I am brave. Or maybe just blissfully unaware of danger. At night, I walk alone down alleys. In inclement weather, I drive at regular speed. Perhaps I am cavalier about body hair removal. When the bikini waxer I know well isn’t available, I see someone else.
Why do I get manicures, pedicures, eyebrow and bikini waxes? No good reason — just because my previous ones have come undone.
I enter into the salon to be waxed with little preparation for what is to come. My mind wanders. What should I eat for lunch? How long will it be until peach season?
“I think my appointment is with Bebe,” I say to the receptionist’s heavy horn-rimmed glasses, noting her platinum hair and bright magenta lipstick. Why don’t I have good lipstick? Why did my younger sister get the sultry lips in the family?
“Well, Bebe isn’t here right now. She’s been away. Your appointment is with Deidre. Is that okay?”
“Sure, that’s fine.” Is that fine?
“You can wait over there.” She gestures to an uncomfortably tall stool. You can wait.
I can wait. I take a seat, regretting leaving my book in the car. Everyone else waiting has a phone out, so I get mine out. After ten to twelve boring minutes, I hear my name called, mispronounced, as usual. Why do people always get Sheila right, but Leila wrong? When someone pronounces my name correctly, I feel an instant kinship, a gratitude. Not today.
"Excuse me?" Maybe I am mishearing her. Who would she have with her? A friend, a lover? A ghost only she can hear, a la Whoopie Goldberg and Patrick Swayzee in Ghost?
The woman mispronouncing my name is petite and Asian, with a tidy silver bob. I cannot understand the small talk she attempts as we walk to the back room, and not just because English is her second language; I also have bad hearing. I have never been to this particular room before, but it is a mirror image of the rooms in which I have been waxed, so I feel plenty oriented. She does not need to tell me the protocol: she will exit the room, and I will remove my pants and underwear, and I will lie on the table which is covered in crisp white paper for sanitary reasons. Why is the removing of clothing granted privacy in this ritual? The result is that the waxer will be given even better access to my private nether parts. Anyway. She exits. I do what I am supposed to do.
A knock at the door. This is normal. This means, “Can I come in, or am I catching you at a bad time?”
Before I can say the obligatory “Come in,” the petite silver-haired waxer says something unexpected from the other side of the door.
“I have someone with me.” What? This is not in the script. I am too confused to respond.
“I have someone here with me.”
“Excuse me?” Maybe I am mishearing her. Who would she have with her? A friend, a lover? A ghost only she can hear, like Whoopie Goldberg and Patrick Swayze in the excellent film Ghost?
A different voice, louder, more insistent, with an American English accent, says, “Trainee. Training.” Trainee, training? It takes me a moment to realize this is not a verb conjugation or a song. There is an impatient waxer-in-training standing on the other side of the door with the Asian master waxer, both strangers to me, together about to pull out my pubic hair by the roots.
I feel I have no choice, so I say, “Come on in.” I have to be polite. I have to go with the flow. I have to value education; I’m a teacher, for god’s sake. They come in. The trainee is a young girl wearing leggings as pants, with thick brown hair carefully curled. They get straight to work. I close my eyes and pretend I am elsewhere, somewhere warm and sandy.
“Oh, this one is easy,” the master waxer says, checking me out. I am flattered. I am easy in a good way.
“Start here,” she says, slapping down hot wax. “Breathe,” the master says, to both her client and her student, as she rips the wax “in this direction, see?”
“Easy!” the trainee says. “I’m not worried about the easy ones,” she adds, leaning in conspiratorially. I cannot decide if I am supposed to make small talk with the trainee when she is so close to my face. Should I ask if she comes here often?
“This is my favorite side,” master waxer says of my right side, “Because lady can lean her leg against the wall.” To prove her point, I exaggeratedly lean my leg.
“But!” the waxer warns, “Lady feel very sensitive now, blood go straight to heart!” I notice my heart pounding in my throat. She again applies and removes a river of hot wax.
“Done!” she announces, clapping her two hands together.
“Thank you,” the trainee says. I open my eyes.
“You are welcome,” I say, remembering my manners. I look down at my pubic hair. It looks amazing.