the smoothness. Still, it’s not for anyone else, it’s for me.

    And wow, waxing toddlers? I agree with you: are you fucking kidding me?? Let the kids grow up, become teenagers and women and make their own bloody choices about what they want to look like!

  7. Banno

    September 30, 2010 at 7:47 am

    Quite frightening. I know my daughter got her first leg wax a couple of years earlier than I got my first one. But ‘virgin waxing’ is too, too creepy. I’m all for old-fashioned conservatism as far as lots and lots of child rearing is concerned.

  8. memsaab

    September 30, 2010 at 9:08 am

    I just don’t understand people any more. Am so glad I will be dead in 20 years (hopefully sooner).

  9. Shalini

    September 30, 2010 at 10:54 am

    This is a rather perfet post – brief, funny, and wise. So of course my takeaway is – gorgeous sari!

  10. M

    September 30, 2010 at 11:24 am

    Huh – one of those times, when Memsaab’s sentiments seem so apt…unfortunately I do have kids, and a daughter at that….who is already accusing me of unnecessary conservatism (I insist on brushed/combed/tied back hair, preferably braided for school) – got any monastery recs?

  11. gomu

    September 30, 2010 at 11:47 am

    that picture here is funny 😀

  12. Ram pyaari

    September 30, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    beautifully written!!! And i agreed with almost everything!

  13. Boney 'em!

    September 30, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    The plan was to make you squirm (yeah, good luck with that, eh?) by (over)sharing on your TMI post, details of my period envy (by which I don’t mean the orange denim from Veer about which you and Beth were back-n-forthing on the tweet-feeds yesterday, but the monthlies that are at once the beauty and bane of womanhood. But why envy? Because my baby sistah got it first — an early bloomer, much like you — and boy was I BEGGING for it by the time I was finally “broken in”, come 1988)!

    But my devious plan was derailed by Sumedha’s comment about women making their own bloody choices! I HAD to come over here just to say: Hello, hell no! As far as ‘men’struation goes, consider the “choice” ‘pre’-made. (Sigh!!)

    But speaking of the “TMI Nation” rant, I can empathize. My problem though is with coworkers more than random junta (with whom not making eye contact while waiting at, say, the checkout line at Safeway, usually works wonders for me).

    Like moth to flame, folks invade my “personal” zone day in and day out, telling me just about EVERYTHING — divorces, settlements, custody battles, ex’s-facebook-status-related jealousies, the truth about cats and dogs, the date from hell (e.g. guy from e-Harmony walks into bar looking like he just walked out of the Emergency…broken jaw and all?! My advice: Clearly missy, your best bet is to stop paying the monstrosity of a monthly fee to e-harmony and park yourself outside El Camino Emergency! Get to pick ’em up hot off the ambulance too. She was only half amused (and I only half meant it), but continues to over-share, sheesh! The days of sledgehammer hints are all but over?).

    I can only hope that these people, in exchange for all that free “ear” time, would vouch for my active-listening skills should they ever run into hubby (or for that matter my profs at school, who, by virtue of their immaculate droning, continue to dispel insomnia instead of ignorance)! 😀

    PS: A word on that awesome slice-of-life photo you have up here. It reminded me of a classmate from high-school, whom I’d all but forgotten — the daughter of Tamil writer Balakumaran (whose latest claim to fame = co-writer, Endhiran?), from second or first wife, I don’t care to recall. But what I remember clearly is that none of us gave a rat’s ass or gossiped about her family situation or anything of the sort… it’s probably the media that blows up these private matters billboard size, no?

  14. Leia

    October 1, 2010 at 10:03 am

    WTF? Pardon the language…
    Why would anyone – particularly a woman who knows the pain of waxing – put a baby through such torture? Would that be considered abuse?

    I like your grandmother. Too often we forget that good grooming is for you to feel good, not to have compliments. Which makes me wonder how do these ideas about women’s grooming coming up? We wax, thread, shave and remove every single stray hair other than the head and the eyebrows. But men still walk around to hair coming out of ears and noses.

  15. Sudha

    October 1, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    I remember reading a psychologist’s article on this, in which she says that men who prefer their women having baby-like-pubes are most likely suffering from pedophilia, so women should think twice about catering to those sort of fetishes.

  16. ramesh

    October 3, 2010 at 7:52 am

    oh dear that post made me blush from ear to ear ..

  17. Amrita

    October 4, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    @Padma/ Gomu / RP – 😀

    @bhel – hee hee. thanks.

    @Adithya – I probably would have been that girl if that benighted school I transferred to hadn’t forced me to cover everything up. 😀

    @Veena – pageant kids are the worst and no amount of positive spin is going to change my opinion on that.

    @A&N – lol!

    @Sumedha – I can’t stand the stubble so I prefer waxing to shaving but I have to say I would never subject a kid to it.

    @Banno – I’ll probably be more liberal than my parents but somewhere there is a line and this one is mine.

    @Memsaab – not that you’re pessimistic or anything! 😛

    @Shalini – she has taste! 😀

    @M – honestly, remembering what I was like at that age, you’re probably better off with her where she is than locked away in a convent somewhere because I remember those girls were WILD. So yeah, no comfort here. 😀

    @Boney’em – “boney” em? HAHHAHAHAHAH! Sorry, that just caught me. And considering the number of times I’ve discussed my period on this here NSFW blog, who’m I to complain?

    @Leia – right?!
    And this is why I love meterosexuals. 😀

    @Sudha – I dont think they’re all pedophiles, but the practice did come out of porn where there was a linkage.

    @Ramesh – I have been known to have that effect 😀

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