‘I’ll bet you’re wondering how you got yourself into this situation,” says Tanya Niselow, a qualified beauty therapist at Tanya’s Beauty Bar in Randburg. She is about to demonstrate the male Brazilian wax (popularly known as the back, crack and sack treatment). That is exactly what I am wondering as I feel hot wax down one side of my testicles right up to my pubic triangle.
There is a profusion of treatments for removing body hair on the market these days – plucking, laser, shaving, depilatory cream, bleaching and so on. And body hair is removed for a number of reasons – religion, sport, hygiene, aesthetics.
In particular, “manscaping” seems more popular than ever, made more acceptable by references in popular culture (movies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and American Pie and the example of porn stars). I guess what brought me to this point was curiosity about what the notorious “Bro-zilian” involves and what kind of man has it done.
I am jolted back to reality by the pain as Niselow pulls off the first strip of wax. The pain comes in short, sharp bursts, a stabbing pain. When I am more used to it, I picture Niselow with a huge cartoon butcher’s knife stabbing my groin. The first time everything goes white and there is just us. Me and the pain.
“It is sore,” Niselow warns, “but the more you come and the more regularly you come, the easier it gets.” Her intonation is pointedly neutral, like a pilot saying he expects to land his aircraft safely in 20 minutes, assuming there are no crosswinds. But there are crosswinds because these are my genitals we are talking about.
Niselow has already applied another strip of wax. “Now, I’m going to do around the shaft and the balls. This part is a bit sensitive because there are a lot of nerve endings,” she warns as she pulls off the strip.
I double over. The pain is searing. As I lie down, I seriously contemplate calling it a day. I picture myself apologising and gathering my things, but the thought of walking out ridiculously half-waxed stops me.
As the hot wax is applied down the other side of my testicles, I try to distract myself by looking at her bookshelf. There is an illustrated children’s Bible, a book of fables and some other Reader’s Digest kind of hardcovers, alongside a picture of her with her partner and little girl.
She talks away as she works, casually arranging my privates as she does. “My clients like it here because it’s clean and professional, but not clinical.”
We are in the little studio to one side of her house in Randburg. She says she has been practicing for 22 years, but for the past six years has been focusing on male grooming. She says 95% of her clients come for the Bro-zilian – attorneys, doctors, bankers, sportsmen, ranging in age from their 20s to their 60s.
She tears away the strip with the sound of undoing Velcro. I wince. My chest is contracted and my heart is beating fast.
“That’s looking so nice.” She shows me the strip of wax. “See the white parts on the bottom of the hair? That’s the root. The more you come, the more those get pulled out and the less the regrowth.”
I look down and attempt to nod. My whole body is immobile.
There is a piece of cheerful-looking fabric over the bottom part of the table. Apparently some men could let a little something slip out the back door. “It’s natural,” Niselow says casually.
She gives me the option of bypassing the crack, saying that some men prefer not to have this area done. But I decide to have the full experience. I had wondered – when I did an alarming internet search that brought up close-ups of hairless male butt cheeks spread alongside an unblinking brown eye – if it might be done on all fours, but Niselow directs me to lie on my stomach.
She applies the wax and warns: “Don’t clench your cheeks!”
This would be a situation, the wax from both sides would stick together and it would be a mission to get it out.
The final strip leaves me breathless. It is a different kind of pain, like a blow to the stomach. Fortunately, though, it is just the one and then we are done.
“Okay, so you’ve finished your first Brazilian.”
I cast an eye over my pubis and it looks like a newly plucked chicken. It is shocking to see myself so hairless in that area, but there is also a certain transgressive thrill.
“It’s so nice and clean, you won’t ever want to go back to having pubic hair,” Niselow says as I put on my pants. “It’s a hygiene thing. You see how it works: the hair holds the sweat and when it’s smooth you can clean more thoroughly.”
I am so relieved that we are finished. We say our goodbyes. I overcome the urge to hug her. That might make it weird.