With her first novel Virgin, hot young Brit author Radhika Sanghani has written one of the funniest and most heartfelt reads of the summer. (And tapped a major trend.) We got a hold of the chapter that details the virginal heroine’s adventures in waxing. (We feel your pain, Ellie!) Virgin was released this week; read on for #brazilianwaxstruggles.
Lying on my bed and staring up at the Peter Andre poster I had stuck on my ceiling at age eleven, I thought about my date with Jack. He had texted me with a firm plan for tomorrow. We were going to have dinner at a cheap sushi restaurant and go for drinks after. According to Emma, this meant that he was hoping to get lucky, so I should avoid the wasabi sauce because it was the Japanese equivalent of garlic. If having S-E-X was a possibility for tomorrow night, then I needed to be ready and sort out my VJ.
I groaned in misery at the thought of waxing (which seemed too painful to contemplate), braving the cream again (although this time I would have to leave it on for double the time) or accepting my doomed fate and going back to shaving.
Then I remembered the interlinked traumas of my cut vagina, itchy stubble and James Martell crying with laughter at my unshaven haven. I had to get a wax. I couldn’t blow it with Jack just because I didn’t like the thought of spending my student loan on an hour of excruciating pain.
Emma had recommended her thirty-pound-a-go salon but I was sure I could find one that did waxes a bit cheaper. I grabbed my laptop and started searching. Eventually I found a place in Bloomsbury that did a Brazilian for eighteen quid. That was pretty much half the price of Emma’s and it was near the British Museum so it wasn’t going to be a dodgy backstreet alley.
Feeling very proud of my thrifty self, I called up before I could lose my nerve and booked myself in for an afternoon appointment. That way I could go just before our date and have a perfectly smooth vag for Jack. Now all I needed to do was trim the damn thing.
The next day, I walked into the salon cautiously, pushing open the pink door and trying to ignore the tacky leaflets stuck all over it. It was a hairdresser’s salon on the ground floor and there was nobody at the reception desk, just a woman with a peroxide-blond head cutting a man’s hair on the other side of the room.
“Hiya, love. Give us a second,” she called out to me. “What is it you’re in for?”
“Um, a wax,” I replied, hoping I’d come to the right place. “A Hollywood, is it?” she bellowed. I blushed furiously and shook my head silently, praying she would stop speaking about waxes at the top of her voice. She seemed to take my hint because she put down her scissors and crossed the room to me. The man in the chair had turned around—showing himself to be Eastern European–looking and middle-aged—and was now watching the whole scene with an amused smile on his face. Fantastic.
“No, it’s actually for a Brazilian,” I said in a hushed voice as she reached me and started flicking through a notepad.
“Oh, a Brazilian! Why didn’t you just say so?” she asked, her voice still as loud as before. “Oh wait, is that going to be just a normal Brazilian you want, or a Playboy Brazilian?”
“A Playboy Brazilian?” I answered, confused and wondering if she wanted me to have a Playboy Bunny etched onto my vagina.
“Yeah, you know, a Playboy wax. It’s a type of Brazilian wax but instead of leaving a thick runway strip, we just leave a smaller area of hair. Honestly, babe, I totally recommend a Playboy—they’re all the rage these days and I’m sure your boyfriend would love it.” She winked at me and threw her head back to screech in laughter. “Don’t you agree, Stan?” she called out to the man in the chair. He looked me up and down and smiled, showing his crooked yellow teeth, before nodding slowly.
I flushed under his lewd gaze and quickly said, “Fine, that’s fine. So, where do I go?”
“Oh, just down those stairs. Yasmin will take care of you when you get down there. Second door on the right,” she said, flicking her hot pink nails in the direction of a wooden staircase.
I ran down the stairs without thanking her and prayed that a Playboy was what Emma would have recommended. The name sounded like something she might go for, and a smaller area of hair sounded good. Besides, I had been so uncomfortable up there that I would have agreed to anything—even having a hair bunny marked out onto my lady bits.
“Hello?” I asked, creaking open the second door on the right.
“Oh, hiya,” said a young girl with curly black hair. “I’m Yasmin. Come in.”
