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But these were, by and large, eyebrow waxes — which weren’t as intimate or as painful as bikini waxes. I only had one bikini wax in high school. I was lying on what looked like a love child between a dentist’s chair and a white tiger, and my mom was in the room. Whenever the waxer ripped off hair, I laughed because I didn’t know what else to do.
After that, I stuck with shaving my bikini area for a long time. But shaving doesn’t get everything. It also made for dozens of ingrown hairs, like landmines (I had yet to discover the /r/skincareaddiction subreddit and its wisdom on getting rid of ingrown hairs). I was tired of the prickly hair, how angry my skin would become afterwards — it looked worse than having hair itself. I wanted to wax.
Clarification: I also didn’t want hair on my ass crack. I wanted a Brazilian wax, not a bikini.
I put all my trust in Yelp; if it can help me find a place with a sushi happy hour, surely it would help with this.
My senior year of college I was in Poughkeepsie, in New York’s Hudson Valley, determined to go under the knife — or waxing strip — again. This area is more known for apple picking and hiking than fine hair removal places, and I soon found out there were few and far between.
I put all my trust in Yelp; if it can help me find a place with a sushi happy hour, surely it would help with this. I stumbled upon the Poughkeepsie European Wax Center quickly. Four and a half stars: incredibly promising.
Still, I was initially worried about the concept of a chain waxing center. Was this the Subway of hair removal? Would I be subjected to a teenager in a hairnet ripping out my pubes as if they were ripping apart 9-Grain Wheat rolls?
The thought was terrifying, but not terrifying enough to deter me from the $25 price tag. (The cost of a Brazilian wax at the Wax Center is around $50, and your first wax is free or half off, depending on what it is).
The Wax Center had another thing going for it: online reservations, allowing me to avoid human contact in preparation for very intimate human contact. The options were to choose a spot by waxer or time. I chose time and put my faith in the Wax Center to put me in capable hands.
The Wax Center had another thing going for it: online reservations, allowing me to avoid human contact in preparation of very intimate human contact.
When I came for my appointment, I was soon greeted by a fairy-like woman named Ellen. She had blonde hair in the in-between phase of a pixie cut and a bob and donned the usual red Wax Center uniform. She shook my hand firmly as if she just sold me a used Toyota Camry, then guided me into a client room.
I immediately warmed to Ellen. She has the same name as my mom, which comforted me. She parroted the script that European Wax Center makes its waxers say, which harps on buying its numerous products in order to have the best experience — but she winked and whispered that I didn’t need to buy anything (was the room bugged?).
(I ended up buying the Ingrown Hair Serum. Ellen’s reverse psychology charmed me.)
Then she began. Having hair ripped from your pubic area is, of course, painful, and nothing, not even the sweetest human being on earth, could allow me to forget that.
Ellen talked enough to fill the room but not too much to suffocate it. I learned about her children — two, a boy and a girl — and that she was raising them on her own. I learned that she had an hour-long commute to the Wax Center and didn’t live in Poughkeepsie. I learned that she was close with her own mother, who she sometimes imitated in our conversations.
When she was done with the wax she took a tweezer to get the last few hairs, "because she was a perfectionist." Unafraid of getting close to someone’s pubic area, completely professional and dedicated to her job of leaving me hairless (save a "landing strip").
I was so compelled, I wrote my first-ever Yelp review (don’t judge, I am much better now at detailing my experiences):
My review struck at least two people enough to deem it "useful" and "cool." I thought so, too.
I was smitten — not in a romantic way, but in a "I want to you to continue ripping out my pubic hair until I die or decide not to feed into society’s ideal of women, whichever comes first" way.
And continue ripping out my pubic hair Ellen did. European Wax Center by default schedules next appointments four weeks in advance, and I gleefully accepted. I even purchased an offer for students: buy three, get one free. I dropped $150 on waxes like it was nothing because of Ellen.
