Hairy Situations

Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I can remember every detail about the first time I waxed my legs, down to the mumu my mom was wearing as she taught me how. I was in the sixth grade and my mom was finally letting me get rid of the hair on my legs that I had been painfully aware of for at least a year, when Tiffany B. called me out during kick ball in gym. "Don't you know how to shave your legs?" she sneered, kicking that horrible red rubber ball--in my estimation--directly at my face. My retort was genius: "Huh?" I said.

I think I was a bit of a late-bloomer. I certainly must have noticed that my fifth-grade legs had long black hairs on them, while my friends Christy and Meredith had shiny, squeaky, hairless legs. How do you not notice that? But I didn't feel self-conscious about it until Tiffany's comment. And, afterwards, it was pretty much all I could think about. When we were at the grocery store and the checker would ask me what grade I was in, I would think he was making fun of the hair on my legs. I started wearing jeans in 90 degree Michigan weather. I begged my mom to let me shave my legs but she was adamant in her refusal. "You'll thank me later," she said. "Once you start you can't go back."

Then--the magical night. In retrospect, it seems almost cavewoman-like. My mom heated this strange, small tin of wax on the open flame while my sister and I looked on in awe. (My lucky sister--getting to wax HER legs when she was TWO YEARS younger than I!) Then we sat on the newspaper covered tile of our groundfloor bathroom and applied the hot wax to our legs with what, in my sister's and my opinion, looked like giant popsicle sticks, after which we covered the goopy mess with "muslin"--a word, for some reason, that made my sister, mom and I laugh. (Still does). Then: YANK. And: OUCH. And: WOW!

I was hooked and, twenty years out, I am here to tell you that my mom was right (hope you're reading mom)--waxing is MUCH better than shaving, a fact I have come to realize after I started to shave in an oh-so-radical bout of college rebellion...! I quickly saw the error of my ways ("you have to do this every day?") and reverted back. And, after meeting many Indian women during college, grad school, and married life, I have come to realize that hair--and its removal, goddamit--are truly part of the South Asian woman's experience. Sure, it sounds trivial. The Devi woman deals with issues of gender inequality, marginalization, and exotification, sometimes on a daily basis--but get a group of Indian women together and I guarantee you, the stories about how hairiness has played a role in their lives will make you laugh and cry as much as the stories of diasporatic frenzy and social isolation.

Now, of course, what was once a privilege has become a chore. I am waiting for the invention of the half hour "we'll take all the hair off your body" procedure. Till then though...

We all know about the usual suspects: Razors, Depilitories (who does this? anyone?), Waxing and Threading. And there is a host of options if you are going to go to a professional (laser hair removal and electrolysis being the most popular). Here is a selection of some of the newest at-home choices for us wonderful, albeit hirsute, Devis (with or without babies--and the stuff that babies do to a Devi's hair is too much to cover in this particular post...!).

Emjoi hair removal: Don't be scared by any Epi-lady flashbacks. We've come a long way. I've tried this and, while it utlizes technology that sounds eerily similar to the 80s Epilady, there are built-in functions centered around "pain reduction," such as plates that massage the skin as the hair is being yanked. And skin is noticeably smoother than it is post-shaving.

No!No!: No!No! wants you to be realistic. It promises that if you use it 2-3 times a week, for 8 weeks, it will reduce your unwanted hair by 65%. The upside is that, after this 8 weeks, you are supposed to see an obvious reducton in re-growth. No!No! uses "gentle heat wave" technology that destroys hair at the root, and claims to provide the same results as laser hair removal and electrolysis. I am in week one of this product (I am using it on my "moustache") so I will update you in 7 weeks. In the meantime, take heart that the claims thus far are true: No!No! postures itself as "pain free" and it really is. The pricetag is steep ($250), but if it really works, imagine all the waxing/threading/time you will save.

Gigi hair removal strips: Yes, these are just plain, old-school, garden-variety wax strips, but they are the best I have ever found.

Threading at home: I have not ever tried to thread at home but my cousins are absolute experts. Check out these instructions and this video if you want to give it a whirl.

Those well-versed in the at-home hair removal lingo may have heard about Tria--the Rolls Royce of at-home lasers, currently being sold at Barneys and the like. But word to the wise--Tria is not recommended for anybody with darker skin. Stay away.

Any tips to share ladies?

13 comments:
Jackie P said...

This photo had me laughing on my commute and as silly as it may seem i DO think beauty rituals including rituals about hair bond women. You are a great writer! I am curious about the NONO product and I hope you will keep us updated on how successful it is.

Anonymous said...

It is actually very easy to learn how to thread yourself. http://www.videojug.com/film/how-to-thread-eyebrows

Anonymous said...

the three words every woman wants to hear ate not I love you. They are laser hair removal! I finally got it done lady year and it was the best thing I've ever done!

Anonymous said...

okay I cannot even explain how much agony my hairiness issues caused me. I even tried to bleach the hair on my face once because my friends told me it would help. An Indian girl with a blonde moustache . Great right?????? I am terrified for my kids!! Don't want them to go through the same teasing I did. So definitle keep writing about new hair removal stuff!!!!!

Regina said...

After years of shaving, waxing and threading, I just started trying laser. It's absolutely amazing, how much less hair there is after one treatment. Also, the hair follicle seems like it's shrinking, which means smoother skin! ;-) Here's where I go in Houston, owned by a devi doc.
www.ballebliss.com

monica said...

deepa, if i've told you once i've told you a thousand times: please stop using photos of me in your posts!!!

TH said...

Ha. I don't think I ever really understood the pains Indian women go through in relation to hair till my girlfriend moved in with me. I have a whole new appreciation. And, yes, a whole new level of fear. Nice blog.

parutron said...

tee hee. i laughed out loud when you wrote "muslin" before i even read that you predicted i would.......

i also remember that we didn't know you could reuse said muslin so we were surrounded by it by the end of our endeavor - waxy hairy muslin everywheeeeere!!

Anonymous said...

I have come to believe that the ties that bind us are intrinsically important. Women are bound by ritual. What makes the rituals surrounding childbirth and child rearing any more "important" than those surrounding what we do for beauty? The answer is nothing.

Nikki said...

No!No! is LIFE CHANGING. seriously. highly recommend it.

aimee said...

dude. i was also a seriously hairy 6th grader and my mom would not let me shave until i went to 6 weeks of sex ed training at...church!! it was awful. i had to write a promise to god that i would not have sex until marriage and then bury it in the churchyard. i also learned that using tampons "may be considered" a loss of virginity by churchgoing young men, one of whom came into our classroom and told us how he'd had sex once (at age 17) and had felt "dirty" ever since. did i want to feel similarly dirty until marriage? in hindsight, the answer was clearly "yes, please!" thanks, mom!

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