I breathed a sigh of relief as I saw that she was dark-skinned and probably had thick pubes as well. That meant she wouldn’t judge me. She smiled supportively. “Okay, so do you just want to undress and lie down on the bed for me? I’ll be back in a couple of minutes,” she said.
I nodded mutely but as the door closed behind her, I began thinking about what she had said. I had to undress and lie on the bed, which sounded pretty simple, but just what did “undress” mean? Obviously I had to take my shoes and socks off, which I did, and then my jeans. But then, standing there in my black knickers and polka dot jumper, I wondered how much more to take off. I should probably leave my top half on, because it wasn’t like she would need to access those parts, but what about my knickers? Would she want to navigate around them and just sort of pull them to the side, or should I just take them off and lie half-naked on the bed?
I heard a knock on the door, and she called out, “Can I come in?”
Fuck fuck fuck. “One sec,” I replied as I made a split-second decision and pulled my knickers off. I jumped onto the bed and lay down. “Ready!” I called out, trying to hide the shrill panic in my voice.
She pushed opened the door and walked into the room, smiling at me. “Okay, great. So Roxy tells me you want a Playboy?”
“Um, I think so,” I said. “It’s a type of Brazilian, right? Would you recommend it?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” she said, with a slight laugh. “I reckon a Playboy should be just fine. Okay, so just spread your legs out as wide as you can and I’ll start.”
Feeling very awkward, I pulled my legs apart as much as I could and displayed the inner workings of my vagina. She brought a pot of wax towards me and slathered a hot blue strip onto my skin with a wooden spatula. She leaned between my legs as she did so and I prayed to God it didn’t smell. I had washed it as much as I could, but as my mum had told me I shouldn’t use soap down there, I was stressed that a pure water wash hadn’t left it clean enough. I mean, if I didn’t use shower gel all over my body, that would just be uncomfortable for everyone, so surely not using it down there would be the same?
Suddenly a bolt of white-hot pain soared up my body, pulling me straight out of my thoughts, and I screamed.
“Sorry, did that hurt?” she asked. “It should get less painful. Just hold your skin taut and do it as tight as you can. That should help.”
I looked down and saw a patch of hairless skin in between my legs. It was pale and already covered in tiny red dots. Whimpering slightly, I pulled the skin tight around the next waxed area and breathed in and out deeply, preparing myself for the next bolt of pain. Sure enough, a second jolt of agony spread through my body as she whipped the strip off my sore skin. The nerve endings down there felt frayed and I couldn’t help yelping out in pain again. I closed my eyes and tried to think calming thoughts, while my hands mechanically moved around my vagina, pulling the skin taut for the next minutes of agony.
After a while, she said, “Okay, I’m going to need you to pull the lips open so I can get right in there and take the hair off the sides. Pull one knee up like that, and then . . . yep, that’s it. Push your knees far apart.”
My knees were bent and spread out, my hands were pulling my labia open, and my body was so contorted I felt like I was doing intermediate yoga over her paper-clad bed.
“Is this, um, right?” I grunted, focusing all my energy on maintaining the pose.
“Perfect,” she trilled as she slathered the wax onto my most delicate bits. My eyes opened wide in horror as I saw the white strip descend onto the fragile-looking skin before she ripped it off abruptly. I howled in pain and felt tears in the corners of my eyes.
“Sorry,” she said, not looking sorry at all. “The hairs are pretty thick down here, so it’s going to hurt a bit, but I’ll try to get them all off for you.”
Try?! She was a trained beautician—at least I hoped she was—so surely she was accustomed to getting the toughest hairs out. There was no way I was going to leave with patches of pubes all over my VJ.
“I’ve got most of them out now,” she said, after five more strips yanked my poor pubes out. “Turn on your front now, and rest on your hands and knees.”
Resisting the temptation to lie there stroking my raw skin, I obeyed her and turned onto my front. Then I pulled myself up onto my hands and knees, doing the Pilates table pose on her bed.
“Can you just use one hand to pull your bum cheek to the side?” she asked casually.
I gingerly removed my left hand and pulled my left bum cheek to the side as requested, wobbling slightly on my right hand. She put more wax down my bum crack and I breathed slowly, pre- paring myself for the pain.
