My daughter and her BFFs were having breakfast at my kitchen counter after a sleepover. They were watching me flit about the kitchen, chopping and bagging ahead of my busy day so that we would have an easy and healthy dinner that night.
“How do you have so much energy so early in the morning?” they asked.
“I didn’t when I was your age…” I smiled.
“Tell us a story about you at our age.”
I don’t know why I instantly flashed back to the spring of 1985 when my BFFs and I decided we would try a home wax kit, courtesy of another one of my vanity-driven bright ideas. Three 16-year-olds and a home wax kit are a bad combination. When I told the girls my story they asked, “What were you thinking?” And the truth is, we weren’t.
Earlier that day in 1985, Julia, Michelle, and I spent hours at the mall trying on bathing suits and battling not only conventional teenage angst and body image, but the more concrete issue of stray bikini-line hairs creeping down our pale, sunless thighs. During the mid ‘80s teens didn’t get waxes, manicures, and pedicures on a weekly basis and our own moms just weren’t tuned into that type of stuff. Also, big hair ruled that decade, so maybe we were too busy perming north of the border to find solutions for the southern regions…
On the ride home I remembered that I had seen a friend’s mom wax her legs right in her kitchen. She was giving us lunch instructions with one leg propped up on a step stool, ripping hot wax strips off her glassy smooth legs. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of that sooner, considering my Mediterranean genes and the prolific hair that sprouted all over my skin. I piped up with my brilliant idea of giving up our daily summer assault with the razor for the longer lasting results of waxing.
Julia and Michelle were my best friends and were always up for an adventure, especially when I volunteered as the guinea pig. We stopped at the drugstore on the way home and met later at Julia’s house, because her parents were out of town. (***Note to all teens: No good comes out of any plan that only works if parents are not at home!)
That night we sprawled out on Julia’s bathroom floor and opened the wax kit. Michelle, our resident intellectual, read the instructions. I was smart enough (or dumb enough, truth be told) to buy the pre-waxed strips to avoid the whole heating and boiling process, so I was confident nothing could go wrong. Julia, who was the oldest and more mature one, offered to apply the strips to my body.
I stripped down to my underwear and stood in front of the sink as she applied the strips to my inner thighs. We quickly learned that the strips caught hair that sprouted from underneath the panty line, so I took them off.
Somehow we missed that a firm grip on the leg is necessary before tugging, and the wail that I let out with the first rip of my skin pierced the air. We decided to shut the bathroom window, lest the neighbor run through the yard to check on us. It was hot as a sauna in there and I gripped my crotch screaming, noticing that some of the wax remained intact on my skin. I tried to rub it off, creating a worse chafe, and noticed that wax had crept up into regions I never meant to wax.
Michelle, who was brilliant but queasy, ran into the hallway and burst into a fit of giggles. Julia took charge. “I’m going to run very hot water in the sink and apply washcloths to melt the wax.” It sounded like a good idea, but all we accomplished was a flood under the sink. Michelle was still doubled over in the hallway and Julia instructed me to get into the tub. My tee shirt was wrapped around my boobs, knotted in the middle, and I was naked from the waist down. It was then we noticed that the washcloth action caused every last hair to get embedded in the cold hard wax. I was a mess.
“Oh shit,” Julia said.
“Now what?” I yelled in panic.
“Get scissors,” Michelle said, now peering around the doorframe.
In my desperation, I took the scissors and cropped every hair I could see close to the skin. Julia held a large hand mirror so I could view my wax-encrusted nether-regions. We then filled the tub with hot water and used more washcloths to scrape my skin raw. Many bits were too stuck to come off that night and eventually we gave up and hoped for the best. That night we lied awake for a long time. I complained and laughed and cried intermittently. My best friends crawled in on either side of me giggling.
Thirty years later, Julia, Michelle, and I still laugh about that night, and I can still feel that burn and panic. I was so traumatized by that first attempt that I never waxed at home again and rely solely on professionals. In fact, when lasers became available I let a professional permanently rid me of unwanted stray bikini hairs. My bikini area enjoys a constant state of beach readiness—if only the rest of me did…
When telling the girls this story, I was sharing more than just my hope that they never try hot wax at home. I hope that they continue to support each other and be great friends throughout everything life has to offer. My friends and I suffered much deeper and more emotionally trying times in high school—the wax debacle was side noise—but the moral of the story was always the same. Good friends make it all worthwhile, and as a mother, I wish both my teenagers life-long friends like mine, to share the ups, downs, and many stupidities.