Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

By Dr. Patricia Yarberry Allen

The husband felt that this blog about bikini waxing was one that should not be written.  “It makes you sound vulgar” he worried aloud. “And, it isn’t a serious subject like most of the pieces you write”.  (Obviously he hadn’t read the blog on Moon Pies and Bathrobes in the Nashville airport I thought!)

I told him, most indignantly, “New York Magazine once described  mid-life women who sought some cosmetic attention as though they were blood drinking vampires seeking eternal life by having some collagen injected into their face or having a bit of cosmetic surgery.  The men who wrote and edited that piece in a magazine known for its critique of popular culture and politics found the subject of the beauty routines of women over 40 to be an appropriate subject for investigative journalism for their readers."

The readers of www.womensvoicesforchange.org who are, after all, mostly women over 40, might very well be interested in a summertime discussion of bikini waxing, I argued. (I also found it amusing that the man who enjoys the benefits of the bikini wax has a somewhat Victorian air about the propriety of discussing the subject.)   

So. I had a relationship with a Russian émigré for 25 years.

She was a master aesthetican and like so many immigrants from her part of the world at that time, she came to America with determination to be independent financially and politically. Many of the women of her community in Brooklyn were in the beauty business.  These Russian and Eastern Block women had a talent for skin care.  Those established in the community and in a profession believed in helping the newcomers learn the language and the culture of their new home, and in helping them acquire the skills to become self supporting. Freedom for Lida meant that after 10 years in New York City, she owned her small business and had devoted clients.  Lida did wonderful facials, body scrubs and quick and efficient waxing.

When the real estate rents forced Lida out of business 3 years ago, I was devastated. I lost a great friend, and I was certain that the magic of Lida’s perfect skin cleaning and secret masks would leave me with pimples and the ravages of age.  I collected names of favored aestheticians from everyone; I was like a woman with a disease looking for a miracle at Lourdes.  And like so many who seek miracles, I found no replacement for Lida.  I have learned to do my own facials and with the many new products for facial treatments available to consumers, my complexion is actually quite good.

Waxing, however, is another matter.  I signed up for my first, post-Lida, leg and bikini wax in Darien Connecticut. I know. What was I thinking getting my legs waxed in Darien?  But, I was there.  I had the time.  And it was time if you know what I mean.

I knew, the way women of a certain age know, within one minute that this would be a disaster.  I am always determined to be kind under these circumstances unless I will be harmed or disfigured, because I assume that the woman doing an inadequate job is suffering too. Waxing for the uninitiated requires the application of hot wax to the skin, then a strip of cloth is rubbed into the hot wax and quickly removed pulling the hairs out of the skin. This does require talent. The Darien experience was memorable. After 3 applications of the wax and its removal, I told the young woman, who had pink wax on her elbows at this point, that I would be happy to pay her, but that she could only assist me. I applied the wax to my own legs, then did the hair removal. Needless to say the bikini area received no attention.

The beaches and bedrooms that I visit are happy to report that I have found a replacement who does a great job removing unwanted hair in certain places.  She is Eva and she came from  Romania.  An added benefit is that she works one block from my office.

Eva however has opinions.  At our first meeting she said   “I don’t do those Brazilians. Nature didn’t mean for there to be no hair there. You can cut the hairs but I will not remove the hairs from the center.” Then she laughed as she said with that Romanian certainty, “You know, the man, he needs a little landing strip”. Once Eva had made the ground rules clear and I had acquiesced, the miracle of hairless legs and bikini area reappeared on a regular basis.

I had to lose the predictability of my monthly beauty routine to learn that this relationship with my familiar and trusted partners in body care is a comfort that adds an immeasurable value to my life. And, as the husband can never know, a bad waxing experience is a serious event in this woman’s life.   

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