Getting The Brazilian wasn’t enough.
“If we do the whole area, your boyfriend will love it,” said the J. Sister, one of seven at the eponymous waxing salon, after she gave me the Brazilian.
What she was suggesting, after having removed every pubic hair from my upper leg and vagina area was to do the same thing to my anus. I don’t think I even had a boyfriend then, but the power of her implication had me considering.
I had gotten the Brazilian once or twice. The procedure was painful and unnecessary, but everyone was doing it, so I did, too, at the place where it was believed to have been exported to Manhattan. Adding the other orifice, however, was something I had not been expecting, but in no time at all, my knees were resting against my ears.
The J. sister (I can’t remember which one) had idle chit-chat down to an art, colorfully explaining why the Brazilian was so great, and so sexy and how I’d never go back to having any kind of “carpet” when, after one particularly aggressive stripe, she stopped and all was silent.
“What?” I asked, as she prevented my thighs from rolling back to the table, my feet wiggling in the air.
She laughed and said, “Oh, it’s nothing. You just have a little hickey down here now, that’s all.”
My hickey was a rather sizeable raspberry that sidled up against one side of my butthole, something of a thought starter (or stopper) for this single and sexually active 30-something.
Inspecting it with a hand mirror in my bathroom afterwards, not only did I now look like a prepubescent, but one that was prone to inexplicable accidents.
I’d never been overly vain about the evenness of my cooter skin, but the incident turned out to be somewhat revelatory: the Brazilian was painful, and this new stamp was ridiculous. I never did it again.
Experimentation is one of the reasons we love beauty so much. The promise of discovering a new look is a thrill, and whether we love the results or hate them, by and large, the change is transitory, so the risk factor is usually low. That’s why it’s so tempting to play around in the beauty arena with wild abandon. Personally, I consider myself a cautiously selective player. Like the stock market or horse racing, I’ll bet on sure things, but pass on the riskier ones, which is why I’m glad I still have all of my eyebrows.
I eventually found laser hair removal, a process that, admittedly, takes many months, not to mention many dollars (especially if you’re talking about the entire area below the waist), but the process is, to borrow from the House Judiciary Committee, settled law. It’s been 13 years since I had it done and my gams still feel like a baby’s bottom. My landing strip has returned somewhat, but we are just fine with performing the occasional trim on the, well, trim. I suppose now that I’m married, some would consider this letting myself go to pot, but that’s the thing about beauty treatments. When we try them, we learn something about ourselves—specifically, what our priorities are and what we’re just fine with leaving alone. When my gray roots grow in, I’m pretty paranoid about them looking unkempt, but I really couldn’t care less about the condition of my “down there” hair.
Nevertheless, there are those instances when the promise of a tighter jawline or a smoother thigh is too tempting to resist. In 1998, I met with an osteopath who was treating cellulite with mesotherapy, the science of injecting a blend of pharmaceutical and homeopathic ingredients into the subcutaneous fat layer. The injections were administered with something that looked and sounded like a staple gun, even though they didn’t really hurt. I just remember lying on my stomach on an examining table as the sound of “Ga-gunk Ga-gunk Ga-gunk” made its way up and down my thighs.
A half hour or so later, I walked out looking like Ronda Rousey had just spent a few rounds with my quads. That said, they did feel a lot smoother, and I was psyched. But when I got out of bed the next morning and walked to the bathroom, my right leg gave out and I fell onto the corner of my bed.
“This has never happened before,” the doctor swore into the phone, his voice fraught with tension.
And that will never happen again, either, I thought.
I had my my leg’s condition checked out, and within a day or two, I no longer walked a limp, nor did I have cellulite. It was a relevatory moment: What should I choose: the ability to walk or having cellulite? I’m joking! When I told my editor about it, she made me promise to never have it done again (it was, as most treatments I’ve experienced, for a story), and I have kept that promise. And the cellulite.
Beauty that’s gone too far isn’t always relegated to the hands of others, either. When a temporary at-home hair color promised to hide my grays, I gamely slipped on the plastic gloves and studied the directions. Having never colored my own hair, I was both excited and nervous.
When I looked at my hair after toweling it off, I uttered the same word that J. Sister did many years ago: “Huh.” Why were my blonde highlights copper?
I ran to my colorist, and it took her four hours and every trick up her sleeve to try to remove the brassy tones and return me to the buttery blonde I had been. In the end, two stubborn streaks of pink just wouldn’t let go, but many thought I had done this on purpose.
“I love your little rose gold thing,” a friend complimented me. When I told her the genesis of it, she responded, “Oh, I just thought it was your Summer signature!”
And so, for a few weeks, I was perceived as the kind of person who paints pink streaks in her hair, and that was an interesting position to be in, but not enough to consider adding it to my beauty repertoire.
Which leads me to the fact that we sometimes need to try a look or a procedure to see if it works, and if it works on us. When I decided to get bangs a few years ago, I braced myself for hating them. (I did it for my husband, who had been intrigued by a photo of a “banged” me in my twenties. He’d recently had a skiing accident and was on crutches, so I magnanimously asked Serge Normant to cut some bangs into my hair in the name of my husband’s happiness. Make sense?). What was actually chopped off was about ten years from my age, and we were very happy with them for a couple of years until one day we both independently decided that we were done. It was an amicable separation.
The one vice that I can’t quit despite our rather colorful history is Botox. I once received injections from one of New York’s top plastic surgeons, when, a few days later my sister looked at me and said, “Your left eye is droopy.”
Never something you want to hear.
“The same thing happened to my mother!” the surgeon said with a laugh when I returned to his office. “I only do it to the people I love!”
I never saw that doctor again, but I certainly kept getting Botox. The beauty of this wrinkle reducer is that a droop or other unpleasant results can often be rectified with more injections. Sounds counterintuitive, but thanks to our complex facial musculature, it’s true.
Now that I’m in my fifties, the sags, wrinkles and extra padding continue to increase in areas where I’d rather they not. And, with age, the remedying ante is upped. Of course, I’m all the more drawn to the promises of advanced procedures, but have yet to seriously consider them, especially those that come with higher risks. Instead, I remain in the kiddie pool, keeping my experimenting to innocuous things like nail art, eyelash extensions and temporary tattoos.
And that is the operative word (No, not “tattoos.” “Temporary.”) You learn a lot about yourself when presented with promising new beauty treatments, and I have learned that I am still quite a big baby. Babies may be drawn to shiny things, like gel nails and neon green eyeshadow, but this baby has learned that gel nails are not as easily removable as green eyeshadow is. I’m down for experimentation, as long as it can be promptly washed off, easily covered or even laughed off like a delicately placed hickey.
I’m just grateful that social media wasn’t around back then.