“You didn’t trim down here,” she tutted in annoyance. “The hairs are going to pull. Next time you need to trim all the way in the G-string area.”
She ripped the strips off and the pain wasn’t as bad as I had expected. The skin must be tougher there because it felt kind of cleansing. She did the other side, and I wobbled less as I leaned on my left hand and held the other cheek open. I tried not to think about the fact that she could see parts of my body in more detail that I would ever be able to.
“There we go,” she said. “Now, lie on your front and let me pluck out any stray hairs.”
She got out some tweezers and began pulling little hairs out. I craned my neck downwards in curiosity, as the thought of tweezing down there had never crossed my mind.
“Lie back,” she snapped, and I quickly rested my head back down on the bed where the tissue paper had scrunched up and I could feel the cold leather of the bed against my skin.
“Okay,” she said eventually. “Let me just rub some aloe vera onto the skin and then you’re done.”
She squirted freezing-cold liquid onto my skin and started rubbing it all over. I tensed up as she started to rub on the lips and wondered if this counted as sexual harassment. Was I being molested by my waxing lady?
“Lovely,” she said. “I’ll see you upstairs to pay when you’re changed.”
She walked out of the room and I immediately sat up straight to look down and see the finished result. The entire vagina was bare, with tiny red dots all over the pale white skin. It looked like a plucked chicken, apart from a tiny patch of black hair in the middle. Was this what it was meant to look like? Emma had insinuated there should be a thick strip of hair down the whole thing but mine just looked like a tiny rectangle.
In fact, I thought as I tilted my head, my VJ looked like it had a little moustache on it. A Hitler moustache.
“So, that will be . . . twenty-four pounds for the Playboy, plus ten for the G-string area,” the peroxide bitch said as her pink acrylics tapped away on the calculator.
I stared at her in shock. “What? No, I thought it was eighteen quid.”
“Oh, no, that’s just for a normal Brazilian. As you can see, the Playboy Brazilian takes more hair off so it’s twenty-four. A full Hollywood is twenty-six, you see. Then, because you’ve had all the hair off at the back too, that’s another tenner,” she explained.
Silently I handed her my debit card and paid thirty-four pounds for my Hitler moustache. I didn’t say another word to her and barely mumbled “bye” to Yasmin as I escaped from the shop and let the flyer-clad door swing shut behind me. I pulled my phone out from my bag and rang Emma immediately.
“Heya,” she answered. “All ready for the big date?”
“I have an emergency,” I blurted out. “I just went to a salon and got a Playboy Brazilian wax and now my vagina has a tiny Hitler moustache in the middle. The rest of it looks like it has acute chicken pox. Please tell me this is normal.”
“Oh-kaaay. The chicken pox thing is definitely legit—mine always looks gross afterwards but the red dots will disappear soon. But the Hitler thing? I don’t understand, babe. Didn’t you get a normal Brazilian like we discussed?”
“It went wrong,” I wailed. “She told me a Playboy was the best type of Brazilian. And it hurt so badly, and it looks so weird.”
“Okay, calm down. I’m sure it isn’t as bad as you think. Why didn’t you just get them to take the little bit of hair off and have a Hollywood?”
I stopped mid-step. “Fuck. I don’t know. I should have. I can’t go back in though, I just can’t. It was so embarrassing and so gross.”
“Where did you go?” she asked.
“A depressing place in Bloomsbury that was freezing cold and cost thirty-four quid.”
“You should have gone to my salon! It’s cheaper and really nice and— Oh my God, please tell me your beautician used sugar wax?”
“What’s sugar wax?”
“It’s the one where they layer it all over you, and then peel it off at the end. They don’t use strips so it hurts waaaay less.”
“My beautician used strips,” I moaned.
“Oh, Ellie,” she said. “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. Are you on your way to meet him now?”
I looked down at my Casio watch. “Yep, and obviously I’m early. He’s going to think I’m so keen.”
“Just go hang out in the loos and make yourself look even more beautiful than you already do,” she suggested.
“Okay. Thank you.” “You’ll be amazing. Good luck!”
Reprinted from Virgin by Radhika Sanghani by arrangement with Berkley, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, a Penguin Random House Company. Copyright ©2014 by Radhika Sanghani.