HER: Before our last trip to Jamaica, I went for a session of laser hair removal. It was a thoughtful Christmas gift from you. You knew I hated the red bikini bumps, and the last time I had a bikini wax, it was so painful I swore I’d never do it again. Lasers, you thought, were a painless alternative. Let me correct that misconception before our readers run out to sign up. It hurt like a bitch.
HIM: I’m so sorry, sweetie.
HER: I know your heart was in the right place. We women have a complicated relationship with body hair. On one hand, we’re told it’s unsightly and we go to crazy lengths to be rid of it. On the other hand, some feel that this obsession is giving in to a form of social oppression.
HIM: Well, if you think it’s solely a female problem, think again. If you’ve ever encountered the term ‘manscaping’, you know that men are obsessing over their body hair as well. The male ideal of physical beauty has been a hairless one for at least the last 2,500 years (except for a brief cultural moment in the 1970s, around the time of Burt Reynolds Cosmopolitan centerfold).
HER: My previous husband was a hairy man. And when I say hairy, I don’t mean a little chest hair: I mean a full sweater, front and back. I actually remember when his back hair grew in. Growing up we had gone to summer camp together and I had seen him in his bathing suit many times. Our relationship turned romantic in the winter of our senior year, and that summer we went to the beach together for the first time as a couple. When he took his shirt off I was shocked! I did NOT remember that furry creature from the summer before. Once we were married, we tried shaving and hair removal creams, but nothing worked very well. So, I resigned myself to a lifetime of vacuuming up tumbleweeds of hair, keeping a good supply of liquid plumber on hand, and pulling pubes out of the back of my throat.
Which is one of the many, MANY reasons I am so grateful to have you: you are refreshingly free of back hair. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like a little manly hair. I see guys at Hedonism who have gone for the full body wax, and I don’t love it. I enjoy the reminder of your masculinity when I run my hands over your chest, and I like that your legs feel different than mine under the covers. But I didn’t know until at least a year into our relationship that you weren’t naturally that perfectly groomed.
HIM: Part of growing up feeling unattractive is that you are hyper-attuned to anything about your appearance that might be objectionable. My main response to that impulse was to work out consistently since I was 15 years old. Over time, I became proud of the body I had created, and naturally I wanted to show it off. I’ve often envied how easy it seemed for handsome men. They display their perfect faces for all to see at every social event or business meeting. I didn’t consider myself handsome, but I did recognize objectively that I had a very good physique. Yet it was generally completely covered by my clothing all day long so that I got no real PR benefit from it. I would take off my shirt any time it seemed remotely appropriate, but that was not often.
Around my early thirties, I came to feel that even when my body was visible, my body hair was getting in the way. Although there wasn’t over much of it, it bothered me – like graffiti scrawled onto an otherwise clean surface, or a visual interference pattern distorting a television picture.
One morning at the gym I noticed a guy who had very short hair on his legs. To this day I don’t know if he groomed it like that, or if that was just the way it grew in for him. But it gave me the idea that rather than waxing or shaving, I could simply trim my body hair into a less visible presence without looking unnaturally smooth, or suddenly stubbly when it began to grow back.
At first I used scissors and a comb, but eventually I bought myself a barber’s trimmer with attachments. That saved a lot of time. Once a week I’d get into the tub before my shower, run the trimmer over my entire body, then wash the hair down the drain once I turned the faucet on. Every time I did it, I made adjustments to my routine. I’d use different sized attachments for different body parts, and some areas (like my balls) I shaved clean with a regular razor. Eventually there was not one hair left on my body that grew the way God intended it. Honestly, except for my eyelashes, every hair get’s the custom treatment. Yes, I know that sounds dysfunctionally obsessive, but that’s me.
HER: I think it’s a perfect compromise: not hairless, but not hairy. Now, every time I see a guy with fuzzy hair creating a little halo around his body, I think, “You should really have a conversation with my husband.”
HIM: Now, I have to say – there’s nothing wrong with being hairy. It’s not a social evil, and I get that some people actually prefer it. Who knows – the Burt Reynolds look may come roaring back into fashion any moment now (it’s probably already a hipster ‘thing’ in Brooklyn). I just think that it’s always good to have options. I believe more men would groom their bodies carefully except that it has never occurred to them. I remember the day I was wearing shorts and one of my children asked incredulously “Dad, do you trim the hair on your legs?” Fortunately, I was ready for that moment and didn’t miss a beat.
“Of course I do,” I replied. “Everyone trims the hair on their heads, whether they wear it short or long. We would be appalled if we saw someone who truly never, ever cut their hair. Why is it that that standard only extends to the collar, yet from the neck down it might as well be caveman days? We reveal much of our bodies on the beach or around the pool, so it seems natural to me to want to look as neat as possible. I don’t understand why it hasn’t become an essential part of good grooming for all men.”
I didn’t mention that it makes even more sense when you make a regular practice of taking nudist vacations.