The amount of pain and suffering we go through in the name of beautification is impressive.
Yesterday marked the first Groupon I have ever purchased and it was an irresistible doozy. They were offering Laser hair removal for 75% off or more. Ah-ma-zing. Just about every woman who maintains their body hair has considered this option and most do not take the extra leap because holy-mother that sh*t is expensive! So I sucked it up and went for it. $200 dollars (normally over $1000!) and 6 appointments later I can expect to never have to worry about an ingrown hair on my bikini line again. This is very exciting. Awww yeah. TMI? I can’t help it. I have been getting waxed since high school and while my tolerance has gone up (compared to the horrid memory of my first experience where I walked out with only 1 smooth leg), I can only occasionally trick myself into thinking it “tickle-hurts”. Luckily, I have the best waxer ever and am always giving her positive feedback and love and telling her things like: “Thanks for making my ***** pretty”. It’s a special relationship. I will still see her, as the laser treatments are very specific and to do the whole leg and up up up would be close to $2000 (!) and would hurt like a roaring evil beast from hell… So I settled for a smaller area. Still great. Unburstable bubble. Got it?
Before whipping out the drastic plastic to pay it all off, I had a moment of reflection: How did it ever become common practice to rid ourselves so much of our natural state and how did it get so far and to the current trend of looking like we never went through puberty in the first place? And what would Freud say? He would be jumping up and down, having a field day- that’s for sure- with the worst case of “I told you so’s”. Pervyyyy.
Then I started to wonder if the opposite was ever popular. Like full on Jungle Woman. Or is that just on reserve for the fetishistic? Dunno. And then it hit me~ like a wig in the wind… the Merkin. Who’s heard of this? Let me introduce you to my furry friend. Err, I mean my friend’s friend. I heard of once- yeah. The pubic wig. Yes. The pubic wig. Originally worn by ladies of the night after shaving their business, but are now used as decorative items, erotic devices, or in films, by both men and women. I consulted the Wikipedia for history of it and here’s the deal: The Oxford Companion to the Body dates the origin of the pubic wig to the 1450s! Women would shave their pubic hair and wear a merkin to combat crabs, and prostitutes would wear them to cover up signs of disease, like syphillis. Damn! The Goat God Pan is making more sense now. It has also been suggested that when male actors played female parts onstage, they would cover their man parts with a merkin so they could expose themselves as women in nude scenes. Ahem.
So then, naturally, as you know me- my curiosity peaked. What’s the history of pubes anyway? Here’s what I got:
The earliest shaving devices discovered are flint blades possibly dating as far back as 30,000 BC. Not only does flint provide an extremely sharp edge for shaving, it also becomes dull rather quickly, making these the first disposable razors.
From 4,000 to 3,000 BC, women removed body hair with homegrown depilatory creams made from a bizarre combination of such questionable ingredients as arsenic and quicklime. Copper razors appeared around 3,000 BC in both India and Egypt. The most elaborate razors of prehistory appear around 1,500 to 1,200 BC in Scandinavia where Danish Mound Graves yielded razors in leather carrying cases with etched bronze blades and carved handles. No doubt the Vikings liked their women shaved.
The practice of pubic hair removal goes back to the dawn of civilization. To early Egyptians, a smooth and hairless body was the standard of beauty. The practice first gained total acceptance when it was practiced by the wife of Farao; afterwards, every upper class Egyptian woman made sure there was not a single hair on her body with the exception of her head. They used primitive depilatory creams and a form of waxing that utilized a sticky emulsion of oil and honey – the forerunner of what we now call “sugaring.”
The Greeks adopted the ideal of smoothness, capturing it over and again in their sculpture. Ancient Greek sculptures of women are universally clean-shaven, whereas the sculptures of men have pubic hair. The Greeks believed that a smooth, hairless body exemplified youth and beauty. In “Sexual Life in Ancient Greece” by Hans Licht, the author describes how the Greeks disapproved of women with pubic hair and considered it ugly. It was considered a sign of class distinction and subsequently all upper-class women practiced pubic hair removal, as did many women of the lesser classes.
The Romans also disapproved of pubic hair; young girls began removing it as soon as the first hair appeared. They used tweezers, which they called the “volsella” as well as a kind of depilatory cream called the “philotrum” or “dropax” which was sometimes made with bryonia and foreshadowed moderndepilatory creams. Waxing with resin or pitch was also used to depilate. Furthermore, the practice of pubic hair removal wasn’t unique to Rome – it was practiced in even the most remote parts of the empire. Julius Caesar (101-44 BC) writes that, “The Britons shave every part of their body except their head and upper lip.” It is reported that Poppaea, wife of the Roman Emperor Nero, used depilatory creams to remove unwanted body hair daily. At that time, the latest available creams included some wonderful ingredients like resin, pitch, white vine or ivy gum extract, ass’ fat, she-goat’s gall, bat’s blood, and powdered viper.
Islam also has a long history of pubic hair removal. According to the Sunnah, every adult Muslim, as a part of keeping his/her body clean, should remove the hair from his pubic area and armpits. The hair may be removed through any method that one feels comfortable with. The spread of Islam brought the practice to India, Northern Africa, and the other vast areas of the world under Muslim influence. In 1520, Bassano de Zra wrote “The Turks consider it sinful when a woman lets the hair on her private parts grow. As soon as a woman feels the hair is growing, she hurries to the public bath to have it removed or remove it herself.” The public baths all had special rooms where the ladies could get rid of their hair. Even today, the hamams (public baths) still have special rooms for the ladies to depilate.
The returning Crusaders (1096-1270) brought the practice back to Europe. In many European castles built between 1200 and 1600 AD, a special room was constructed where the ladies of the court could gather to shave. During the Renaissance, the practice of pubic hair removal flourished. Sixteenth and seventeenth century artists portrayed women as having little or no pubic hair. The work of Rubens, whose models typified the ideal in feminine beauty at the time, most dramatically reveals this.
The habit of depilating started to wane (publicly at least) during the reign of Catherine de Medici (1547-1589) who was then queen of France and something of a religious zealot. She forbade her ladies in waiting to remove their pubic hair any longer; however, it was still widely practiced until the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) and the smothering prudishness of the “Victorian Era.” Even then, it remained popular in private, especially for the ruling classes. There is some photographic evidence ranging from the time of the Civil War to the “blue movies” of the 1920s and 30s that shows that the amount of pubic hair during that time varied from full to none. Even though repressed by the outward morality of the era, it appears pubic shaving never disappeared but instead more appropriately went underground.
The modern industrial age saw the rise of such razor manufacturers as Gillette, Schick, and Wilkinson. With the availability of cheap, quality razors, the practice of women removing their body hair became more publicly acceptable again. When women’s clothing styles began showing bare arms and legs in the 1920s, leg and underarm shaving followed immediately. In fact, armpit shaving was not common until May of 1915 when Harper’s Bazaar magazine featured a model in a sleeveless evening gown that showed her bare shoulders and hairless armpits. Shortly thereafter, Wilkinson Sword launched an advertising campaign to convince women that underarm hair was “unhygienic and unfeminine.” Sales of razors doubled in two years, perhaps the result of pent-up demand.
Pretty interesting stuff. Your choice at the end of the day. Soft and silky~ bushy and bold (you 70′s misfit rocker you). Shave it, pluck it, zap it, sugar it, hot wax yo’ self… Do how you do- but my best advice? Leave the merkins in the past and maintain. Hair today, gone tomorrow. Adieu.
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