About five years ago when I was dating my future wife, I mentioned to her that I was a little embarrassed because I had a bit of shoulder and back hair. As a blonde person this isn't the biggest deal in the world because the hair shows up lighter, but it still bothered me.
I would shave the area every few weeks, but trying to reach your back is kind of a hassle. I mean, I've never even seen my back. And when I try to spin around real quick in the bathroom to catch a glance, I just end up going around a few times and getting dizzy. I'm like a mildly retarded dog who never figured out it's HIS tail. Anyway. The thing about shaving my back is that it gets all prickly and irritated. I just wanted it gone. My girlfriend suggested I visit her esthetician. I made an appointment, telling her I would try anything once. Secretly I was excited.
As my shoulder and back waxing appointment was concluding, I didn't think twice of asking the waxer what men should do with their down-there hair. I've never been cool, much into fashion, and I didn't know the appropriate protocol. Her reply was that it was a matter of personal preference and also depended on what was doing down there.
I immediately pulled down my underwear and showed her what I was dealing with. It didn't even occur to me not to expose myself. They're kind of like doctors, right? I mean, they wax vaginas all day for a living. Actually, I guess that's not much like a doctor. Doctors fix vaginas, and waxers just pull off hair. But either way, they both see a ton of vaginas. My logic was that a penis is the male vagina, to which I think we can all agree. So, I showed her.
She took a cursory glance and gave me some advice.
Later when I told my wife that I showed her waxer my privates to get some grooming advice, I was surprised to find out she was not happy. It would be more accurate to say she was extremely angry. And even though I don't remember this ever coming up in our counseling sessions, it may have played a small part in the reason why she left.
About the same time this happened, I had another interesting pubic moment – this time with my father.
You Do What To Your What?
I don't have to do much to set the stage here. I was home in Peoria visiting my parents. I can't tell you what time of year, or why I was there. Let's just say it was a fourth of July weekend on a Saturday, mid-afternoon, okay? Plug in that visual while I roll out the rest of the details.
After a three-hour summer ride home with the top-down, I was ready for a shower. People who drive convertibles on the highway know what I'm talking about. You get this heaviness in your hair and on your face, probably from all the crap in the air. It was time to freshen up as they say in the movies (but I've never actually heard a woman say in real life). I made my way to my bedroom and unpacked. Pulled out the shower gloves and my toiletry bag.
Next I stripped naked, as one would do when preparing to bathe. Crap! I had forgotten conditioner.
Now, the thing about me is that, at home, I don't really care who sees me naked. This can be confirmed by my family who doesn't even bother telling me to cover up anymore. I mean, if I have to run through the house (now that I'm writing this, I realize how odd it is to run through one's home, but I really do sometimes), I have absolutely no issue sprinting naked. I put one hand over my genitals, as is the instinct, but that's about it.
Combine my predilection for nudity with the activity of getting ready for a shower, and you have a nude man walking about. So, as I was about to step into the tub, I realized – no conditioner.
Heading out of the bathroom, was fortunate to see my father walking to his bedroom – this is where their conditioner is stashed. I asked my dad if he would grab some for me.
He did, and came back moments later with a bottle. Probably Jojoba. (truth is I have no idea what brand, I just think Jojoba is a hilarious word)
As I was walking away back to the bathroom, he threw out an odd question.
Do you condition your chest hair?
I froze like you see in the movies where someone is walking away and the other person says something shocking. The person walking away stops and shudders, and you see this all from the back. In this case, imagine me nude from behind, stopping.
This is a question I have never heard. I somehow responded.
No. Of course not.
Wait a minute. Wait a goddamned minute! Yes, it hits me.
Do… Do you?
As casually as you would say your own name, my father answered, with seemingly no emotional attachment to his response.
Of course. Your mother likes it.
I spun around, because clearly this is a conversation that needed to continue. So many thoughts. Questions. Judgments. Concerns.
Not to bore you with the details, but I must have asked six more questions about this practice. Does it really condition the hair? How long do you leave it on? Do you wash, rinse, repeat, and then condition? Who taught you to do this? Stuff like that.
He answered each question. I believe, in his mind, this was a form of wisdom he was passing down from father to son. And, in a way, it was wisdom, for I had never heard about conditioning chest hair.
As I turned to finally get to the shower, he made one final comment.
Also, down there. It works down there, too.
Now I really did shudder. I've never once talked about pubes with anyone. Well, actually, that's not exactly true. I suppose I talked about it with girlfriends, but only to make sure they were cool with my grooming decisions. But never spoken of with friends, pastor, or employer.
I turned to look, because clearly, this WAS a joke. The whole chest hair conversation had to be a long setup, and this was the punchline. Well done, Dad!
Reminds me of the time I was coming back with my parents from a wedding for a family friend named Andrea. She is known as Rea.
I spent five minutes doing a set-up on the car ride home that included a false story of her running around the reception in a state of panic. I built suspense, tension, and sincerity. I know how to do these things.
Then – I hit them with the punchline.
So, I went up to her and said, “What's so dire, Rea?”
I was 30 years old and, to me, that was the greatest joke in the world. No hyperbole.
Back to Dad. When I spun around to read my father's face after saying such an awful, awful thing, it was obvious that he wasn't joking. This disappointed me. What was a great joke was now a tragic admission.
I immediately looked at my dad like there was something terribly wrong with him. “Nobody should be that concerned with their pubic softness,” I thought to myself. It's just not that important. But he was.
But the admission of conditioning wasn't the problem in my mind. The issue with his statement was that, to me, it meant that my father must have SO much pubic hair that he NEEDED to condition it.
It was time for me to impart some wisdom of my own. But in the form of a question, like Socrates.
Don't you… um… you know… keep it tidy down there?
He looked at me as if I were an alien. The tables had turned! I was the weirdo now!
No! Wait – you mean, shave your… What? No!
My father was now judging me while stumbling through his response. There is no way he wasn't intensely disappointed in his son. That generation did not trim their pubes. It just wasn't done.
So I started backtracking to try and repair the damage just caused to our relationship. But I'm talking way too fast, like a guilty perp in a precinct interrogation room under a hot lamp.
Well, you know, I mean, just a little cleaning up down there. Not like I'm talking about the whole thing. That would be crazy! I'm not crazy. It's totally normal to do this. Women expect it. I mean, sort of. But no, I never thought about conditioning. Not a bad idea. No sir, not bad at all. Okay, gotta go. Bye.
As I showered, I realized we had both equally grossed each other out. I remembered that, as a youth, I had never received the masturbation talk or the sex talk. I suppose this is not unusual.
But, the more I thought about it, I arrived at this conclusion:
You ought to have at least one uncomfortable moment with your father where you both share something deeply personal and embarrassing. It will bond you in a way. It's in these rare experiences where you realize that you and your dad are just people, and you escape the restrictions of the family dynamic, at least for the moment.
You're just two guys talking about pubes.