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Open to the Pubic: Bathing-suit weather in Oak Park

Memoirs & Miscellany, Swimming & Beaches Add comments

By Stephanie Shaw

It is bathing-suit weather, and we have just fended off an attack from our sister-in-law. She is breaking our balls because we refuse to wear a bikini. Our sister-in-law wears a bikini. We point out our age, and our childbearing body, as an excuse. We mention that the super-elastic bubble plastic that once held our abdominal wall together has long since mutinied. We mention that our belly is not the sort of belly one shows off in public. And she says “So what?” And we say, “People will take one look and think that it’s been in a fire. Or some sort of arcane industrial accident out of Stephen King, like it got caught in a laundry mangler, or put through a diabolical sieve.”

Our belly is remarkable. It has accommodated, at various times, an array of infants. Now it hangs loosely from its moorings and it is soft and crinkled and shiny, like a chenille sweater that should be hand-washed but was mistakenly put through the clothes dryer. Our sister-in-law’s brother tells us that it is like velvet, that he shares an important history with it, that it feels good against his belly. He regularly puts his lips on it. We think this is fine, and we tell our husband so, but we tell his sister that we are not prepared to share our remarkable belly with the municipal pool-swimming public, and she tells us that it’s our body and we should glory in it and never mind what anyone else thinks and we think this is a peculiar philosophy, spouting as it does from the pie hole of someone who clearly visits the salon every six weeks to get hot wax poured onto her pubic hair.

And it’s bathing-suit weather, and we are at the Oak Park Public Pool with our brood, two of whom (we are fairly confident) will never be tempted to pour hot wax on their pubic hair, but nothing is ever certain is it, and we are checking out breasts and bikini lines on every other mother there, purely in the interest of comparative consumerism, and those mothers who are burnished and gleaming, hairless and high-breasted, let us tell you something, and we say this bravely and with emphasis, THESE ARE NOT GOOD MOTHERS. Oh, it’s not their money we object to, although they clearly have it, because getting your pubic hair torn out by the roots is costly, yes, precious money that could have been spent on oatmeal and toys for the children. It’s not that. It’s that a real mother’s currency is TIME and these women would appear to us to have too much of it. And we say this bravely, and with emphasis, but the courage of our convictions aside, we cannot bring ourselves to wear our own unkempt bikini lines as the badges of honor they so clearly are, and we pretend that we wear surf shorts in the pool because they’re so damn sexy. And we say all this bravely because we live in America, a place where a woman can still stand assured of her right to choose—whether or not to pour hot wax on her pubic hair, at any rate.

In our case, given our low pain threshold, lack of time, lack of funds and cultural heritage, we will say, ladies, that “It Is Pubic Hair, It’s Not A Choice.”

Still, it is bikini season and we linger in front of “A Matter Of Style,” on Marion Street in downtown Oak Park and we see that a bikini wax is priced at fifty-five dollars and we wonder when we even became aware of bikini waxes. Was it when we started watching “Sex In The City,” in re-runs, on TBS? We can’t even afford HBO, much less an intimate session with a wax-welding “esthetician.” We see, however, that we can have an “esthetician” pull the hair out of our upper lip for a mere sixteen dollars. Remembering the stiff little mustache that graced our Sicilian grandmother’s smile, we enter the place. We come out seven minutes later, stunned, looking as though we’d just knocked back a glass of cherry soda, fingering our denuded upper lip. The wax had been pleasantly warm and the ripping off of the tape (and hair) had been oddly exhilarating—as in a sexual encounter, we are left puffy and red and reeling slightly.

At home we sit in front of the mirror and examine the area under our nose. It looks and feels naked, accessible, ultra-vulnerable. Our upper lip is unfinished now, peeled, forced back to infancy.

Let us take a moment to apply that style concept to our pudenda, and let us imagine just what in hell we are trying to attract.

Upon closer inspection, and in direct juxtaposition, we see that the small wrinkles emerging around our lips are more noticeable, without the fuzz there to soften them.

We smile.

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