That Time I Got My Hoo-Ha Hoo-Ha'd
by Sylvia Catello
Just in time for beauty salons to go green. Groom it up, hairy humans. All of it.
I’m a full-blooded Italian and hairy as hell. It seems the older I get, the more hair grows in places I don’t want. It falls out of my head and takes root in my crotch, my chin, my upper lip, and my big toes--just the left one to be exact.
Which is how I decided to get my hoo-ha lasered.
Let me explain.
I’ve contemplated this for years--not a full-Brazilian bald-baby laser, but just the bikini area, just the perimeter, nothing too crazy. I told my dermatologist this and she recommended a laser center, so I called and talked to the receptionist, Tiffany.
I imagined Tiffany--young, blonde, bouncy. She sounded nice and professional and told me to shave the night before. She said I would consult with the doctor, then have a treatment.
“You’re going to love it,” Tiffany said.
The next day, I pulled into a plaza named after the doctor I would be seeing. I read the marquee. It included an eye doctor, a hospice center, a dentist, and a Labcorp. Nothing creepy.
Inside, the office looked like any other doctor’s office, with pleather chairs and beige industrial carpet, which, unlike my hoo-ha, had no pile or plush. Tiffany stood behind a counter. She wasn’t blonde but she was young.
As Tiffany checked me in, another woman walked out. She was tall, short brown hair, late 40s maybe. She had no mustache or beard and seemed happy. I wondered what treatment she had. She smiled and thanked Tiffany.
A good sign, I thought, though I was the only one in the waiting room, which seemed odd.
“The doctor will see you now,” Tiffany said, like a character on TV, and led me to a room where Dr. K sat behind a large desk. He wore glasses, a dress shirt, and lab coat. The walls were adorned with certificates. His desk was piled with books and papers.
This is on the up and up, I thought, and sat down.
Tiffany said, “The doctor will show you a video and you can discuss any questions.” Then she left.
Dr. K wasn’t much for small talk. He said, “Hello,” and made a failed attempt to work the monitor. He muttered something, then walked out and Tiffany returned.
Tiffany said, “This thing acts up sometimes.” She whacked the monitor with a manicured hand and the video clicked on. “Call us if you have any problems,” she said, then left again.
The video was filled with happy hairless people. People who said it didn’t hurt a bit.
A woman on the screen said the laser felt warm and comforting. She smiled as her chin hairs got zapped. She said, “It was the best decision I ever made.”
I love when people say things like that. Like torching your beav is right up there with choosing who to marry or buying a house in a good school district.
Before the next testimonial, the monitor went haywire. Happy hairless people started bouncing around the screen.
I yelled, “The video isn’t working.”
“It’s o.k. I got it!” I yelled, too late.
Dr. K returned. He looked serious. Irritated, maybe.
“Tell me why you are here,” he said, as if he were puzzled by my presence.
“I want to get my hoo-ha lasered,” I said. “I’m interested in doing my face, too.”
Dr. K looked more puzzled. “Do you have chemicals?” he said.
I started to realize Dr. K might not speak much English. I started to realize Dr. K might not be a doctor at all.
“What? Chemicals? No,” I said, distracted by the happy hairless people still bouncing like a bubble machine to my left.
“Could you turn off the screen?” I said.
Dr. K smiled and played with the pens on his desk.
I pointed to the monitor. “The screen,” I said.
“Ah,” he said, and looked for the remote. He couldn’t find it.
He said, “Tell me why you are here,” like it was a line he had rehearsed many times.
“I am here to get my bikini-area lasered,” I said, and pointed to my crotch. “I’m interested in having this done to my face, too.”
I touched my face and widened my eyes. I spoke louder, which is what Americans do when they’re in the presence of someone who doesn’t speak much English, as if not speaking English makes people deaf, too.
Dr. K smiled and nodded.
“I’m concerned,” I said, “because it made my sister’s melasma worse. I don’t want more melasma.”
“Melasma?” Dr. K said. “I think we have melasma here.”
It was clear he had no idea what I was saying.
“What? No,” I said. “I want to get rid of my melasma, I don’t want more melasma.”
He touched his face and said again, “Do you have chemicals?”
“Maybe you should bring the technician in,” I said, and pointed to the door.
