“I’m back,” my boyfriend announces over the phone right as he opens our front door.
Fuck, I think. He’s early.
Don’t get me wrong. Even after 18 months of dating, I covet my boyfriend’s company pretty much always. Sometimes that means quietly typing at our laptops side by side, and sometimes it means dissecting the most recent episode of "Downton Abbey" while one of us is on the toilet. (If my boyfriend is the personification of the ruffled yellow security blanket Mom sewed for me when I was a baby, I’m okay with that. Both are great in bed.)
But as eager as I am to greet my boyfriend after the five-day business trip that robbed me of human warmth in bed for too long, I really could have used the extra 20 minutes until his scheduled arrival tonight. I still need to deforest my nether regions, you see.
By this stage in a relationship, you might think I’d feel at ease about letting my pubic hair grow to lengths unseen since I started tending to it back in college. Such a minor infraction of The Unspoken Upkeep Agreement, right?
The fact is that I’m Type-A to the point of ironing pillow cases, so slacking off at anything translates into anxiety for me. As a result, I work hard at staying on top of work related correspondence, at ensuring that I have hummus in my fridge at all times, and at remaining physically attractive to my boyfriend.
Call me a Sorry Excuse For A Feminist all you want, but you’ll never see a “mom haircut” on this head, and if I’m in sweatpants, you better believe I’ve screened them for optimal butt-hugging potential. I’d rather be called vain than risk losing my boyfriend’s attention.
As far as I’m concerned, though, feeling sexy doesn’t require modesty. Thanks to our open bathroom door policy, my boyfriend has already witnessed some totally unrefined nose blowing, tweezing, shaving, and the insertion and removal of countless tampons. As long as I look put-together most of the time, I figure it’s endearing to let someone into such private moments.
Is tonight the time to add pubic hair trimming to the list of shared personal behaviors? I imagine myself on hands and knees, collecting rogue hair fragments with a dampened paper towel. For whatever reason, the hypothetical cleanup scene terrifies me. The pubes must stay for one more day! Aren’t they just the tissue paper on the way to a gift, anyway?
The comment that throws me off comes an hour later, while my boyfriend is inside me.
"I can feel your pubes rubbing up against me," he says.
Did I hear him right? So focused was I on switching from top to bottom without letting him slip out -- a satisfyingly sexy maneuver for the synchronized effort it requires -- that I may have misheard him. I run through the list of possible alternatives: I can feel your moods? foods? cubes? nudes? glutes? The latter might make sense, but only if we were in the reverse cowgirl position. We aren’t.
I’m 99.72 percent sure he said “pubes,” and 100 percent sure that his comment wasn’t framed as a compliment. By my estimate, there’s a mildly reassuring .28 percent chance that he was kidding. Recently, I interrupted a rambunctious session following a gluttonous meal of spaghetti carbonara and homemade S’mores to deadpan: "Think we’ve burned off any marshmallow yet?"
As long as you can tune back into your steamy frequency, it’s awesome to crack up during sex. If the pubic comment was made in jest, however, the window for appropriate response time already passed. So either my boyfriend hates my vagina, or, thanks to me, we’ve both missed out on a mid-sex chuckle.
The next day, I prioritize “get waxed” over “pick up bridesmaid's dress for Nicole’s wedding,” “renew passport,” and “re-teach self Algebra so you can tutor high school kids” on the ol’ To-Do List.
Half an hour after dinner, I start seducing my boyfriend, eager to repair his opinion of my lady parts. It’s not long before his hand is teasing the elastic band of my boy-short underwear. The grazing stops short.
“You’re bald again,” he says.
Is that disappointment I sense? “You’re the one who pointed out the need for landscaping!”
“Noooo. I said I could feel your pubes. Because I liked it.”
My shoulders sink in defeat. I feel silly for agonizing over what my boyfriend meant rather than asking him in the moment, and for considering that he might be anything but attracted to my vagina.
Mostly, I feel foolish for grooming my small plot of hair so vigilantly without questioning the habit for a decade. Contemplating the thousands of dollars spent over the years on maintaining my “hard wood floor” of a pubic region, I wonder why I fell prey so easily to the Playboy-porno-pubic model.
Finances and suckerdom aside, a little research proves that the emphasis on shaving and waxing might be bad for women’s health. Much like opposable thumbs and whatever instinct makes us jump at loud noises, pubic hair serves a simple purpose: It’s there to protect our female parts. Removing it leaves miniature openings, which can be welcome mats for infectious bacteria.
Whether or not I reform forever to become what Caitlin Moran, author of How To Be A Woman, calls “a pubicatarian,” my wallet and I are happy to know that my boyfriend isn’t turned off by a little hair. And for my next mid-sex jest, I plan to incorporate a bright red merkin.