THE BLOG

Female Hair Removal: Why I Love/Hate My Electrolysist

10/26/2011 08:30 am ET | Updated Dec 25, 2011

How many times in my life have I laid flat on my back with my legs spread in front of a stranger? I'm not talking about my love life, Friends. I'm talking about something potentially more important: hair removal.

From a safe distance, it's actually an intriguing ritual we put ourselves through: Take off your pants, lay back, work your hip flexors, and let someone you've just met rip out stubborn, unwanted hair from the region you usually keep most concealed. It awkward. It's amazingly painful. But the strangest aspect of the experience is that a woman can develop a very positive relationship with the person who does this to her.

I don't mean addiction to the pain, though there is that (you know what they say: it makes the hurt on the inside so much easier to bear). I mean allegiance to the individual. In some countries, like Sweden, they call this Stockholm Syndrome. I call it Trusting Deborah.

I found my hair removal heroine when I was only 13. You could say that eyebrows were my gateway hair. In the throes of early adolescent vanity, I begged my mother to bring me to the salon, whereupon I learned that hair removal is some sort of bizarre female bonding experience in our family. One of my aunts was already in a chair. And now I was about to be inducted into this painful, but necessary, procedure. "Deborah will take good care of you," my mother said.

Here's how it works: You lay on a flat chair, reclined all the back way to a horizontal, prone, and helpless position. Next, your electrolysist -- in my case a kind looking Midwestern woman -- takes a very tiny needle and injects it into the root of your hair, then zaps it. Depending on how stubborn the hair is, you need a varying amount of electricity. My hair stood in mockery of anything but the very highest voltage.

To watch other females in my family go through this, you would think they were having their eyebrows lovingly brushed. That is because they have the pain tolerance found only in women who have repeatedly refused epidurals. I, on the other hand, have as much resistance to pain as a daisy does to a blizzard. Once my visits to Deborah became a regular thing, I learned to make it through the first five minutes of a 15-minute session before the tears, the sobs, the wailing began. Yet it was in reaction to this behavior that Deborah's patient magnanimity presented itself.

Despite the emotional outbursts, she remained calm and committed. She adopted my cause -- to enter high school with two eyebrows, not just one -- as her own. She had been teased mercilessly when she was a girl in her small, rural hometown for her own hair growth, and she wanted to make sure other girls didn't go through the same thing. And so she attacked, without mercy. The hair would be expunged! Every minute in that chair was excruciating, but every time I left, I was so grateful for her perseverance.

I saw Deborah throughout high school, meaning that my bikini line ultimately came under her authority. That might have been the most challenging point in our relationship. As I lay back in the small but warmly decorated room, she leaned over me, dark, smiling eyes framed by achingly perfect brows. She told me it wouldn't be that different from the eyebrows. I staggered out afterwards and stayed away for two months.

When I moved to college, I told myself I was happy for longer break from her. But as the hair started to grow back, I realized how much I needed Deborah. No one was so persistent, so thorough, so determined on my behalf! What did I care about the PTSD I suffered every time I left her? She got results! Soon I was seeing her every time I visited home -- and somewhere along the way I discovered a way to make our sessions go more smoothly.

Once in a great long while I have, out of nowhere, an absolutely brilliant idea, and this was one of my best: What if I attended my hair removal sessions inebriated? (If I am not the only person to have had this idea, if in fact you have taken this approach to pre-hair removal anesthesia for years, all I have to say is: Why didn't you tell me?)

With the help of a designated driver and a several shots of Grey Goose, my experiment worked perfectly. I would slide into Deborah's torture chair and slur at her to jack up the setting on the machine and have at me. What an amazing difference! With me quiet and docile, she did her work in record time, and compared to the previous agony, the subtle throbbing was quite enjoyable. Better yet, I found myself less and less trepidatious before each session.

Now, do I advocate that all women should have a glass of wine or soothing cocktail before their own hair removal sessions? Yes. Definitely. And while intoxicated, do as I do: Reflect not on the painfulness of the hair removal process or the determination so many women have to endure these treatments -- nothing new there -- but on your relationship with that person looming over your salon chair. I love her, I hate her, but ultimately, she's that person whose place of business I can stumble into drunk and emerge more ready to face the world. When I want to quit, she soldiers on. I throw a fit, and she takes me back. She'll never cut me off. Can you say that about your bartender? Your significant other? I know when I have a good thing going. Despite our differences, Deborah and I are for life.