THE WAX FACTOR
The booming business in 'Brazilians' defies the current slump as Irish women put the natural look to pasture
Dante never got around to writing about the seventh circle of hell, but I'm pretty sure I've reached it here, in suburban Dublin.
Yes, dear reader, I am at the beauty salon, following many a Tallafornia cast member in opting for a bikini wax ... of the full-monty kind.
I'm beginning to suspect that my waxing 'specialist' may have got her beautician qualification thanks to six tokens plus P&P via a Cornflakes box. I have made the error of choosing a salon that isn't a specialised waxing emporium, and it is only afterwards that friends kindly point out my rookie error.
Where a regular waxing therapist would take eight minutes and be oblivious to yelps and pleas for clemency, mine attempts a couple of half-hearted tugs with the waxing strip. Ten agonising minutes later and we've barely gotten to Base Camp 1.
"Are you ready for this?" she trills. I proffer a whimper in the manner of a mum- to-be at the tail end of a 72-hour labour. "You sure?" she goes. Well now, I think. My foot is embedded into your shoulder. I am naked from the waist down. I actually look like I've been attacked by a sit-down lawnmower. You've been down there for what seems like several lifetimes. What exactly, specifically makes you think I'm not ready?
For years, I'd given the idea of bikini waxing a wide berth, fearful as I was of the pain factor. Once upon a time, this waxing carry-on was the preserve of Californian beach bunnies and porn stars. Yet the faction of pro-Brazilians among the civilian ranks appears to be growing in Ireland by the day.
Yet, here's the thing. Are Irish women buying into the Brazilian, or are we merely saying we're doing the waxing thing? Are we paying lip service to this the same way we might do with Bikram yoga and primers (ergo, tried it once)? Apparently not.
Waxing specialists Brazilia (www.brazilia.ie) have seen their business thrive in recent years, according to manager Anne-Marie Curran. Her clients run the gamut, and in recent years she has seen "More women consider this to be an essential and integral part of personal grooming, whereas before it was more of an add-on," she says.
"Women know all the tricks, and along with tanning, facials and manicures, everyone is buying into the glossy look a lot more these days. Plus, there's that idea of keeping up with what everyone else is doing."
Jennifer Treanor, owner of Urban Wax (www.urban wax.com) has also found that, despite the economic climate, she has "built up a very strong and loyal client base".
"Our age group is between 20 and 60," she explains. "Brazilian and Hollywood waxing is the majority of our business demand and that has not altered since we opened 10 years ago," says Jennifer. "It is an important part of personal grooming."
Unless I have a particularly well-groomed circle of friends who have provided a dud population sample, it would appear that most Irish women in their 20s and 30s are putting the au naturel look out to pasture. Some of the women who like to wax rhapsodical about waxing have never even had a pedicure; it's that rampant a phenomenon.
One colleague frets that she won't pass muster with a potential paramour if she doesn't schedule in a Brazilian wax first.
"We often get last-minute bookings from women looking for an urgent appointment for their upcoming hot date," affirms Jennifer. "Judging from conversations I have had with women, most would prefer to have a Brazilian or an Urban Outrageous (also known as vajazzling) prior to their night of passion, and at the very least have a tidy-up of the bikini area."
However, another friend has been single for years, yet still keeps her waxing appointments with military-like zeal. And if there's one girl out there who is effectively celibate and upkeeping this ritual, there must be sisters who are simply doing this Brazilian thing for themselves and not for anyone else.
Regardless, there is the Bloke Factor to contend with. I'm guessing that part of our dedication to waxing has as much to do with sex as anything else. Specifically, looking as alluring to the opposite sex as possible.
Actually, scratch that, it has nothing to do with being alluring; looking uniform or normal is probably closer to the mark. It's highly likely that there is a generation of young men who know no different to the Brazilian look, who get startled by a woman who deigns to stick with the natural, old-school look.
It is, I suppose, the sort of reception women with European quantities of armpit hair have been up against for decades.
However, for the uninitiated considering a Brazilian, rest assured that it's not all doom and gloom (or perhaps more accurately, 'eek' and 'ouch'), according to Jennifer: "It's definitely not as bad as people imagine," she notes, referring to the pain element.
"We have perfected our own technique, and through time the growth slows down so you need fewer waxes and eventually for some people the hair stops growing."
Ideally, we would all be with men who couldn't care less about what we do (or don't do) with our own bodies. Oftentimes, guys are just happy to see us naked without getting caught up in the finer points. The way they tell it, they're just happy to be involved at all. Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.