Friday, May 08, 2015

Mother’s Day and Pubic Hair Memories

Pubic hair runs deep in my family . . . and probably long.  Our history is bushy with secrets and revelations.  In the 50’s, my mother didn’t hide her pubic hair from me.  I'd accompanied her to the bathroom when she peed and watched her dry off after her bath. I assumed all women had black pubes until, at the age of eight, I faced a flaming-red snatch.  A divorced red-headed woman with a four-year-old lived next door.  I was supposed to be watching him while she bathed.  He ran into the bathroom and I ran in after him just as she rose from the tub.  My absolute stupefaction at her fiery pubis stopped me in my tracks.  She looked down at herself as if she’d encountered this sort of shocked behavior before, and then she took a deep breath and calmly told me to take the kid out.  She was a nurse.  A beautiful, smart nurse with a huge red bush.  

The hairstory continues. 

If you were in college in the 70’s, you may have let the hair on your legs grow to carpet-like density and considered cornrowing your armpit hair.  Shaving my legs had been a rite-of-passage that forever separated me from my girlhood – in my father’s eyes, at least. The man never recovered.  So, unlike my peers, I refused to stop shaving my legs or armpits, but compromised by letting my pubes curl out the sides of my bathing suit. I told people I was Italian.

Don’t judge me too harshly.  Consciousness-raising was all the rage on campus.  Pelvic self-exams were cutting edge.  All you needed was a plastic speculum.  A roving nurse arrived at our meeting with a gooseneck lamp and a bored expression to show us how to use the speculum.  She explained what we were looking at. We examined our own and one another’s cervixes. While roughly similar, each was unique in its own way. The high point was one woman whose period was just beginning. 

Weeks later I was invited by the Dean of Women to team teach a class called “Modern Woman,” at the University (Arizona State).  The registrants were women returning to college after having children and putting their ex-husbands through school.  I invited the bored nurse to do her thing; it was like a mission for her.  She hustled her gooseneck lamp into a good position on a table and plugged it in.  Then, in what seemed like one fluid motion, she got up on the table, spread her legs, slid the speculum in and reached out a free arm to adjust the light.

I invited the class to take a look.  They got in line and one-by-one stood a good three-feet away.  Some stood on their toes as if that would give them a better vantage point. No one got up close.  I wished I’d brought binoculars.  At the end of a very quiet queue – I’ve heard more conversation at a viewing of a corpse - I thanked the nurse.  She gave me a disinterested shrug and strode off.  Needless to say, I got a flurry of phone calls from the school administration.  The main complaint was that the nurse had shown her “pubic hair.”  She showed more than that, but no one was able to get past the external signs of an adult woman.  I was not invited back to teach the class.  As a matter of fact, I think it was never taught again, or even mentioned in polite circles.

Mom fostered my pubic hair élan not only by not hiding her body, but by showing me a shaved female pubis – her own.  It was 1957 and my brother was three-weeks overdue.  Mom acquired a book that showed the stages of fetal growth inside the womb. The vaginal canal was depicted sans vulva and, of course, pubic hair.  In those days, they “prepped” the mother for childbirth.  This means they shaved her pubes, considering them unsanitary.  Since my bro was late, she kept having to go back to be prepped.  After one such appointment she explained what they did.  I must have looked perplexed because she asked me if I wanted to see.  Of course I did.  Her pubis was desecrated, thorny, and with a five o’clock shadow that just looked criminal.  She told me not to tell anyone.

I told all the kids in the neighborhood who were so dismayed they told their moms who called my mom to say that Sandra Mae was talking about “down there” to anyone who would listen.

I owe this blog to the memory of my mom.  Without her influence, I probably wouldn’t have pubes and I’d be just like everyone else. 

Happy Mother’s Day to all!

1 comment:

  1. How Sandra. Beautifully written and always brutally honest and real. Why is the pubic hair the last boundary of what can be discussed. Human waste is more often the subject of cockail chatter but pubic hair never. A joke in an office, almost kept someone off the Supreme Court.