Why Do Women Continue to Groom Their Bikini Lines?

The idea that I should groom my pubic area was never even a thought to me until I was 18 and sat in the back seat of a Ford Focus, with an uncultured boyfriend.

Before then, Dr. Taber was my elementary school principal who taught the girls in fourth grade about “our changing body.” She gave a brief overview of pubic hair. It would appear and disappear in a matter of seconds, right under your Powerpuff Girls’ underwear. My mother, while she carefully taught me how to shave my legs, did not tell me that I should do it elsewhere. She forgot to mention that it can be a lifelong and costly process to figure out how to remove a bush. In my conservative, small town, there was only one sexually-active friend who did not bring up the subject when she told her lurid stories of hookups before choir practice. In retrospect, it’s amazing that this topic never came up when we were bikini-hopping in the summer.

It wasn’t until I was 18 years old and having a fling with my boyfriend that I learned about my relative neglect of my uterus. It was difficult to miss the not-so subtle grimace on his face when Bob Ross surprised him when he expected Pamela Anderson. I remember feeling small and unattractive when he pulled at my underwear. It was like I missed a giant memo. Why hadn’t anyone told me I should de-frizz my hair before going on a date with someone? Is everyone else shaving their pubic hair but me?

After a few weeks, I started shaving every day, from my armpits to my ankles, and walking out of the bathroom like a seal emerging from the sea. I wasn’t sure I was doing it right. I was afraid of what would appear on the search history for my family’s computer if I searched “how to shave pubic hair”. So I followed my instinct and got bumps, razor burn, and ingrown hairs. It worked: I was confident, hairless and only slightly itchy. My boyfriend wasn’t impressed by my basement renovation. After a few weeks, we broke up.

The pool season was here, and my razor habit was firmly established. After I began grooming I realized that everyone was obsessed with removing pubic hair. My friends started going to waxing sessions together. The number of infomercials, advertisements, and waxing products increased.

In the U.S., a study revealed that over 80 percent of women have groomed pubic hair. Some women groomed their pubic hair for sex; others for vacation and some before a medical visit. I was not one of the women who tweezed, waxed, shaved, or went through painful beauty rituals to make their lives easier, or sex more comfortable.

Sometimes I let my hair grow, and the bikini area looked like Simba as a teenager — patchy and unsure of what to be. Then there was a trip out to California, or a date that involved a barista. After I realized that my hair looked bad, I didn’t want anyone to ever see it again (even accidentally).

So I just shaved it all, ignoring the pleas of my OB/GYN during my pap smears. She told me “the hairs were there for a purpose”. She warned me that I would be more susceptible to infection if I continued shaving. You have many reasons to leave your pubic hair in place. It protects the vagina against dirt and bacteria. Researchers speculate that removing it could cause warts and infections, and even increase your chances of contracting an STI. According to a study published in the medical journal Urology, there were 11,704 injuries resulting from pubic hair removal between 2002 and 2010, with 335 documented emergency room visits (I imagine these to be embarrassing). This is how far we are willing to go in order to avoid the embarrassing image of a woman with hair on her pubic area.

Let’s face it: I became lazy. Then I did better: I allowed myself to be lazy.

After shaving for over 10 years, I decided to go au naturel last year during bikini season. Let’s face it: I became lazy. Then I did better: I allowed myself to be lazy.

The drain would always stop up when I shaved. It would also leave behind a trail of hairs. My husband and I had moved into this ranch-style house in the mid-century about nine months prior. In an effort to keep my husband from seeing the evidence of grooming, I would quickly clean the area before he noticed. It was as absurd as it sounded. Did I think he wouldn’t have known that I was shaving in the bathroom we shared? Why did I remove it at all? My husband didn’t seem to care. My husband and I had been married nearly six years. He’s seen far worse (love, for example, is to help your wife pee into a cup while she’s taking pain medication before an emergency appendectomy), but somehow I still felt ashamed of any natural pubic hair.

Was it because I was reminded of the look that my boyfriend gave me ten years ago that I shaved? I realized that shaving my bikini-line had made being naked a performance, one purely for someone else and not me. I had never thought that my partner should take care of himself. No partner of mine has ever explicitly told me that he wants me to. I was the only one who held this expectation and kept it.

Many women claim that shaving their hair makes them look and feel more attractive. It was more embarrassment for me when I neglected my body. It’s easy when you are constantly removing things from your body to obsess about their “uglyness” even if they’re not.

So one day I stopped. Since then, I haven’t shaved my pubic region. I remembered the fourth grade, when my principal gave us those pamphlets that explained all of the gory details regarding puberty. The diagrams and I studied them carefully at the time. The “fully-grown” diagram depicted a woman with a large amount of pubic shave. And I’m fully grown.

I took a trip with my husband’s family to Mexico, my first beach vacation since giving up the razor. I admit I was nervous about my first beach trip. I worried people would look at the hairs that were poking out of my bathing suit (or, more irrationally, that a powerful wave would wash my bottoms off and everyone at the resort would see how unkempt my underside looked). As I walked to my beach chair every morning, I noticed that nobody was looking at me or my bikini. They were only interested in the location of the poolside server so they could get another pina-colada. As if I was a contestant in an archaic beauty competition, no one ever looked at my hair or gave me a dirty glance if they caught a glimpse.

Some girls were displaying their hairless bodies, while others were letting their fuller hairstyles show as they basked in the sun. They were confident, so I sat in my bikini and let the hairs fly. I could not remember the last time that I truly enjoyed being on the beach. It didn’t help that I was constantly getting texts from my friends saying “#bringthebushback”, after I announced my decision to stop grooming my bikini.

Ironically, I now feel more womanly than ever before. If you ask me, or Chris Pratt (apparently), the full bush has returned — and is hopefully here to remain.

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