Before I was a radio news reporter, I was a traffic reporter. The job was an entry into the world of broadcast journalism, a world I had be dreaming of being a part of since I was 10 years old giving “live” updates about my sister’s birth as my brother filmed with a home video camera. The thing about traffic reporting is, you have to be at work before any sign of traffic. This meant my last semester of college involved waking up at 4 in the morning to deliver my first traffic report at 5 a.m. at the nearby radio station.
You might remember from your college days or even if you have simply watched a raunchy college-themed movie complete with rowdy frat guys and binge drinking, college students don’t actually like waking up before noon.
But from Monday through Friday, you could find me quietly stumbling around my dorm at 4, trying not to wake my roommates and silently telling myself this was all just temporary. Dressed in slacks and a business casual blouse, I would pass my fellow college students who were either playing ping-pong in the rec room or long-boarding to no apparent destination. No matter the activity of choice, these guys would always be wearing colorful swim trunks in place of actual pants.
Once in the dorm parking lot, I would undoubtedly encounter a startled deer gracefully leaping into the adjacent woods and a drunk couple making out on a curb, I mean really going at each other. It never failed.
Deer and drunks aside, it was a particularly grueling schedule because along with working full-time as a traffic reporter at the ass-crack of dawn, I also interned at another radio station and took three classes, one of which required going out and shooting news packages on the weekends. Sometimes I would cry while driving from the internship at one radio station to the traffic reporting job at the other radio station out of sheer exhaustion (and because the red lights would turn green before I could shove food in my mouth).
One day, a fancy account executive at my traffic reporting job took me to the “other side” and gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse. The “other side” was where the station’s business was handled by women who wore pencil skirts and bought their makeup from Sephora instead of the Walgreens on a Friday night before a Tinder date. The men from the other side wore boat shoes and knew the precarious but important difference between “business drunk” and “happy hour drunk.” The other side consisted of cubicles, offices and because my knowledge of the financial intricacies of the radio biz is limited, what I can only assume to be people making Excel spreadsheets and looking at pie charts.
The account executive fancy business lady asked me if I was interested in an endorsement deal with a laser hair removal company that advertised on the pop station I did traffic reports for. I don’t want to say the company’s real name, so I’ll call them an equally pretentious yet ambiguous sounding name like Divine Essence or anything in French.
I immediately agreed to endorse Divine Essence. Some of the other talent at my company (I’m not being conceited, “talent” was the official title on my paycheck) also did endorsements so I knew what was in store for me – more money, free services and more airtime. Finally! All my hard work was paying off and the reward was an armpit as smooth as a sweaty bald guy’s head at the DMV. I excitedly called my mom to inform her that her daughter would soon be the newest voice for hairless-ness. She was so proud. I would soon be what Kirstie Alley was to Jenny Craig. Actually, on second thought, maybe that is not the best example. I would be what Jared the Subway Guy was to Subway! Okay, these are not working. The point is, I was most definitely in and committed to being the next (or first) darling of hair removal.
After a few meetings, contracts that I honestly didn’t understand were signed. Remember I was just a 21-year-old college student trying to pay bills and get rid of the mustache that has plagued me since birth. On the day of my consultation and first hair removal session, I arrived to the sleek and clean clinic which I imaged was even good enough for Oprah. A woman with enormous fake breasts perused through tabloid magazines. I looked down at my own breasts that, despite never having children, sagged as if I had nursed 15 babies for 15 years without a break.
Another woman entered the waiting room with a designer handbag in tow and arms that screamed “I have a personal trainer and eat quinoa like nobody’s business.” I recalled the passive aggressive standoff that was currently brewing in my dorm. Each roommate was refusing to buy toilet paper because each one of us thought she had bought the last roll. I was committed to winning this Cold War of sorts, so like the resourceful person I am, I was using paper towels until the others caved. I didn’t know a lot, but I knew I most definitely did not belong in the waiting room of a laser hair removal clinic.
The receptionist called my name and walked me back to a consultation office. “I hear you on the radio all the time,” she said with a smile. I mirrored her smile and remembered how most people are slightly disappointed when they meet someone who works in radio because our voices rarely match our faces. “Thanks for listening,” I replied in the same tone a politician’s wife might use while thanking her guests after hosting a 4-course dinner where her husband was caught Snapchatting pictures of his wang under the table during the soup course.
The consultation began with the doctor telling me the lasers are not very effective for patients with light, finer hair. People who burn easily in the sun were not great candidates for laser hair removal. Well those bastards don’t need hair removal, you can’t even see their hair in the first place, I thought – there is justice in the world!
It turns out I am the perfect candidate for laser hair removal. My tan skin and dark hair combination is somehow the ideal combination for the laser to do its thing. While I thanked my Latin side for the same attributes that inspire strangers to ask “but where are you really from,” the doctor explained the laser could remove hair on all parts of the body except for the head. All parts of the body. I knowingly nodded my own hairy head and thought about how awkward it must be for the women who came into this joint wanting a hair-free bikini zone. Sitting in their underwear trying to make small talk with a masked doctor who was methodically zapping the stray hairs peeking out of their panties seemed unbearable.
