Bare Down There
One of my secret pleasures is going to the aesthetician's office for my weekly "manscaping" session.
While some men frown on it, I find it to be a necessity because of changing trends in men's underwear. I know you agree with me that nothing's more unsightly than having some stray peri-anal hairs sticking out of your man thong.
It's just so... so gauche.
Okay, I'm kidding. I've never had a wax job down there, nor have I ever even considered one. Feel better?
HOWEVER, I have considered getting the hair removed from my chest. It's not because I have any illusions of being a smooth-skinned boy toy. Granted, it is because of vanity, but it's not because I want to show off my pecs.
The thing is, I'm a thermogenic bastard. My body temp runs a little high, and if the thermometer's a click over 69 degrees, or if I just had a sizeable meal, or if I did anything more strenuous than walking casually, I get as hot and steamy as Jessica Simpson's bouncy little ass in that Dukes of Hazard movie.
So I wear T-shirts whenever possible, thin T-shirts.
But because I lift, my T-shirts are invariably tight. As a result, I get this lumpy, matted hair look. It's like when I tell the twins, Gucci and Thor, to clean up their room, and instead of actually putting things away, they just throw everything on the bed and toss a bedspread over it.
Better yet, you know how when your date falls asleep and you get bored, so you grab her nylons and high heels off the floor and slip into the bathroom to try them on, but then the bitch catches you and takes a picture with her cell phone and threatens to post them on the Internet unless you give a her a thousand dollars?
It plain looks ridiculous...unless you first shave your legs, of course.
That's what my chest looks like when I wear a T-shirt.
Granted, I could wear bigger T-shirts, but they'd have so much extra material around the waist that I'd look like one of the artist Cristo's projects. First there was that Reichstag thing, and now, Blond Man draped in cotton with Hooter's logo.
So when I met an aesthetician who does laser hair removal, she invited me to come into her office for a consult. She could tell I was hesitant so she told me that it was no big deal and that she even lasers the hair off her pubes.
Frankly, I'm not used to women being so candid with me, but I think I managed to keep a straight face and carry on a reasonably mature conversation. Ah, who knows? All I could think about was her naked, feet in straps, with a Buck-Rogers type shooting a ray gun at her hoo-hah.
For all I know, I might have nodded sagely and told her that going bare down there was a good idea because it gives the terrorists one less place to hide, or that it might help with that global warming thing.
I didn't commit to an appointment, but the whole thing got me thinking about hair removal in general, whether it was a recent phenomenon, or, as most fashion often is, simply a trend that's resurfacing.
After researching the topic, I was surprised to find out anthropologists have found flint blades dating back to 30,000 B.C. that might have been used by primitive man to shave his beastly face.
A little more recently, the Sumerians were said to use tweezers to remove errant hairs, while ancient Arabians used string, deftly wrapping each individual hair in fine twine and twanging the sucker out.
Copper razors appeared in both Egypt and India about 3,000 B.C., while elaborate bronze razors in leather carrying cases have been unearthed from Danish burial mounds from about 1500 B.C.
The early Egyptians, however, took the practice of shaving to an extreme. They regarded a totally smooth, hairless body as the standard of beauty. Every upper class Egyptian woman took great pains to ensure that she didn't have a single hair on her body, except for the top of her head. They apparently used primitive versions of Nair that were made with honey and oil.
The Greeks later adopted this smooth ideal. They too considered a hairless body to be representative of youth and beauty and it's not hard to believe this because of the sculptures of women that we still see in art museums. (The statues representing males did, however, show pubic hair.)
The Romans, copycats of the Greeks that they were, didn't like hair either, pubic or otherwise. Young girls began removing it with tweezers as soon as it first appeared. They also used depilatory creams, some made from resin, pitch, ivy gum extract, she-goat's gall, ass's fat, bat's blood, and powdered viper, which, coincidentally, are also the ingredients in a new supplement I saw advertised in MuscleMag.
Similarly, Islam has a long tradition of hair removal. It was because of them, apparently, that the custom spread to Europe, allegedly through returning Crusaders (1096-1270). Supposedly, many castles were built between 1200 and 1600 AD that contained special rooms where ladies of the court could gather together to shave. While I've never seen real proof of this, I guess it's not hard to believe the custom existed, especially when you look at the paintings of voluptuous nudes that were done in subsequent centuries, most notably by Peter Paul Rubens.
