Over the last two years or so, I've accidentally developed into a crusader against body hair removal. I didn't mean for it to become A Thing, honestly: I'm just incredibly lazy. It wasn't a conscious decision for me to stop shaving my various bits so much as the natural logical progression from "Fuck, I left my razor at my parents' house in Sacramento and the Walgreens is all the way down the street!"
The few times I did borrow a roommate's razor and try to hack away at the undergrowth, it inevitably turned into a reenactment of one of those trailblazing montages from movies about jungle exploration.
The only positive that I could glean from the whole shaving thing was that sometimes I could pluck the shorn hairs from where they were sticking to my body and make a fancy moustache, but every person I have told that to has burst into horrified tears, so that's possibly just a Kate-specific amusement.
Eventually, I just stopped doing it. I barely think about my body hair on a daily basis, I figured, so why should anybody else?
This, as it happened, was incorrect. Turns out that very little makes people more viscerally shocked and confused than visible pit hair on women, even in Ye Olde Hippie Enclave San Francisco. I never knew how passionately I felt about my little scent-tufts until all my friends started having Leland Palmer-style freakouts every time I did the YMCA.
"Ugh, put it away," they'd moan whenever I yawned and stretched. "Christ, no one wants to see that."
"It's natural," I'd snip defensively.
"Yeah, naturally gross," they'd counter.
Et cetera, et cetera. I'm a stubborn jerkwad, so the more people complained about it, the more I refused to shave. Eventually, I developed a reputation as someone who was hosting at least three separate Locks of Love competitions on her person at all times.
Despite myself, I started to internalize it: I felt weird at the thought of even cutting back the growth a bit, even as uncomfortable as it is to be dancing on a Saturday night in a tank top with fine, sweaty hair rubbing against your sensitive underarms.
And when the science gods came out against waxing your vajay, I even, you may recall, felt triumphant. "Nice work, crotch," I thought toward my (quite hairy) downstairs. "We're avoiding chickpea boils and cutting our shower time down to approximately three minutes."
Of course, this made it all the weirder when I had the sudden, violent urge to get the Dr. Seuss Lorax-grove ripped off of my pussy last week.
I used to get bikini line touch-ups in college, including one memorable occasion when I accidentally redeemed a Groupon for a surprise!Brazilian and had a no-nonsense Ukranian woman bark the virtues of a bald butthole to me while I cowered, naked from the waist down, on a paper sheet. But I was surprised by how much of a big deal this still felt like to me, like I was doing the Fur Cause a disservice.
I mean, it had been a while -- like I said, more than a year -- and it'd gotten to the point where even my dates reacted with disbelief to the knowledge that I'd ever gotten a bikini wax before. That didn't stop me, though, from making a waxing appointment at a "depilatorie" on the fancy side of the Mission.
Part of my urge was because I've been wearing a lot of liquid leggings recently, and it's a hell of a lot easier to reassure my paranoid brain that I don't have the herp when I don't have to comb through my pubes trying to use my phone camera as a mirror.
But part of it, as much as I really hate to admit it, was because I've started seeing a new dude that I like quite a bit and I knew he'd be seeing me sans trousers in the near future.
I know. I know. I don't normally associate pussy-waxing with the patriarchy, being a strong proponent of Do Whatever the Fuck You Want With Your Body feminism, but this was totally waxing my vag to please a man. A man who, let's be real, probably wouldn't have noticed if I'd had the word "BORSCHT" carefully clipped above my pubic bone. I still feel like the biggest fucking hypocrite on the planet.
I guess it's just a sign of how, as much I try to resist, all those messages about hairlessness being sexually appealing have wormed their way into my brain. Over the course of a few days, I somehow convinced myself that whittling my vag-patch down to a tiny strip was the "polite" thing to do, and that it would somehow make the whole experience more positive if I didn't have to explain away my unruly (albeit usually at least trimmed) spread. This, despite the fact that I've been sleeping with people with said pube coif the entire time it's been present.
No wonder people freak out at me about my pits all the time, if months of my own pro-hair conditioning can't overcome the anxiety about a single sexual encounter. (It's also not like I shaved my armpits or legs for any of this drama, so I'm not sure why I thought waxing was necessary in the first place. Oh, the strange logic of internalized beauty standards.)
"If he doesn't like you hairy, he won't like you bare!" most of my brain screamed at me. Meanwhile, the rest of my body calmly autopiloted into the salon and forked over way too much money to have most of my pubic hair ripped out at the root.
Naturally, because this is how my luck with these things go, my skin decided that it was going to try being "needy" and I bled all over the table. I don't know if you've ever heard an aesthetician mutter "Uh oh" just after she applies hot wax to your sensitive parts, but let me assure you that it is not the most reassuring feeling.
I walked the two miles home bowlegged and sweating, trying not to remember that I'd paid 60 hard-earned dollars for the privilege.
For the next few days, too, everything fucking burned. Every time I'd take my pants off, I'd pout down, trying to resist the urge to lay a comforting finger along my swollen labia. "Sorry, dude," I kept mumbling.
And, of course, even though I exfoliated like a motherfucker and wore loose-fitting clothing to bed and steered clear of the liquid leggings for a spell, I still fucking got about 20 ingrown hairs popping up like unfriendly molehills all over my crotch. It was like the physical embodiment of my lingering guilt was repeatedly rearing its ugly head.
To top it all off, since it apparently matters to me what guys think of my twat, most dudes are increasingly in favor of the "Hooray, a naked person!" approach to pubic hair maintenance these days.
"Never again!" I vowed after trying and failing to pop the gnarliest of my new crotch-polyps. "Fucking. Never. Again."
In retrospect, it's pretty clear to me that I probably would have gone into any sexual encounters way more relaxed if I had just let things continue on their stubbly way, rather than spending all that time and energy worrying about how this random guy would react to a part of my body. Comfort is in, no matter how that might emerge on your own body, and hours-long internal debates about societal pressure versus pre-date jitters are way, way out.
This is not to bash on people who prefer to have a hairless vag. Like I said, it's becoming more and more in vogue to do whatever the fuck makes you feel sexy, and for lots of people, that's a bald pussy or a landing strip or a Harry Potter lightning scar carefully shaved in an appealingly off-center fashion.
But I'm just not one of them, and the sooner I accept that, the happier I (and my poor beleaguered vajay) will be.
Kate's consoling her vagina on Twitter: @katchatters