Every four weeks I would be there, usually ten minutes early, smiling at the same receptionist and always shaking Ellen’s hand like I bought a car every time. Her positive attitude was infectious. You get a wax, you get a wax! You get a hairless asshole, you get a hairless asshole!
Ellen, who would sacrifice her bottom line so I didn’t go through this pain more than I had to.
At one point, she even told me (in the same hushed tone she told me I didn’t need to buy European Wax Center’s line of products) that my hair grew slow enough that I could come every five weeks instead of four. Ellen, who would sacrifice her bottom line so I didn’t go through this pain more than I had to. Ellen, the single mother who drove an hour for the thankless job of getting into strangers’s pubic areas.
As the months passed, I knew our time together was fleeting: I would graduate in May and move back to New York City. I made sure with each appointment booking that it would be Ellen I was seeing. My schedule was flexible enough that I could adhere to hers.
The time came for what would be my last appointment with Ellen, in early May. I thought about our upcoming conversation, how I would ask her about what her and her children’s plans would be for the summer. I would sigh as I told her that I was graduating and would not see her again. I knew she would give me well wishes of "good luck" and talk about how exciting it was to be graduating. Surely, it would be bittersweet.
But this last supper would never happen. As I perched myself on the receptionist’s counter and chirped that I had an appointment with Ellen, the receptionist didn’t flinch: "Oh, Ellen doesn’t work here anymore."
My smile vanished, my brows furrowed. I told her I had a Brazilian scheduled, and she told me to sit and wait for my new waxer.
I was more upset than I had been when I was ghosted by someone I’d been dating a few months prior.
I’m going to be honest: I don’t remember the new waxer’s name. Let’s call her Shelly, even though it was definitely not Shelly. Shelly was new and it was painfully obvious. She went through the Wax Center-written monologue without the grace and knowledge that Ellen did; she was hesitant when she pulled the wax, unlike Ellen’s expertise; she also took 24 minutes, a whole nine minutes more than Wax Center’s — and Ellen’s — standard.
I was devastated. I was more upset than I had been when I was ghosted by someone I’d been dating a few months prior. This ghosting was just as bad, if not worse.
I don’t know why Ellen left the Wax Center. There could be many reasons: she found a new calling, she found a job closer to home, she was fed up with repeating the Wax Center spiel over and over. I refuse to believe she was fired or that she did anything wrong. In my reality, Ellen quit in a triumphant display of agency and found her way to financial security some other way. The Erin Brockovich of waxing. A member of the All-American Girls Professional Hair Removal League. There’s no crying in cosmetology.
I have since moved on from the Poughkeepsie European Wax Center myself. It took me four months to schedule another Brazilian. It was at one of the many Wax Centers in Manhattan. Once again, like a drunken one-night stand, I do not remember the waxer’s name. I have yet to go back, rescheduling my appointments whenever they draw near.
Why don’t we talk about these relationships? Surely, I’m not alone in having a favorite waxer, Brazilian or otherwise.
Losing Ellen made me realize the value of these esthetician/client relationships. Ellen empowered me, and I was able to support her in a small way with my loyalty. Ellen saw me at what was maybe my most vulnerable, because not only was I naked from the waist down — but I was in pain. Calling our appointments "intimate" does not sound right. She was like a gynecologist: professional about an area only few people see, an expert in what she needed to be.
Why don’t we talk about these relationships? Surely, I’m not alone in having a favorite waxer, Brazilian or otherwise. Do we deem them insignificant because they don’t provide services as "important" as, say, a doctor’s? Do we disregard them because cosmetology is traditionally feminine? Do we think it’s weird to have an affinity for someone who, in my case, rips hair out of our ass crack?
Ellen and I did not have closure. Unlike other people that weave in and out of our lives, I have no way of getting in touch — which may be for the best. For now, I will wander the streets of New York City hoping to find that spark with another waxer, trying to fill the void Ellen left. She taught me that the relationship between esthetician and client is worth caring about, is worth thinking about. Ellen provided me confidence and a safe place in which to feel vulnerable, like a friend or family member would — all while plucking out stubborn pubic hair.