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As a teen I somehow missed the memo that pubic-hair grooming was a thing. My full bush never crossed my mind when I brought hookups back to my college dorm room. Once, I told a guy who was lingering on my inner thighs to stop "beating around the bush," and he responded, "You mean that literally, huh? When I repeated this joke to a guy friend, he told me he also once slept with a girl with pubic hair. I paused. What did he mean "once"? Was pubic hair really that unusual? The following summer a friend described her Brazilian wax to me in excruciating detail. I was horrified by how painful it sounded and angry that women were being expected to worry about yet another aspect of their appearance, one people barely even saw.
Some people are convinced that the bald Brazilian look comes directly from porn actors, whose nether regions are hairless for better viewing purposes. But now, no less of a publication than the New York Times has pronounced it: Hairy bush is back. With American Apparel adding merkins to their mannequins, it makes us wonder about the history of pubic hairstyles in the United States. The trimming and removal of pubic hair seems to have begun in the US with the invention of the bikini in the s. The feminist movement notoriously favored the natural look, and having body hair quickly became associated with the outspoken, pleasure-seeking woman as opposed to the nubile temptress. A few years later, whether in direct or unconscious backlash, Larry Flynt started publishing the Barely Legal series, and the teen bodies of Brooke Shields and Jodie Foster were eroticized in Pretty Baby and Taxi Driver , respectively. This started a decline in the natural look, and the first Brazilian wax was given in , by a salon in Manhattan. Pretty soon, ladies all over North America were going completely bald…so much so that it may have caused the extinction of pubic lice.
My first memory of pubic hair is being at the beach with my aunt as a kid and seeing little dark hairs poking out from her bikini line. I didn't know what they were; I just knew that I had never seen them before. I don't remember being embarrassed — only keenly aware that I'd viewed something Sexy, even. But as I grew up, society taught me otherwise. As a late bloomer, I was just happy to finally grow pubic hair in the first place. But I didn't want to be the weird one who kept hers intact. So I shaved my bikini line , and when I got to college, I often waxed.