Going South: falling into a ring of fire, part III of a Brazilian wax story

In the final installment, our faithful reporter doesn’t so much bend over backwards as just bends over to expose his most nether of nether regions to hot wax. And just when he thinks it’s safe, he gets a part of his body bleached–and it’s most definitely not the hair atop his head.

Here are all three parts of the ‘Going South’ Brazilian waxing series:
Going south: getting a male Brazilian wax for the first time
Going south: deep into the Danger Zone, part II of a Brazilian wax story »
Going South: falling into a ring of fire, part III of a Brazilian wax story»

Melissa, owner and waxer at Bombshell salon in Carytown, has just spent thirty minutes waxing my pubic hair. But I am not out of the woods yet. As I see it, to experience a full Rio Brazilian–the reason why I am here and writing these words– men must allow access to the darkest region of themselves: their asshole.

Staring directly into mine, Melissa layers warm pink wax around what she playfully calls the “brown star.” While I wouldn’t describe my asshole in such celestial of terms, it does feel a bit like a burning ball of gas when Melissa applies the hot wax with a large Popsicle stick. But here’s what’s surprising: when Melissa yanks off the hot wax, it’s not painful in the least–I don’t even flinch. How can it be that the part of my body that screams in agony when spicy thai food comes out  doesn’t explode in agony when hair is ripped off?

Melissa reassures me that my body is not some freakish anomaly; others have noticed the same thing: the anus, while more sensitive to the heat of the wax, is more resistant to the pain of pulling hair from its perimeter. Within a few minutes, my ass is as smooth as a baby’s. But before I can pat myself on the back and say “job well done,” there is that special matter of a very new form of cosmetic alteration: lightening the skin around the brown star.

It is colloquially known as anal bleaching. Being the consummate professional, Melissa refers to it as “intimate area lightening.” Although some women will have the exterior skin around their vaginas lightened, the phrase “intimate area lightening” mostly refers to bleaching one’s asshole. This practice originated in porn: porn stars have long gone out of their way to alter their physical appearance to suit the predilections of their audiences, and one such alteration has been “intimate area lightening.” And, Bombshell is one of the only a few salons in the Richmond area that offers this service.

— ∮∮∮ —

If my previous waxing position, rear skyward in some sort of anal communique with a NASA satellite, wasn’t emasculating enough then the next position certainly is.

One of the common misconceptions about anal bleaching—sorry, ”intimate area lightening”—is that it’s a single procedure. It’s not. It’s not like having your teeth whitened at a dentist’s office; it’s more like wearing Crest Whitening Strips. Melissa does tell me, however, of a salon in Los Angeles that pioneered modern anal bleaching. They are the only salon in the country that offers a one-time bleaching service. Their process and chemical concoction is so well-guarded, that not even experts like Melissa know quite how they are able to do it.

To complete the procedure yourself, you’ll need to purchase a large $70 bottle of a special mixture that includes hydrogen peroxide. One applies it to the area that he or she would like to lighten, waits twenty minutes, and wipes it away. Although this is a procedure that one can very easily do at home (over the course of about seven weeks), one of the services that Bombshell provides is to perform the first application on site.

Melissa applies the liquid and then creates a makeshift packaging system, the “Saran Wrap diaper,” so that the liquid doesn’t drip. So not only am I naked from the waist down, and not only do I have bleaching cream smeared over my just-waxed anus, but I am now wearing boxer briefs made out of plastic wrap. With twenty minutes on the clock, Melissa and I get to talking.

What I have undergone, both waxing and bleaching, is something that few men do. And the few men that do do it don’t always want it known that they are doing it. Melissa tells me that it’s fairly common for men to make a waxing appointment at Bombshell only for them to not show up. Some of the men that do show specifically ask not to have it noted in Bombshell’s computer system that they are getting a Rio Brazilian. Three men in particular make an appointment to get a regular Rio Brazilian wax by telling the receptionist to put down something they perceive as less emasculating, such as a back wax. This is unnecessary: employees who perform waxing services, whether on men or on women, are forbidden from talking about their clients–even to fellow employees. This fear extends beyond the salon too, men are hesitant to talk about this sort of thing with other men.

