It all started with the thong craze. That’s when I realized women my age were lying to each other with alarming regularity.
“Thongs are really comfortable once you get used to them,” one friend promised.
“Even a flabby ass looks great in a thong,” another said.
I had no intention of trying thong underwear until I saw them on sale in Costco. Six thongs for four dollars! I had to buy them.
First thing I learned: It’s a bad idea to wear a thong for the first time at a three-hour docu-drama.
“Quit squirming around,” my husband said during the previews. I could not get comfortable! Finally he whispered, “What’s wrong with you?”
“I think I have my thong on backwards.”
I checked. It was on properly. Anyone who claims thongs are comfortable is flat out lying.
We lie, I think, to minimize the pain we inflict on our own bodies.
“Spanx are totally comfortable,” a woman with a pinched voice claimed.
“Stilettos don’t hurt your feet at all if you wear them around the house first, with Vaseline on your toes and heavy sweat socks overtop,” a friend said with bags of frozen spinach balanced on her swollen insteps.
Pain never stops women. Take, for example, the hair removing process known as threading. “You’ve got to try it,” my friend insisted as we walked in the mall. “It’s how ancient Egyptians removed body hair.” I immediately conjured an image of Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra with those perfectly shaped eyebrows.
The threading kiosk was stationed in the middle of the food court just across from Cinnabon. I watched as the technician wound a short strand of thread through her own fingers and then rubbed it over the forehead of a woman stretched on the table with her legs jutting like those of the Wicked Witch trapped under the house.
“It captures the hairs by the roots, so it grows back slower,” my friend whispered. Suddenly she was an expert on ancient Egyptian grooming techniques. “It hardly hurts at all.”
The legs bounced. “It looks as painless as electro-convulsive therapy,” I noted, walking away. “Not all ancient practices should be resurrected. Like trepanation. It’s said to cure headaches, lethargy and memory loss. But would you let someone drill holes in your skull?”
“Now you’re just being ridiculous,” she said.
If anything is ridiculous, it’s the much-touted Brazilian bikini wax. The Brazilian, as it’s called socially, is a modern torture that entails removing nearly all the pubic hair. What cannot be removed by swaths of hot wax is meticulously yanked, one by one, with tweezers and a magnifying glass. Only a decorative patch of hair remains at front. One can choose the shape and design of this neatly trimmed acreage. Popular templates include the triangle pointing down, the landing strip, the whimsical heart or an arrow for those with poor sensory navigation.
“You have to get a Brazilian,” my friend said during yoga class. “It will make you feel supple.”
“You do it once a month,” another friend explained, “and if you’re lucky, you won’t break out completely like I did.”
“It’s totally worth the pain.” Oh sure, I’d heard that one before.
I announced my unsolicited decision one night with no preamble at all. “I’m NOT getting a Brazilian.”
My husband did not look up from his tablet.
“I already have too much personal maintenance,” I rambled on. “I have no interest in exposing my genitals to the open air.”
His head popped up. I had his attention. “What are we talking about?”
“Brazilian bikini waxing. It’s when they rip all the hair off, leaving you naked as a baby.”
His eyes began to glow.
Hours of intense Internet research had unearthed a photograph which I’d downloaded and printed for this very moment. I held it out to him like a sacred offering. “This is what it looks like afterwards,” I said.
“Hmmm.” He turned the photo this way and that.
I plopped into a chair opposite him, armed with a sure challenge: “There’s a New Year’s special at the waxing salon. Two for one.”
He looked at the picture again.
“What do you think? How does that look now?”
He dropped the photo on the table. “It looks like she needs grout.”
What’s next, I wonder? Foot binding? I can hear the lying already: “It barely hurts at all.”
Lisa K. Friedman is a writer and essayist living in Washington, DC. Her essays appear in the New York Times and other publications. She is the author of Cruise to Retribution, and Nothing to Lose. You can follow her on her Tumblr, or on Twitter or Facebook.