Stories

Laser Quest. Opinions on The Removal of Pubic Hair

To remove or not to remove? That is the question. Writer Leanne Cloudsdale takes a trip down puberty lane and wonders why when it comes to pubes, some of us whip it off whilst others keep it on.

Merkins PABLO KÜMIN
Photography
JONATHAN LEIGH
Words LEANNE CLOUDSDALE

Whip back the shower curtain in my bathroom on any given day and you’ll be greeted with a substantial sprinkling of short, black, wiry swirls, not dissimilar in shape to a musical clef. It’s like the pubic hair equivalent to Antony Gormley’s Field for the British Isles, without the entrance fee, subdued exhibition invigilators or bustling gallery shop. My morning routine wouldn’t feel complete without the daily stretch up for the showerhead, followed by a swift turn of the cold tap and a minute spent simultaneously eye rolling and swilling the enamel. Cohabiting isn’t always domestic bliss and of course, it has its benefits, but if I added up every second of my life that I’ve wasted picking up his errant pubes it would probably equate to a fortnight in Santorini.

Like most people, I can’t really remember when the fuzz ‘down there’ started to grow, except that it was around the same time as Raymond Briggs released his illustrated tale of how two pensioners coped during the aftermath of a nuclear attack. Intent on teaching her kids about the difficult things in life in that archetypal baby boomer way, a copy of When the Wind Blows appeared on my desk a few months after mum had casually left a promotional ‘What happens during puberty?’ booklet from feminine product heavyweights Lil-Lets next to my pencil case. I read the pair of them over and over again throughout 1987 and laid in bed most nights wondering which was worse – a big hairy fanny or radiation sickness. Of course, I never dared TALK to anyone about what was happening to my vagina, because just like every other kid coming to terms with teetering on the brink of adulthood, there was a primordial sense that it was a taboo topic, so when the downy brown curls started coming through I just took a deep breath and turned up the T’Pau.

"Of course, I never dared TALK to anyone about what was happening to my vagina, because just like every other kid coming to terms with teetering on the brink of adulthood, there was a primordial sense that it was a taboo topic, so when the downy brown curls started coming through I just took a deep breath and turned up the T'Pau."

Thanks to my (all girls) Catholic school education, the male body was less of a mystery. Up there on his crucifix with only a loincloth between me and his ball-sack, I knew exactly what Jesus Christ looked like with nowt on. Those Caravaggio-style washboard abs and kinky crown of thorns made gawping up at his holy nakedness a lot more interesting than listening to Pythagoras rule in double maths. On the female biology side of things however, enlightenment came in a few different forms, namely finding scrunched up discarded porn mags at the park or stealing the odd cursory glance around the communal changing rooms at Miss Selfridge.

Truth be told, I feel thankful that my introduction to pubehood came at a time when a full bush was something to feel proud of (if the centrespreads of Razzle were anything to go by).

In conversation with one of my favourite female millennials the other week I asked which bits she hated about being a twenty-something in 2019 and was expecting a response about the uncertainty of Brexit or something social media related, but no, she said, “I wish proper pubes were trendy again. I’m sick of feeling like I’ve gotta get rid of it.” What a sad state of affairs. Never mind the double standards, it just seems quite depressing to think of all those stubbly labia lips being pummelled by basic brained blokes who’ve spent too much time getting sensual with their laptops.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Mother Theresa. I’ve been having regular ’round the knickerline’ waxes since about 1995 to streamline the stragglers, but remain evangelical about the importance of keeping a proper triangle. No man will ever convince me that de-fluffing my entire undercarriage will make for better sex and those who have tried to persuade me otherwise have been mentally battered by my retort and told to ‘sod off’. The only deviation to this self-imposed convention is during the summer months when I like flouncing around Portuguese beaches in nowt more than a pair of microscopic bikini bottoms and a pair of (Philo era) Céline sunnies.

“Never mind the double standards, it just seems quite depressing to think of all those stubbly labia lips being pummelled by basic brained blokes who’ve spent too much time getting sensual with their laptops.”

This is when I bend the rules un petit peu and head to see Jessica – the only beauty therapist who knows my private parts better than I do. A rare genius, she manages to turn the grim process of pubic hair removal into something I actually look forward to. Within two minutes of hoisting myself up onto the treatment bed I’m already in hysterics when she asks in her inimitable Hull accent, “Are we doing your arsehole today love?” and then off she goes, diligently smearing my secret creases in hot pink liquid, whilst I lay there crying with laughter at her tales about Pat Who Runs The Tanning Salon & other Alan Bennett-esque local interest stories. She’s an absolute professional who finely tunes what nature has already provided, giving me something between Barbie baldness and a free-flowing Egon Schiele sketch – which perhaps for me, seems like the ideal vaginal compromise.