One guy with whom I spoke, Justin, was worried about letting his friends in on his waxing secret. Although he has never received a Rio Brazilian, he’s been having his back waxed, off and on, for the last six years. “Coming out” to his friends “was tough to do at first,” he says, “we weren’t on the same wavelength.” Ultimately, his friends proved accepting and were sincerely curious to learn more about Justin’s self-consciousness and the procedure itself.

Several minutes into my bleaching, I feel a tingly sensation in my Saran underwear. When I tell Melissa this–to make sure that nothing is amiss–she nods and calls the phenomenon “the scrubbing bubbles.” It’s exactly what the sensation feels like. There’s no discomfort, just my butt slobbering effervescent foam within a transparent diaper. I can relax, Melissa says. Nothing amiss at all.

I ask Melissa what people think when they find out that she does this sort of thing for a living. “People are interested,” she says in a matter-of-fact tone. “It’s always a conversation starter.”

While she enjoys both living and working in Richmond, the city does present some drawbacks. “I was really surprised how conservative it was,” even more so than Salt Lake City, where she once lived and worked. Over a year ago, Melissa and Scott were looking to rent a location in Short Pump–to better cater to Richmond’s more affluent West End clientele. Melissa tells me that, when the property owner saw Bombshell advertising their anal bleaching services online, he immediately withdrew interest in a partnership. The irony, Melissa tells me, is that at the time West End women were the largest client base for Bombshell’s anal bleaching services.

It’s rather ironic that Bombshell flourishes in what many still consider to be a conservative part of America. Bombshell continually incorporates, and exposes Richmond to, the latest trends in aesthetic and salon services. One such trend that Melissa tells me about is sugaring.

During a typical waxing, an aesthetician uses warm wax, just as Melissa has done with me. Sugaring, on the other hand, uses room temperature wax that is heated naturally by the body. This unique sugaring compound is made of sugar, lemon, and water. What further distinguishes it from the use of warm wax is that an aesthetician spreads the sugary wax in the direction of the hair growth (warm wax is spread in the opposite direction). Both the unique compound and the manner in which it is spread on the skin makes it more pliable and less painful for the waxee. Melissa recently spent time in Pennsylvania at a symposium to learn the nuances of sugaring, which she thinks is the “future” of waxing. She’s already begun “sugaring” select clients.

Melissa and Scott also take time off during the year to travel and discover burgeoning trends, not only with waxing but with hair and skin care. “I love going to Venice Beach to people watch,” she says. “That to me is the pulse” of all things new and exciting.” She tells me that after seeing feather hair extensions being worn by women in California, she brought back the idea to Richmond. “We were the first ones to do feathers in your hair.” I suppose there is a good reason why Bombshell has nearly 8,000 clients, and why some of their clients include residents of Delaware, Maryland, D.C. and North Carolina–because few salons are as en vogue as Bombshell.

Not only is Bombshell the aesthetic dernier cri of Richmond (and much of the mid-Atlantic region, for that matter), but their prices are difficult to match, let alone surpass. The going rate for either a male or female Brazilian wax at Bombshell is $45 (many Brazilian services approach $100 at other salons across the country).

— ∮∮∮ —

My twenty-minute bleaching procedure has now reached its conclusion. Melissa removes the Saran Wrap diaper, wipes me down, and gives me the room so that I may put on my clothes.

After she leaves, and before I dress, I can’t but help prod and pat the areas of my body that were once hairy and are now no longer. Everything feels so much…cleaner. As I will come to find out later in the day, the lack of hair makes “number two” much easier and more refreshing. Gross, but true!

And now the million dollar question, a question whose answer I had wondered about in the days leading up to my first wax. Will I come back? Was the pain worth it? Is it worth the price, both physically and financially?

Well, being that I made an appointment to see Melissa again in five weeks, I would say…yes.

It is.

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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