Pubes. Mane. 70s Bush. Pusstache. Vagina Sweater. Merkin. The hilarious irony about trying to write a serious article about something that’s made me laugh plenty of times is not lost on me. I’m talking about pubic hair, specifically my pubic hair. It shouldn’t be a serious topic, but the hairs that naturally grow out of my body down there have caused me quite a bit of shame since puberty.
I grew up in Europe, never thinking much of anything about pubic hair. Similar to their stance on nudity, the bush was widely accepted and embraced in Europe. I never recall anyone making a fuss about either. Euros love a good bush, or at least the old school generation I grew up with did. I have vivid memories of seeing naked people throughout my childhood, and I’ve probably seen more bushes than anyone I know.
One memory in particular stands out.
I was at a spa with thermal pools (note: it’s a nudity spa) with my dad, stepmom, and their two best couple friends. All six of them were completely naked. I must have been 7 or 8 years old and the only one wearing bikini bottoms. In that one experience it was clear: No person has the same bush, and the drapes don’t always match the carpet. For the record, as an adult now living in the States, I find it absolutely absurd such a thing exists. But once more, I’ll blame it on the Euros, known to bring their kids with them everywhere, even to nudity spas.
Even as a teenager in Europe, I have plenty of memories, being at tennis camp or in P.E. showers, seeing the wide array of colors, shapes, and volumes of my peers’ private parts. If I may say so, I always considered my own bush somewhat cute. Compared to the ones I saw growing up, mine was small and never exceeded the limits of my underwear, unlike most of the girls I saw at boarding school. I sometimes trimmed the area when it needed tending, but I never actually got rid of it. I never shaved it. I was never ashamed or concerned about it. It felt natural and normal.
Euros love a good bush, or at least the old school generation I grew up with did.
That was until my Canadian long-distance boyfriend asked me if I had ever considered shaving it off entirely. He told me his business partner (who was also his cousin) told him that his girlfriend shaves it all off. I, like most European girls, was always told that if you use a razor, your hairs would grow back a lot thicker, which is why I always waxed or Nair’ed my legs. The only thing I didn’t mind shaving were my armpits.
I was so mortified that my boyfriend talked about this, those parts of me, with his cousin. I was so worried that I considered it, even though I didn’t really understand why I needed to.
“I don’t want to shave it. It’ll grow back darker and thicker,” I resisted. He remained quiet. “But, maybe I can look into something else.”
When I returned home to Belgium, I asked my stepmom to book me an appointment at an esthetician. “I’d like to get a bikini wax,” I said proudly, feeling like this was maybe a new-age step into womanhood that I previously didn’t know about.
I asked for a landing strip. The thought of getting rid of all my hair made me uncomfortable. When I looked in the mirror afterwards, it looked weird. It wasn’t a perfectly straight line like how I had seen in porn. It made me feel gross, like my own private parts now had some pervy agenda.
At my next appointment, four weeks later, I asked her to get rid of everything. I was surprised by how much I actually liked it. It felt soft and clean, and I hoped that it would satisfy my then-boyfriend. I felt embarrassed thinking about the guys I had previously had sex with too, “Were they all thinking what my boyfriend was thinking: What is up with her bush?!”
When I saw him again a few months later, he was thrilled. He repeatedly told me how sexy it looked and how much it turned him on.
I felt embarrassed thinking about the guys I had previously had sex with too, “Were they all thinking what my boyfriend was thinking: What is up with her bush?!”
I’d spend the next 12 years getting bikini waxes. Even after my boyfriend and I broke up when I was 22, I continued doing it because I felt ashamed about any hair growth down there. My ex-boyfriend’s disdain for pubic hair affected not only the way I viewed bushes overall, but the way I saw myself as a sexual being. To be sexual and to be desired, I needed my area to be bald, fully bald. If it wasn’t, it would alter my sex life, not allowing partners to go down on me if there was but the slightest shadow.
It wasn’t until I met my husband, an American, at 24, that I even considered growing it out (though it took years before I actually did). “I really don’t care if you have hair down there. It’s normal,” he would frustratingly protest when I didn’t allow him to go past my belly button during foreplay, when I was clearly due for a wax.
“You’re just saying that because you love me,” I’d embarrassingly whisper.
“Exactly! I don’t care what’s down there, but I’d like to be down there,” he said. He was the first guy that seemed to embrace it.
To be sexual and to be desired, I needed my area to be bald, fully bald. If it wasn’t, it would alter my sex life, not allowing partners to go down on me if there was but the slightest shadow.
About two years ago, four years into our relationship, I decided to stop waxing and try to grow it out. But with each hairs’ reappearance, I felt uncomfortable and unsexy, and I’d end up shaving it all off with a razor. It was my effort to avoid getting waxes, and I can confirm my pubic hair didn’t multiply tenfold, despite what my mother told me when I was younger. I’d often find myself apologizing to my husband before sex. “Stop it. I don’t care. Like, at all,” he’d profusely remind me. I don’t remember exactly when, but it took me a long time to put down the razor — rewire my brain to not feel dirty with a slight 5 o’clock shadow.
Since then, I’ve been on an interesting journey of growing a full-on bush and then shaving it all off whenever I feel like it. But most days, I proudly rock a bush down there, and to my surprise, it no longer makes me feel unsexy. Though my husband was definitely the force that encouraged me to regrow my pubic hair, I on my own have learned to love and embrace it. I often find myself admiring it in the mirror when I come out of the shower, reminding myself that long before I dated North American men, I never had an issue with my hairs down there. Just like when I was a kid, it’s no longer a big deal. Just natural and normal.
Growing out my bush, after 12 years of being ashamed by the mere thought of it, has been liberating. The hairs that grow out of my body sure as hell don’t define me or my sexuality.
photography by Britney Gill