Bare it All
There is no relationship quite like the one we have with our waxer. OLIVIA STREN exposes hers.
“Alarming news.” This was the subject line of an email a friend of mine sent me last fall. Busy envisioning loved ones in ambulances and houses in flames, I could never have predicted the real crisis at hand: our aesthetician had closed her downtown practice. She had gone on maternity leave and was not coming back. The woman who had seen us at our most vulnerable, whom we had entrusted to slather our limbs and nether regions in hot wax—she had a way of cheerily and liberally applying the stuff on body parts like a child spreading Nutella on toast—had deserted us. This news was about as traumatic as, well, having body hair torn from its roots.
A couple of code-blue phone calls to her former receptionist offered some hope: she would be running a business from her home in Thornhill, north of Toronto.
But I am even more lazy than I am hairy, so the prospect of trekking to the suburbs to get on 1e Table seemed an exercise in double punishment. I would have to start seeing someone new. The aforementioned waxing wizard’s name is Anita. There are few people who can get away with a single name: Madonna, Cher, God and Anita. My sister introduced me to Anita in my early 20s—those BA (Before Anita) dark days when I was still dependent on Daisy, as in the razor.
My mom has always enjoyed attributing my negative qualities to my dad’s side of the family. “Your father’s mother was so hairy, her leg hair used to pop out of her nylons,” my mom used to say, generally whilst stroking her own tanned and hair-free arms. Her ancestors were as hairless as dolphins, and this familial narrative tended to sprout alongside any talk of unwanted hair. So, for my follicular endowments I blamed my father. I’m not saying, by the way, that I’m an animal, but I’m no stranger to a pot of Jolen. For those fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with this product, it’s a brand of store-bought bleaching cream.
As a teenager fed on Timotei commercials (in which only blondes bathed in tropical waterfalls) and Santa Barbara (featuring Robin Wright’s spectacular Kelly Capwell with her flaxen mane), I had the occasional fantasy of one day being blonde. That fantasy, however, didn’t involve going blonde above my lip, which is what Jolen accomplished.
For nearly 15 years, I’ve been seeing Anita—and she’s gotten an eyeful of me. It was almost a decade into our relationship when I learned her last name (Rozinka), by which time she had beheld literally every part of me. “Welcome to my chamber,” Anita would say in a sinister way. Dressed in clinical whites, she’d usher me toward her table and spank its papered surface with her palm. “Now, drop ’em.” I quickly learned that there was no room for pants—or propriety—in Anita’s chamber. About 14 years ago, Anita also took up threading and mastered it, using it to prevent my eyebrows from reaching out to each other, and to protect me from an uncanny resemblance to Burt Reynolds. But I was hardly the only one to discover Anita’s gifts. I once asked her how many clients she had, and she looked at me and liked a shapely eyebrow as if I had asked her to count the number of hairs on a sheepdog. (She guestimated somewhere in the 1,200 range.)
Everyone I knew—and plenty I didn’t—also knew Anita. Once, when I was buying a lipstick at a makeup counter, the sales clerk asked me, “Who does your eyebrows? 1ey’re perfect.” I told her that my aesthetician had a small space in a plastic surgeon’s office near Yorkville. “Do you mean Anita? She’s amazing. But if you start with Anita, there’s just no going back,” she said, as though she were talking about having had Brad Pitt as her first lover.
The downside of seeing a local celebrity waxer is the fear of getting kicked out of the loop. I was once forced to cancel an appointment with Anita, and it took me months to make my way back into the inner circle. Before letting things go (grow?) that far again, I decide to drive for nearly an hour to pay Anita a visit. I ask her if she still feels the same way about hair removal. “I love it,” she tells me. “I love creating an eyebrow. And when someone comes in for a full-leg wax and they’re hairy”—here she sighs deeply with pleasure—“it’s pure enjoyment.” She then recalls a career turning point: when Brazilians came into fashion. “It was around 2001. I would get these women—I don’t know if they were in relationships, or maybe their husbands or boyfriends didn’t care, but those hairs were long. I was sweating by the time I finished,” she says, taking a swig of Diet Coke, reliving the exertion. “But I did it—like a champ!”
Like any aesthetician worth her salt, Anita has the therapist’s preternatural ability to remain impassive. “Nothing shocks me,” she says flatly. “I’ve seen it all. I’ve had a client say, ‘I have to tell you: I cheated on him.’ Meanwhile, that client is naked, on all fours. But I don’t judge.”
The aesthetician’s room does tend to double as a confessional, or a therapist’s office. Instead of a couch, there’s a table, and instead of Kleenex, there’s wax and thread. “People can go to their psychiatrist, or they can come and get a bikini wax with me,” says Anita. “I’m a shoulder to cry on, a best friend, a third opinion, a relationship counselor and an emotional garbage can.” Maybe baring all physically invites waxees to divulge emotionally, matching exposure with disclosure. In that sense, the newly groomed leave the table unburdened— both follicularly and psychically.
I’ve found a new aesthetician, Rita Kaptur, who has a similar outlook: “Whatever happens in this room, stays in this room.” For years, Rita and Anita worked down the hall from each other at Dr. Frank Beninger’s plastic-surgery clinic. After Anita’s disappearance, many of her orphan clients found their way to Rita’s new grooming ground, a sunshiny room on the top floor of Toronto salon Hair on the Avenue. Compared to most new relationships, the getting-to-know-you period is slightly abridged. After a few pleasantries about the balmy weather, I take off my clothes and lie down. “The relationships I have with my clients are about comfort and trust,” Rita says. “It’s very personal. I mean, people aren’t going to spread their legs for just anybody.” I can’t frankly say that I’m comfortable at this moment, as I’m conducting this interview half-naked and painted with wax. But Rita does have that consoling honey-I’ve-seen-it-all look about her. “You always have to appear relaxed and confident,” she says. “Your touch has to be confident. 1ere’s no asking politely: ‘Can I please move your leg?’ No. You’re in charge, and that puts people at ease.” I ask Rita if anything can shock her. “No,” she says. “Now get on all fours.” So that I can trot out, hairless on the Avenue, I do it—like a champ.