ELLE (Canada) - - Beauty -

When it comes to per­sonal groom­ing, I’ve got a pretty lais­sez-faire at­ti­tude. I’ll do the bare min­i­mum—take one look at my inch-long roots and you’ll know what I’m talk­ing about. But tak­ing care of my hair down there has al­ways been a pri­or­ity—partly be­cause it makes me feel cleaner and partly be­cause I think it’s po­lite prac­tice from an, er, in­ti­mate stand­point. (Though it bears men­tion­ing that, just like with the hair on my head, my boyfriend never notices when I’ve had it cut.) So, you’d think that my in­her­ently low-main­te­nance at­ti­tude would make me an ideal ad­vo­cate for the in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar trend of the full-grown bush, right? Wrong.

Oddly enough, I feel a lit­tle nos­tal­gic when I think about hair re­moval. I’ll never for­get my first time. Prob­a­bly be­cause when it comes to firsts, an un­so­licited Brazil­ian bikini wax is a dif­fi­cult thing to for­get. In fact, if I had to make a list of core-shat­ter­ing ex­pe­ri­ences that shaped the fu­ture of my wom­an­hood, I’d put “sur­prise Brazil­ian” right af­ter “first or­gasm” and “fig­ur­ing out the tam­pon.”

When I moved to New York at the turn of the century, the Brazil­ian bikini wax was as de rigueur as lowrise jeans. Gwyneth Pal­trow was ex­tolling the virtues of the J Sis­ters (the pur­vey­ors of the Brazil­ian bikini wax in Amer­ica) to any­one who’d lis­ten, and en­tire episodes of Sex and the City were ded­i­cated to it. What I didn’t know, how­ever, was that tak­ing it all off had be­come stan­dard prac­tice in Man­hat­tan sa­lons. When I vis­ited a lo­cal nail spa for a rou­tine bikini wax, what re­sulted was a spon­ta­neous Brazil­ian at the hands of a bru­tally ex­pe­di­ent aes­theti­cian. I left shell-shocked, won­der­ing if I had crossed some imag­i­nary line of pro­pri­ety that good girls with mas­ter’s de­grees and pearl ear­rings weren’t meant to blur. h

Once home, I gin­gerly re­moved my pants to ex­am­ine the re­sults. I hadn’t seen that much of my­self in nearly two decades, and the ef­fect was oddly mes­mer­iz­ing. I silently wore my bare area like a badge of hon­our. It turned ev­ery­thing so­ci­ety and phys­i­ol­ogy held to be true on its head: The bare mons of my pre­teen youth was the ul­ti­mate in­di­ca­tor of my wom­an­hood. I had never felt more like a woman: clean, smooth, bold and...proud.

Last spring, when the full-bush trend be­gan to sprout in pop­u­lar cul­ture, I found it dis­con­cert­ing. Was I re­ally ex­pected to ca­su­ally sport an un­ruly thicket of hair, like Gaby Hoff­mann did on Girls? The win­ter is­sue of Candy fea­tured a hir­sute Lady Gaga on the cover, and in Jan­uary, Amer­i­can Ap­parel dis­played man­nequins in merkins in its down­town Man­hat­tan store­front—prov­ing that this trend was, in­deed, mov­ing into the main­stream. Long-time Brazil­ian sup­port­ers are start­ing to wa­ver too. Pal­trow copped to “work­ing a ’70s vibe” on The Ellen DeGeneres Show last spring, and Cameron Diaz, who told U.K. tele­vi­sion host Gra­ham Nor­ton in 2012 that she once force­fully pinned down a friend and trimmed her wild pu­bic hair (al­legedly it was Pal­trow), pub­lished The Body Book in Jan­uary of this year ad­mon­ish­ing the prac­tice. In a chap­ter en­ti­tled “In Praise of Pubes,” she cel­e­brates what she calls “pretty lit­tle drap­ing” and lashes out at laser hair re­moval: “I think per­ma­nent laser hair re­moval sounds like a crazy idea. For­ever? I know you may think you’ll be wear­ing the same style of shoes for­ever and the same style of jeans for­ever, but you won’t.”

