I am quick and ruthless, qualities essential for a hit man or a home bikini waxer. However, I hadn’t waxed in months and was leaving for two weeks on Cape Cod. I would be on the beach within 24 hours in a bikini teeny enough to show I still had something going on at age 40, but also to expose that I was a hot mess. The headline on the front page of The Cape Cod Times would read: “Hairy Woman, Not Sharks, Clears Brewster Beaches”. I needed professional help immediately.
There was a new salon on the boulevard in my neighborhood. The sandwich board on the sidewalk outside of Happy Nail announced grand opening specials on mani/pedi, gel tips and waxing – walk-ins welcome! I was drawn in by the promise of cheap pricing and easing of my unscheduled Sasquatch moment.
The blond receptionist was indifferent to my entrance.
“Hi,” I greeted, and lowered my voice to a whisper. “How much is a basic bikini wax?”
She exhaled, then looked over her shoulder toward the manicure stations.
“Hey Elba,” she called, “how much for the basic bikini?”
All the women at the stations looked up and Elba approached the reception desk. She assessed me and I got a disturbing mental image of myself: the massive globe of kinks and curls, the Bert unibrow, the Frida Kahlo mustauche, the Planet-of-the-Apes arms. Elba knew my bikini wax would be anything but basic.
“Thirty-five,” she decided.
“Is that with the grand opening special pricing?” I asked.
She gave me another up-and-down look.
“Thirty-five,” she repeated.
Pushing my luck might also push up the price, so I agreed. I followed Elba to the back of the salon, past everyone who knew we were headed to the waxing room. She pulled a fresh paper shield on the padded table and told me she’d return shortly. I was certain the manicurists were wishing Elba luck while I stripped down to my Hanes granny panties. The paper sheeting crinkled as I laid back and waited for Elba with my hands clasped over my belly button.
Elba knocked before re-entering, like catching me with my pants still at my ankles might be too embarrassing. I stared at the water stain on the ceiling tile and plastic flowers over the mirror in the room as she dipped a small spatula in the wax. Elba’s silence was a relief. Chit-chat about what I do for a living or the weather makes me more weirded out about having a stranger rip the hair around my practically exposed genitals.
Elba was quick and ruthless in her technique – and assessment.
“You have a lot of hair,” she said.
No shit, I thought, but kept it to myself. The situation was awkward enough with Elba between my one leg propped against the wall and the other splayed open.
“The hair is very strong,” she said as the strip resisted her tug.
“I can tell,” I said and my voice sounded like someone was stepping on me.
Elba pulled the skin on my thigh taut with one hand and pulled the strip in the opposite direction with a force that got the hair off, but almost sent me through the ceiling.
“Did that hurt?” she asked.
“No, I’m good,” I gasped, desperate for her to just get it over.
“Okay. Just a few more strips. You just have so much hair,” she said.
“Yes, I know!”
We remained silent as she completed the job with four more strips and three minutes of plucking strays.
“Your hair is very strong,” she repeated.
I exhaled when Elba patted my knee to indicate she was finished. The skin of my bikini area throbbed. She wiped the excess wax and applied antiseptic liquid with a cotton ball.
“Okay, you’re done. I’ll wait for you outside.”
“Thanks,” I said as she closed the door behind her.
I paid and tipped Elba generously for the meticulous wax and pluck. I don’t know if I received any discounted pricing, but that’s okay. I’m considering getting reimbursement from the National Park Service that operates the Cape Cod beaches. I endured the discomfort and humiliation for a public service that prevented screaming panicked masses on the national seashores.