When you think of the reasons you would be on the receiving end of a handwritten thank you note, it's not because you were the recipient of a Brazilian waxing. I opened my mailbox on Tuesday morning to find a letter addressed to me; "Dear Mara, Thank you for coming to see me for your waxing. It was such a pleasure to meet you and I look forward to seeing you again." I was raised by Emily Post's Jewish sister, well if she had one, and learned to write thank you notes for pretty much everything; "Dear Officer Smith, Thank you for presenting me with a speeding ticket; Dear Aunt Sadie, Thank you for the case of prune juice, its been helpful; Dear Lisa, Thank you for inviting me to your sleep-over party, it was really fun, especially when you guys played that silly game of sticking my hand in hot water and hiding my underwear"... You get my point. But I'm confident that a thank you note for providing a service of hair removal, is not what Ms. Post intended.
While I greatly appreciate this considerate gesture, it calls to my attention the reason why I only recently received a Brazilian wax once since moving to the Bay Area (and received a thank you in return). My lack of grooming was not because I moved to a place which embraces all things natural or due to my love of 1970's style. I did get waxed, I just couldn't go "all the way," aka "Brazilian," my preferred waxing style of choice. I couldn't wrap my arms around "why?" because the attention to detail and professionalism is unparalleled in my short experience living in San Francisco. It was almost as if the San Francisco beauty industry read the same case study on a gynecological visit in my college Introduction to Feminism course.
Each step of the gynecological visit has a purpose which separates the patient from their sexual organs. During an exam, a woman's vagina and breasts are separated from her face by a white medical sheet. This is all intentional in order to maintain the medical formality of this type of exam, ensuring that both patient and doctor are comfortable. I remember my first visit to a gynecologist, at thirteen, and I recall removing my clothing before the male doctor had time to leave the room -- "Mara! Mara! Wait until I leave the room." Meanwhile, I sat trying to figure out how to drape my body with what seemed to be a large paper towel with a large vertical slit -- 'did the slit belong in the front? Did it belong in the back?' I became anxious in those few minutes waiting for my exam only because I was having a wrestling match with the "required" medical sheet. But the aforementioned case study has a purpose of making women feel more comfortable, but for me, the structure and formality riddled me with anxiety. In the Bay Area, it seems that beauty shops have read this case study and apply it when waxing the bikini area.
As a new resident in San Francisco, I finally scheduled an appointment for my regular waxing. I walked into the appointment with the intention of receiving my usual brazilian waxing, but I left with something quite different. I didn't go all the way, and I will tell you why. The waxer was lovely; she handed me disposable panties, and asked me to change into them while she left the room. This was a first for me. She kindly knocked and entered after I said come in. She then explained in detail the waxing options -- I said Brazilian. She asked me professionally with each step, to please move my leg in certain positions. It was all pleasant and formal. When it came to the more intimate part of the hair removal, I decided I couldn't go that far. I explained that since I won't be wearing a bikini any time soon, a mild bikini waxing will suit me just fine. But the real reason was I just felt uncomfortable -- it was so formal and appropriate I didn't feel comfortable having her see me in such an intimate way. I missed Miami.
But a few months later, because I couldn't fly to Miami to get waxed, I had to get over my issues with formality. I met a lovely aesthetician at my gym, and she performed the procedure. She was great. A few days later, I received her lovely hand written thank you note. Imagine my shock. In Miami, my bikini waxer would "shush" me if I said "ow" above a light whisper because she didn't want me to interrupt her heated argument with her boyfriend (via cell phone, thank goodness). In the Bay Area, I get thank you notes for the great opportunity to wax my private area.
Many of you will assume I'm poking fun of Miami and its reputation of being a city with poor service -- but not at all. I love that in Miami, I got waxed with one hand while the aesthetician was yelling into her cell phone. And I mean it! This behavior took all the formality out of the equation, making me totally comfortable with my leg in a position only meant for a professional gymnast. If I felt a reminder to pay attention was necessary, I would mention that I had vital organs that I didn't want damaged.
This desire to receive a Brazilian wax is only because I grew up in a tropical climate. In Miami you live in bikinis and shorts that are way too short, and have to pay particular attention to an area that should not be in danger of being exposed -- I guess that's another issue to be explored. Yes, I did receive my first Brazilian waxing at age seventeen and this all points to a conversation regarding the early sexualization of females, and the disturbing nature of removing hair to resemble our pre-pubescent selves. But let's just shy away from the real depth I could be exposing and focus on the comedy.
In Miami, there were two famous women who waxed everyone. They spoke Spanish and reminded me of abuelas (grandmothers). They were sweet and nurturing with an heir of no bullshit. You arrived at your appointment and surrendered. These experts would do ALL the work, including moving your legs in the various positions while you read the latest issue of Hola. Before you had time to learn how a certain Latin soap opera star got fuller lips, the abuelas were finished. It was all so quick, leaving you absolutely no time to be uncomfortable. No small talk or banter -- this was business... with a sweet Miami kiss at the end of the session.
So while I appreciate the Emily Post nature of the professional Bay Area waxer, I miss the informality of Miami. My mother did a great job instilling manners and a level of thoughtfulness in me, which I find incredibly important. I will say I've been slacking in the thank you note department. Receiving such a kind note was part comedy and part reminder.
Maybe it's just me. Maybe it's most people. Even when I walk into a clothing store with perfect racks that are color coordinated and knowledgeable sales people, I lose interest in shopping. I want messy. I want informality -- that's just what makes me feel secure. And I find that in wildly intimate situations, being quick and somewhat distracted (as long as no body parts are injured) may be the key to ensuring my contentment. Informing me of every step taken, prior to taking the step, only causes unneeded anxiety and time to be uncomfortable. In closing, when performing hair removal on this writer, please scream into your cell phone at your "good for nothing boyfriend."