Becoming a lady can be something of a minefield, fraught with disaster at every wrong turn. There are questions that you’re not supposed to ask, things that you’re just expected to know. There are no rewards for getting them right, but the penalties for getting them wrong are severe. One playground joke about wanting to grow up to be a My Little Pony will still haunt you ten years later, for example.
In the changing rooms of high schools across the country, nowhere is this more of an issue than when it comes to the matter of body hair.
Now before you start, this is not about body hair as a feminist issue. I get that, but that’s because I’m nearly thirty and no longer care what my peers think, and because they’re nearly thirty and have realised there are more important things to worry about. This is about being thirteen or fourteen and having enough reason to get called names. So this is not a post with a feminist agenda, and I’m sure the boys have their own horror stories.
Legs and underarms are easy – whether to shave or wax is really the only question because it’s coming off regardless. You learn quickly to tidy up your eyebrows. Those of us with a bit of Mediterranean in our blood can play around with depilatory creams we wish, but we realise quickly that it’s best just to bleach it. It’s the bits below the surface that are a bit more difficult. As long as you look tidy in a swimsuit, sure, but how do you know if you’re doing what you’re supposed to?
It’s the thing nobody talks about. Not with your female relatives, not with – good lord – your classmates, not in the problem pages of More magazine which is pretty much where every Catholic schoolgirl learned what a blowjob was in the late 1990s. I suppose these days there is easier access to internet-based pornography but girls, if you’re taking lessons from those ladies you’re not going to get anywhere. I’ve yet to meet the man who thinks the perfectly plucked chicken look is in any way normal. I think I’ll laugh at him when I do.
Then you grow up, and you realise – spoilers – that there isn’t an answer. You do what you’re comfortable with because, frankly, nobody really cares. You probably don’t learn this before the first time you shave a little too closely and have to deal with what it feels like growing back in, but that’s a right of passage anyway and gives you an excuse to use up the body lotion that ends up in every one of those cute toiletry sets from Boots that make fill-in birthday presents from people who don’t really know you.
Why had I never had any kind of waxing treatment before now? Just never got around to it, I guess. Shaving is cheap and can be done without resorting to an appointment. You might have to do your legs every other day, but who’s really going to allow for a fortnight’s growth in the middle of summer when there are pretty dresses to be worn? And people say it hurts, as well: when I told my sister that I’d put waxing on my list, she told me that I wouldn’t like the pain. That was until she remembered I had two tattoos and I’d drifted off through the second one.
When Jehane stumbled across a beauty salon which claimed to offer the “Glaswegian wax”, we knew it was the perfect fit for this project because nobody seemed to know what it was. We asked our friends, searched the internet and put the question out on Twitter, but none of the responses were sensible. As the proverbial waxing virgin with no expectations about what I was going to get out of the experience it struck me as a twofer – I could cross something off my list while performing some kind of service to the community. In sacrificing myself, what I was doing was investigative journalism! Here are some of the suggestions we got on Twitter the morning of the appointment:
“Glasgow’s too cold for them to take anything off!” (my colleague, Claire)
“I predict you’re walking out of there with one eyebrow.” (@DameLola_)
“Does that involve candles fae Lidl?” (@Stu_Lewis)
“Surely they trim you to look like a poke of chips?” (@gj_thewhite, who was so amused by the project he showed up to escort us to the salon and make sure we went through with it)
“I hope for your sake it doesn’t involve deep-frying anything.” (@sarahsea)
“Do they punch you in the vagina after the wax? Is that it?” (@stephoodle
The reality was always going to be more prosaic. Well, as prosaic as you can get when the question is one of intimate topiary.
“It was the idea of one of the girls who used to work here,” explains Christine, my beauty therapist. “We call it the Glaswegian because ‘this isnae Hollywood’.”
So, they don’t normally get first-time jokers like myself in off the street asking without a clue what it involves?
“Not usually. If that’s what they’re after, they’ll just ask for a Hollywood. So, are we taking it all off?”
While I’d initially told Jehane, who was going in after me, that I wasn’t going to spoil the surprise I felt that merited a quick text message while I was removing my underwear.
Simply Bliss is a hairdresser, nail technician and beautician located by Charing Cross, Glasgow. It’s warm and smells comfortably chemical. The brand is owned by Christine’s son, who’s out this evening overseeing a new hair salon open above Pizza Hut on Sauchiehall Street. It’s pretty evident that the staff all have a sense of humour, although as I notice some customers of a male disposition having haircuts as I head for the treatment room I make a mental note to keep any screaming to a minimum.
As a first-timer I’d expected to feel a little awkward with my dress hitched up above my waist and a small towel covering my intimates, but as I tell Christine about my blog and this project and we chatter away, her answering all my silly questions, I completely forget how exposed I am. I suppose, in this line of work, even the furriest muff is merely the equivalent of a crappy local band’s flashy Myspace profile in mine. Although no promises are made that the procedure won’t hurt, I’m assured that the more you get waxed the thinner the hair grows back in – and consequently, the less difficult it is to remove. “I could lie here and let you wax me all day,” says Christine cheerfully, although I’m pretty sure she means that figuratively rather than literally.
I stretch my skin to minimise discomfort as the warm sticky mixture is applied and am told to take a deep breath and then breathe out, quickly. As I puff I hear a ripping noise, but I don’t really feel much at all. Here was me thinking that I’d maybe get a dummy run! Apparently not. It’s not really needed. I’ll spare you the dramatic retelling but I’d probably liken it to my first tattoo – you’re keenly aware that it’s happening almost as a curiosity at first and by about halfway through you’re pretty much ready for it to be over, but it’s certainly something I could go through to save myself some hassle on a monthly basis. I’m definitely thinking about legs too, although perhaps after the summer for the reasons above. I don’t think Christine quite believes me for the amount that I’m shaking, but that’s only because she hasn’t met me before and isn’t aware that’s the norm when I’m needing my dinner. When that follows it’s cheap tapas and free wine, the savings promptly overruled by dessert and copious amounts of sangria as we toast a mission succesfully completed and a check mark on the list.
I’m definitely considering revisiting Simply Bliss when I have the money for my Karen Gillan haircut – and, next month, might even go back for the Glasvegas..!
LOCATION: 101 St Georges Rd, G3 6JA
TELEPHONE: 0141 332 5544
OPEN: 10am-6pm 7 days, late night opening on Thursdays til 9pm
[*Image credit: Danny North]