My naïveté became abundantly clear after the doctor slid a laminated paper in front of me. It was several black-and-white drawings of a naked women. The last one seemed to belong in the reproduction chapter of a biology textbook because the woman was on her back with her legs spread wide open as if she was waiting to receive a particularly breezy pap smear. Dotted lines pointed to her various intimate places indicating the laser could indeed remove the hair on the corresponding patch of real-estate. I leaned in closer to the image and blinked just to be sure I was following these small dotted lines correctly. That’s when I learned you could get your butthole hair removed with a laser. After that epiphany, I began the second part of my life. The 21 years I had spent on this planet being blissfully unaware that anyone could get the hair around their anus remove via laser was the Old Testament. With this new piece of knowledge deeply lodged inside my brain, so began the New Testament of my life.
There was absolutely no way I would opt for a laser to zap the area around the hole where poop comes out with one key reason being I had to talk about my experience on the radio. I imagined people in their cars trying to distract themselves from the grueling morning commute with the latest Lady Gaga hit when all of the sudden, my voice comes on. Instead of giving them a traffic report, I am talking about my now-hairless butthole. “I have so much more confidence now that my bumhole is free of these embarrassing, course hairs! Now anal is a breeze!” Even if I didn’t have to talk about my experience with thousands of strangers, butthole hair removal was still a definite no-go because I was terrified of the pain and equally terrified of accidentally farting in a doctor’s face.
So it was settled, I would get my mustache and armpit hair removed. However, I was adamantly instructed to refer to these areas as my “upper lip” and “underarms” on air as these terms apparently sounded less crude and more polished. I wondered what word I would have been permitted to use if I really did choose my butthole area. The lower vagina? The puckered backdoor? After my consultation, I was taken into a room that looked like where I would get my cavities filled. I was instructed to take off my shirt and I chastised myself for wearing my go-to beige colored bra that said “I am a middle-aged single mother with no sex life.”
I have never given birth. I have never even broken a bone, but I would like to think I have an average pain tolerance. That assumption was challenged as soon as the doctor booted up the laser and applied it to the tender skin of my “underarms” and “upper lip.” Imagine setting a rubber band on fire and having someone snap that blazing band on your skin over and over again in the name of beauty. I gripped the chair’s arms as the fiery stings continued. My eyes were past the point of watering and were just the sources of two rivers coming out of my eyes. “You okay?” the terrorist, I mean doctor, asked. “Mmmmmhm,” I answered in a trying-to-be-brave grunt. At that point, I didn’t even care about having a mustache-free face. I thought about the extra money this endorsement deal brought in. I forced myself to think of the trips I would be able to go on or at least the bills I would be able to pay. Think about the cash, I said to myself like a money-hungry pageant mom trying to convince her exhausted daughter to practice one more verse of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
As I was resisting the urge to slap the doctor soap opera style and bolt from the room without my shirt, I thought about the women (and men) who were actually paying for the same experience. The only people who can justify paying for extreme, scream-inducing pain that results in smooth shins and a hairless asshole are strippers and porn stars, and even then, they should be able to claim the procedure as a tax write off.
When the fiasco was over, my upper lip made it seem as though I had just returned from an all-night binger of red Kool-Aid. The area was sensitive and swollen and when the doctor showed me her handiwork in the mirror, the only thing I could think was when this swelling goes down, someone handsome better kiss me. I prayed that getting hair zapped off my face then talking about it with strangers was the lowest thing I would ever agree to do for money or in the name of beauty.
The doctor informed me that I had nine more sessions to complete, as hair apparently grows in cycles and I would have to return to this god-forsaken dungeon, I mean clinic, in a month. I flashed what I hoped was a brave smile and arranged my next appointment with the receptionist. As I prepared to leave, I eyed the new set of women now sitting in the waiting room and wondered which body parts they were getting done and if they had anyone in their life who would even notice.
The following Monday between traffic reports, I went into an adjacent studio to record the 60-second endorsement. I talked about how I was always self-conscious about the hair under my arms and above my lip and how happy and uninhibited I felt now that it was gone.
In reality, I felt sleazy for demonizing something so absolutely normal on the human body. My little sister popped into my mind as I walked back to my own work area. She was 11 at the time and I was relieved she lived in a different city so she wouldn’t hear my endorsement between Justin Bieber and Beyoncé songs on the way to school. I didn’t want her to hear me say how much more confidence I had because the hair was gone. I didn’t want her to hear me imply that women with hair on their bodies should remove it. I didn’t want her to think she had any reason to be ashamed of something that was perfectly natural. I wasn’t being a very good role model.
I continued to receive treatments and do endorsements for the next four months. I wish I could say after realizing that I was contributing to unfair body expectations at worst and frivolity at best, I stopped doing the endorsements, but the money was good and I was under contract. The contract expired the same time I got promoted to a news reporter position with my same company. I was no longer allowed to do endorsements because it would be a conflict of interest now that I was a journalist.
I heard later that the hair removal company wasn’t planning on signing me again for another endorsement deal despite the promotion. The news stung a little, but not as much as a laser to the face or compromising morals for money.