And according to legend, 19th century art critic and philosopher John Ruskin took his new bride to bed on their wedding night and was so disgusted to find his wife had pubic hair that he was unable to consummate the marriage.
Pubic shaving, however, did start to experience a decline around the reign of Catherine De Medici, who forbade her ladies in waiting to remove their pubic hair. It was supposedly still widely practiced, though, until the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901), whose prudish — hence the term Victorian — sensibilities trickled down into the culture.
Still, if you look at the porn — or "blue" — movies of the 1920's and 30's, you'll see the amount of pubic hair sported by the actresses varied from full to in-between to none. One wonders if one of those films was the inspiration for Hitler's look. Anyhow, even though it was repressed by society, the practice of shaving the pubes appeared to survive, but just barely.
This avoidance of pubic shaving also led to a decline in body hair removal among European and Americans in general. Fewer women shaved their legs or their arms. That started to change, though, when women's clothing styles started showing bare arms and legs in the 1920's. Armpit shaving was also rare until, as legend has it, Harper's Bazaar magazine featured a model in a sleeveless evening gown that showed hairless armpits. Soon after, razor manufacturer Wilkinson Sword started a campaign to convince women that underarm hair was "unhygienic and unfeminine."
The sales of razors doubled in the next two years.
Removal of pubic hair stayed underground, though, until the invention of the bikini swimsuit. As the suits became skimpier and skimpier, women started paying more attention to their pelvic hairlines. Still, if like me, you sneaked into your dad's closet when you were a kid to look at his Playboys and Penthouses, you'll remember that for the most part, women still sported full bushes, albeit, inexplicably, with staples in them.
The practice of going bare down there has recently resurfaced — with a vengeance — because of a combination of factors: Internet porn, skimpier fashions, and the advent of new high-powered lasers.
According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, about 1.4 million Americans underwent the procedure last year. Granted, there are no statistics on specific body parts, but anecdotally at least, a good percentage of those Americans were females who went in to get their pubes lasered.
According to Karyn Grossman, a dermatologist in Santa Monica, California, as quoted in the New York Times, "...I can think of almost no female patients who come in with natural pubic hair. Either they have nothing left, or they have a small patch that is two inches by half an inch, but the trend is towards having it all gone."
Biologists might tell us that this is a regrettable practice, that pubic hair acts as a barrier to disease and that it disseminates pheromones, but today's men and women don't seem to care about stuff like that.
Women probably do it because men like it, and men like it...well, men don't probably know why they like it. It's like trying to explain why we like breasts, or asses. It's like trying to figure out why we like big strong women who look like Dave Tate to cradle us in their arms while singing, in a rich baritone, "Hush little baby, don't you cry, momma's gonna' sing you a lullaby..."
But who knows, that last turn-on could just be personal thing, Beats me. Anyhow, we're simply turned on by various things that probably can't be explained.
Psychologists, however, usually can't help taking a stab at explaining these things, along with trying to explain the resurgence of pubic shaving. According to Nancy Etcoff, author of Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty, humans have long equated hairiness with beasts and hairlessness with beauty and femininity. "There's also an erotic, sexual component to hairlessness because your skin is more sensitive when it's more exposed. Women today are emulating porn stars who have no pubic hair, and I think men like it."
Sounds right to me.
It's no secret that bodybuilders and assorted gym dandies shave their bodies, too, but this is of course purely because of vanity. What good is having a defined musculature if you've got enough body hair to be on the short list for the lead role in the bio-pic about the life of Koko the talking gorilla?
Yet it's hard for someone who has traditional views of masculinity to feel entirely comfortable with the notion of shaving his body or getting lasered. It boggles the mind to think of Clint Eastwood, Gary Cooper, Steve McQueen, or any traditionally masculine man with his leg lathered up with shaving cream and hiked up onto the edge of the tub.
"Hey babe, hand me that glass of scotch and, while you're at it, that Lady Bic."
And similarly, it's hard for me to imagine getting my chest hair removed. It just doesn't sit right. Maybe I should just move to Northern Manitoba where you need a thick coat of hair to keep warm.
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