Dr. K picked up the phone but couldn’t get it to work. He smiled, then got up and left. A few moments later, he came back with Tiffany and the technician, Susan.
Susan, in her early 60s, wore purple-rimmed glasses and purple makeup. Her skin was clear and hairless. I explained my plight.
“Are you having the whole thing done?” Susan asked.
“Just the perimeter,” I said.
Tiffany giggled. She said, “Susan lasered my whole hoo-ha last night and it’s the best decision I ever made.”
It’s a thing to be hairless down there these days. A little landscaping seems okay, but to be hairless seems unnatural. I work at a restaurant and the owner there doesn’t get the hairless trend, either. He’s in his 80s. Maybe it’s an age thing.
One night, over wine after work, he, my friend and I got on the topic of hairless hoo-has.
He said, “Nobody shaves their whole hoo-ha.”
My friend said, “I do.”
“What?”’ he said. “Who would want that? It’s like having sex with a baby. You need a landing strip, for Christ’s sake.”
The owner’s name is Pie.
I know what you’re thinking, but it’s short for paesano. He’s a little man, handsome, and the ladies love him. He drinks wine and greets patrons at the door. In a fake Italian accent he says, “Here comes another Am-er-i-gahn.”
Pie’s hot-tempered but never with me. With me he’s sweet like...well...pie.
At the laser center, I told Tiffany and Susan again, “No, just the perimeter. The bikini line.”
I didn’t say landing strip. I didn’t mention Pie’s ideas about pedophilia. I didn’t say Dr. K reminded me of Beaker from the Muppet Show.
“You really shouldn’t let him talk to people,” I said.
“Don’t worry. He’s really good,” Susan said. “One of the best, really.” She gave me a paper cloth and told me to undress.
The cloth was a formality because Susan removed it as soon as she came back. She told me to spread ‘em.
There I was, in butterfly pose, exposed in front of a stranger. She held an object that would burn me in the most delicate place and yet I decided to trust her. I didn’t know why and then I did.
I’m 43. My life isn’t what I imagined. Lately, I’ve wanted to melt away every unwanted thing, including my 70s-porno-kooch. A fresh start, people say. A mid-life crisis, other people say. I wanted to feel sexy and beautiful. I wanted to feel loved. Mostly that.
Susan looked determined and a little excited, like a kid holding a magnifying glass above an ant.
“It must be something to look at vaginas all day,” I said to Susan, something to smooth away the awkwardness.
“Nah, I’ve been doing this for years. It’s like seeing under the hood of a car,” she said. “Once you’ve seen one engine you’ve seen them all.”
And then Susan, the vagina mechanic, fired the laser up. I felt a tinge, and an intense burn. I yelled.
I’m a yeller. When I was giving birth to my son, the epidural didn’t take and I motherfucked everyone in the room, including the 15 med students who were observing.
“You can’t swear like that,” the doctor said. “You’re scaring people.”
“It feels like you’re pulling my clitoris over my head,” I yelled, and motherfucked more.
“I’ll stop any time,” Susan said, but she didn’t. Head down, face in my crotch, she zapped and zapped.
A plume of smoke appeared from between my legs. There was a burning smell. The smell of burning bush.
I blurted-out profanity after profanity.
“I’m sorry to swear, but this hurts,” I said.
“You get used to it,” Susan said, and kept on burning.
What is it about mid-life and desire, that word that’s always burning, too?
The author Lorrie Moore wrote, “There is only one valid theme in literature: Life will disappoint you.”
At 43, I still believe life might not disappoint.
At 43, I deserve to be hairless.
At 43, I still look good in a bikini.
At 43, I’m still a soft place for love to land.
Poor Susan. I kept apologizing. “I’m sorry. It’s just...the video said…,” I said.
“The video lies,” Susan said.
When Susan and Tiffany scheduled my next appointment, I thanked them. It’s an appointment I will keep.
I want to be a happy hairless person.
I could already see results.
I thought, “This is the best decision I’ve ever made.”
Sylvia Catello is a writer, cook, and author of the food blog The Night Time Cook. Her poems and essays have been published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Pittsburgh Quarterly, Robot Butt, and elsewhere. She lives outside of Pittsburgh, PA with her husband and two children. She's due for an appointment with Dr. K soon, as most of her hair grew back during quarantine. Thanks, Co-Vid!