Not Waxing Poetic; just waxing
Two years post-separating from my husband of thirty years I find myself in the bathroom with my adult daughter. We are changing out of wet bathing suits when she remarks,
‘You know mom, if you’re going to start dating in the Hamptons, you better start grooming in the…netherlands.’
Though mostly frozen, I compose myself long enough to channel one of the ninety-four episodes of Sex and the City that we watched together.
‘Smith likes a full bush!’ I respond, quite pleased with myself.
She laughs, generously, but we both know there is no Smith. Or Jones. Or Anyone. And she continues to grimace, appraising me as if I am an unidentifiable but clearly expired food item at the back of the fridge. I am feeling quite the same; if not outright moldy then certainly past my freshness date. A woman who should come with a warning:
‘Best if used by…age 32.’
Evidently I’ve been stuck in a huge time warp; nobody has hair down there anymore. When did this happen? It feels like only yesterday I embraced my Natural Woman, and yet now I need to morph into Bare Naked Lady.
The cruelest joke is that I’ve always thought of myself as a progressive mom (cue the eye-rolling young adults). Case in point: When my college bound son insisted he knew everything about sex, I countered that I was quite sure he knew little about how a woman’s body really worked. It was an interesting moment. A mother having a perfectly reasonable chat about sex and a young man sticking his fingers in his ears, chanting ‘nah nah nah’ and ‘I can’t hear you!!’
What? You mean that doesn’t happen in every house?
My daughter escaped no less. I felt compelled to explain that, biologically, what works for a man does not necessarily work for a woman; I may have provided a diagram and short tutorial. She’s finally stopped referring to the incident as ‘the twenty minutes that scarred me for life’. At least I think so. You’d have to confirm with her therapist.
But the tables have turned and now I am the newbie. I ask,
‘So how long is appropriate before one has sex with someone one is dating?”
I suggest…3 months?
When they fall to the floor laughing hysterically I guess I have my answer. As if this is not disturbing enough they proceed to debate; my daughter cites a five-date rule. My son says three. Apparently I have raised a family of little sluts.
The grooming dilemma seems particularly relevant to my daughter because I’ll be spending the summer in Water Mill. I grew up on Long Island and have been coming to the East End since there were miles of potato fields and well, more potato fields. Throw in the assorted lobster truck, a share house called House By You? and far too many nights trolling for potential husbands at Marrakesh and you have the early days. Later, I met my ex-husband at a party in Southampton and we moved to (ssh) Jersey. A variety of issues kept us away for far too long so I’m thrilled to be back but….The Hamptons. And all that comes with it. I am over most of the hype. I am not over my embarrassment at thinking there was now a subway.
Everything’s changed: Who to call at Gurneys for a last minute reservation (Helen), where to spot the Barefoot Contessa (LT Burger with Jeffrey!) and the best way to get to South and avoid 27 (middle line to Deerfield). Yes, I’m catching up. But The Grooming Decision remains a metaphor for everything that’s passed me by. And what’s sexy has changed along with the ‘hairstyles’. Back when I was initially dating (and dinosaurs roamed the earth) men were so happy to get anywhere near that area that a little hair didn’t matter. In fact, I suspect I could have sported a full beard, mustache and a coat of fur to rival Bigfoot and they wouldn’t have cared. But, as my daughter says so eloquently with her magna cum laude education:
‘Eewww, mom, hair is gross.’
Gross? A hairless Mons approximating pre-pubescent privates went from dangerously pedophilic to hot? Although I was the one who ended my three-decade marriage I am newly angry at my ex for making me want to! I already blame him for everything from global warming to this year’s presidential candidates. Maybe I could post a photo of him in Citarellas with the caption: If you see this man, dial 555-242-3037.
No, that’s not my number but you might get Angelo at the IRS. Just sayin’.
It’s not lost on me that this one decision has taken on mammoth proportions. To groom or not to groom; if I can just get that right maybe the rest will follow. So I put it off.
I begin to date and concentrate on what’s really important; what I want in a man. Essentially, the bar is really low; are you on a first name basis with anyone from the government? Are you on a registry of any kind? Well, that’s pretty much it. My online profile eventually reads:
I think a 401k is really hot.
Yeah, it’s been a rocky few years.
When I left my husband I was a writer and a therapist with no full time job, no money in the bank and no idea what the future might hold for a woman in her fifties intent on pursuing a better connection. My mood swings were bipolar; one day I was confident; other days I bit the skin off the sides of my nails, panicked that I‘d foolishly banked on a fairy tale. And some days I simply lay down on the floor of the den with the dog and wailed. Then I got a job, and with it came work, colleagues, a paycheck, and life went on.
The summer flew by, the autumn too, and most of the winter.
And then I met Greg. Sigh. Cue the huge cliché. I went to the prom with Greg in the 80’s and yes, we reconnected on… (Spoiler alert: it’s the f-word)…Facebook.
Because I’d known him, known his family and felt safe with him, I plunged right in. Upon returning from a ski trip to Colorado where I skied solo for the very first time, I had some bravado. One drop into China Bowl by myself and I was full blown into ‘I am woman hear me roar’ mode.
Lotions and creams from The Body Shop, Amaretto Candles at dusk, Colbie and Gavin and Jason on my Pandora, and the inevitable trip to the lingerie store. Greg lived in Boston so our relationship was long distance; once a month he’d fly in or we’d meet elsewhere. The charm of always being ‘on vacation’ with him was exciting but it wasn’t only that; with Greg I began to feel like me. His tenderness made me glow, his calm gave me peace, and his affirmations made me feel worthwhile. It was a fit; like slipping on that perfect dress you know instantly needs no alterations.
As another summer loomed, everything was as predictable as the hydrangeas and tomatoes, full privets and emptying vines. The only thing left was the little matter of grooming. And I just knew it was time.
On a Friday at 3:00 pm in Bridgehampton I met Danielle, a young woman I’d never seen before but who was exactly my age if you multiplied hers times three. Despite knowing her for exactly 9 seconds she asked me to spread my shaking legs wide open on a table with bright lights. Seriously? I will never be embarrassed at the gynecologist again!! Stirrups? Child’s Play. This was Extreme Olympic Exposing. Positions were more contortions. I thought I was done when she suddenly said to ‘rock back, grab my knees and spread my cheeks’. What? Danielle assured me that this was how it’s always done because she had to wax ‘back there’. Back there? There’s hair back there? Apparently so. But not for me!! Not anymore.
Full Brazilian baby!!
I was as bare as a young girl and I’m still not sure whether Greg didn’t like it or he didn’t like that he did. Me? I confess, it felt great. After. So who’s the family slut now, hmm?
Flash forward five months: I still get smooth on Montauk Highway but I’m no longer with Greg; things happen, and geography is a formidable opponent. But life is smoother in more ways than one. I know that there is man out there for me; the kind that fits, the kind that makes me smile from the inside out. Although ending my marriage was a rocky and jagged act, life is slowly becoming a little more groomed.
On a final note, I can promise that if I’m ever changing again with my daughter and I notice she has anything pierced, she’s on her own.