That pu­bic-hair groom­ing points to the zeit­geist of any par­tic­u­lar mo­ment isn’t sur­pris­ing. Just look at Play­boy through­out the decades and you’ll see that circa 1970s bun­nies liked to match the cur­tains to the drapes (both fluffy afros), whereas those of the turn of the mil­len­nium pre­ferred blowouts and bare­ness. Dr. Vivi­enne Cass, a Western Aus­tralia-based sex ther­a­pist and au­thor of The Elu­sive Or­gasm, says that al­though there are no stud­ies to sup­port the hy­poth­e­sis that porn has dic­tated how women groom their pu­bic hair, there is an un­mis­tak­able cor­re­la­tion. “Het­ero­sex­ual males who watch enor­mous amounts of In­ter­net porn and ab­sorb im­ages of what they see as part of their own sex­ual de­vel­op­ment present such im­ages to the women in their lives,” she says. “Male pref­er­ences can eas­ily be­come trans­lated into ex­pec­ta­tions that women take on for them­selves.”

Did any one par­tic­u­lar man shape my ten­den­cies for how I wear my pu­bic hair? Not di­rectly, but I’m sure the col­lec­tive push for less bush in­flu­enced me. In my pre-Brazil­ian days, I watched a scene in a spoof film of a guy tak­ing a weed whacker to his girl­friend’s un­tamed pu­bic hair. I hoped that the boyfriend watch­ing with me didn’t think it re­lated to him. I’m not say­ing that Scary Movie 2 forced me to re­think my pubes, but I’m not deny­ing it ei­ther.

The male in­flu­ence on women’s per­sonal groom­ing is be­ing con­sid­ered. Cre­ative agency Mother Lon­don launched a cam­paign called “Project Bush” last Oc­to­ber with the aim of re­brand­ing fem­i­nism. Its tar­get: porn. “The pro­lif­er­a­tion of In­ter­net porn over the past 10 years has cre­ated a gen­er­a­tion of women and men who think that the only way to be sexy is to have no pu­bic hair,” says Liam Fay-Fright, com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor for Mother Lon­don. Project Bush’s goal was to “take back the bush,” he says, and in­volved invit­ing women from all walks of life to anony­mously have their pu­bic area pho­tographed and ex­hib­ited. But even he ad­mits that part of how we wear our hair down there is as con­tin­gent on trend as any other hair­style. “We wax and wane on what we con­sider beau­ti­ful,” says Fay-Fright. “Ten years ago, shaved was the niche in porn; now the niche in porn is for a full bush.”

Like an LBD or a clas­sic bob, some things are less about fash­ion and more about ev­er­last­ing style. Jes­sica Framp­ton and Florence Gaven-Ros­savik, the own­ers of Fuzz Wax Bar, which has two lo­ca­tions in Toronto, say that the Brazil­ian is still their most pop­u­lar ser­vice, but de­mand for mod­i­fi­ca­tion, like leav­ing a “land­ing strip” or a tri­an­gle of hair, is grow­ing. “Even when they’re not tak­ing it all off, clients are still com­ing in for rou­tine cleanups along the sides, and trims,” says Framp­ton. In New York sa­lons, the “full­bush Brazil­ian” is the new thing. It con­sists of re­mov­ing the hair from the back­side and labia while let­ting it grow free on top, in a re­verse-mul­let style. (Though one could ar­gue that when it comes to that body re­gion, the busi­ness and the party are in­ter­change­able.) What­ever you want to call it, the fact re­mains that “[women are] def­i­nitely not shift­ing to a com­pletely au na­turel look,” adds Framp­ton.

And nei­ther am I. From time to time, I still go in for the full bush­whack­ing (!!) be­cause I want to and I like it, and, as a friend once pointed out, it makes me feel like my skinny jeans fit bet­ter. I may let the roots on my head peek through, but not my roots down there. It’s some­thing that I will con­tinue to do, just for me and my mons. ■

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