Wax: When in Brazil, Do as Brazilians Do (But Don’t Look!)

She was pretty, with cocoa-brown skin, what Brazilians, with their arsenal of racial classifications, might describe as “coffee with milk.” Her small afro was tied back with a headband, revealing a kind face and sympathetic eyes. She was standing in the small, warm room with what to most would have seemed like a welcoming smile. She closed the door firmly behind her and ordered me to take off my pants.

I took a deep breath and fully acknowledged the situation I had put myself in: “You asked for it,” my mind nagged, deserting me on the spot. What it left behind was a shell of nerves, immune to both reason and reality.

“My name’s Cindy, what’s yours?” I inquired in broken Portuguese, nervously smiling in an attempt to soften the business-like nature that clung to the room, and put off the inevitable. She stared at me politely, with a smile that actually said, “Take off your pants.”

I glanced behind me, and saw that my thin escape route was firmly shut. The sounds of my friends’ chatter were strangely muted by this flimsy excuse for a door, suggesting that I was in fact in an alternate existence, preparing to venture where I had never ventured before.

A minute of eternity passed as I scrambled to assemble my last shreds of courage. Failing at that, I resignedly complied. Shaking, I unbuttoned my pants, took them off, and hung them on a nearby coat hanger that now served as a towel rack. I climbed on to the table, accepted my fate, and opened my legs.

Without blinking she approached me with something I couldn’t quite see held aloft in her hand. Holding my right leg down, I felt a warm sensation below, but not in a good way. I sat up to see what was going on just in time to feel a quick stinging sensation and hear a noise I can only describe as a “rip.” Shocked, I gazed down, thinking, “Hey, that wasn’t so bad.” I glanced up at my new friend with a ray of hope in my eyes.

“Coragem,” she soothingly replied, glad to see that I had calmed down. Concluding that this wasn’t so bad after all, and wanting to know exactly what was happening and how, I remained in my sitting position and decided to watch her work. Today, I would watch a woman use strips of hot wax to rip hair out of my skin … but wait! In terror, I realized there were no strips. Only wax. And suddenly … RIP!

Pain seared through my body and I instantly broke into a full-body sweat. The wise words of a colleague screamed inside my head: “It feels like they’re ripping your soul out of your vagina.”

Horrified beyond words, for the next half hour I watched as my former friend grabbed handfuls of wax and hair, ripping them from my struggling body. A few times, she had to stop and beg my friends to come inside and calm me down. You probably think I’m exaggerating, but this was no laughing matter. And while I do admit that the experiences my friends had with this particularly sticky issue were not nearly as crucial as mine, I do this with the best of intentions. To prove this, I have compiled a short list of precautions for those of you who dare to take the plunge:

1. DO NOT get a Brazilian wax anytime near an incoming period. It’s a proven fact. It will be extremely sensitive down there, and once again, not in a good way.
2. For black women (and men, if you want to go there): in general, our hair tends to be coarser. So keep that in mind, before you let someone rip it out.
3. Bring friends. Call it sadism if you want, but knowing that your friends are going to experience the same fate gives you a certain level of calm. First-timers: if they go before you, it can also help convince you that, no matter how much it hurts, nothing is actually going to rip off down there.
4. I cannot stress this enough: absolutely DO NOT look while he or she is working down there.
All in all, for most, it will be worth it in the end. If it’s warm enough, you can slip into that skimpy bikini and frolic on the beach. And if it happens to be during those rare Southern California weeks where it dips below the 70s and the beach is not an option, I’m sure you will be able to find some other use for it.