The British aren’t known for their grooming. Unlike their American counterparts, we don’t boast shiny nails, gleaming teeth or teased hair. Your typical British woman gets a manicure twice in her life – her wedding day and her burial. And other than an early indoctrination into the shaving of leg hair and importance of not being visibly grey, grooming is really for the upper classes, the vain and ‘artsy’ types like my sister. Faye loves makeup, spent hours styling her hair and even now, as a harried mother of two, won’t leave the house without lipgloss. My mother and I are the more typical Brits, relying on our solitary lipstick that ceased production in 1998 and a tube of mascara we bought last year for that holiday party and forgot to use. We still have some vanity – my eyebrows don’t pass a day without assessment- but largely we are who we are and for 26 years I was perfectly isolated from the world of grooming. I always thought it was kind of a waste of time and a little shallow.
That is, until I moved to the US.
As the land of the $25 instant manicure, the high school year book and a climate where summer means less clothes (not umbrellas), grooming is just part of being an American woman. My new US friends were horrified by my general oblivion of pedicure, massages and facials not to mention my lack of make up and British teeth. But the horror reached new heights when summer hit and I broke out the bikini.
‘Jesus Christ? Are you a wookie?’
‘You look like a 70’s porn star!’
‘Wow.. ..just wow…’
‘Is that …normal… for you?’
You see when you live in a country where its damp and cold for 99% of the year, bikini’s are seldom part of your year. Sure you might hit a beach in a foreign country, but as everyone knows, the Europeans aren’t too concerned with the idea of feminine grooming. Hair is everywhere and even celebrated as ‘sexy’ in France. So I’d never actually considered that -ahem- ‘personal’ grooming might be a necessity. No one had ever mentioned it before – man or woman. So I had spent 26 years ‘au naturale’. Bushy.
I glanced down and had to admit there was definite ‘protrusion’. A little more ‘public’ pubic than I’d noticed before. Kind of like seeing that jewish guy with the deep V t shirt. Actually more than just bushy, it seemed to be creeping down my legs. Yikes. Oh god… I was ‘that’ girl – ‘can’t find the wood for the forest’ girl that I’d heard about from my guy friends without actually understanding the joke. While I’d be busy keeping my legs and armpits groomed, I’d never even thought to consider what sat between the two. And why had no one ever mentioned it before? My mind instantly replayed every single boyfriend, every beach holiday, those short shorts I’d worn all summer.. oh god.. that photo on my Facebook account!!!
I am delighted to say that 15 years on I no longer rock the Wookie. I’ve not yet become Brazilian but I’m working up to it. It doesn’t make me fake or shallow.. I just discovered that things look neater, smarter, more ‘kempt’ with a little grooming. No one screams when I don a bikini and guys seem more willing to go exploring the forest. You still won’t find me painting my face or enjoying an afternoon facial, but I’m not longer horrifying the men and women of the US with my natural womanhood. This is 40 (should have been 20) – ladyscaping.