Conversations & Cosmopolitans: How to Give Your Mother a Hangover

8.27.2006

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Chapter Six: To Wax or Not to Wax

The long-running argument between my mother and I on whether a man should wax

My mother called me that morning to let me know she had a new recipe for jerk chicken, a mere three points a serving. Who needed fancy Manhattan brunches when I had my mother calling me about jerk chicken? Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on whom you ask), I didn't have time to jot it down as I was running late for an appointment.

'What kind of appointment?' she asked.

'It's personal,' I explained.

'Oh, God! Is everything all right?' she asked, sounding irritated. I blamed her irritability on getting up at 5 A.M. every morning, while she blamed it on my father.

'Everything's fine.'

'If it's fine, what's the appointment for? Oh, God! Is it your health? You're okay, aren't you? You've been practicing safe sex? For God's sake, what is it?'

I was even more nervous about this than when I'd told her I was gay.

'I'm going for a wax.'

'You're what?!'

'I'm going for a wax.'

Her panic turned to laughter. 'That's a good one, Berto.' (She loved to call me by this name when making jokes. Clearly she shared my taste in all things Latin.) After spending several minutes convincing her I was deadly serious, she was baffled as to the reason any man would want to do such a thing. In her opinion, 'Men don't do that sort of thing, only women.'

I knew when I came out of the closet that I would have to educate my family on a lot of aspects of being gay, but somehow this was all too much for me. What would next week's conversation be? The Joys of Gay Sex?

I continued to rush her off the phone before she asked the dreaded question that I knew was coming next. I didn't need my mother to know that. But she was going in that direction. I quickly tried to deflect.

'How's Gram's knee?' I asked, semi-concerned. (She had just had excruciating knee surgery the week before.)

'She'll live. Now, what the hell is this sicko going to wax?'

There it was. Right before me. A question most gay men don't even like talking about with their closest friends, even though they know everyone's been down that road. 'If you must know, my chest, stomach, and back.'

'You have a hairy back?' she said with disgust.

'No, but I don't even like having a little bit there.'

'That's so gay,' she said. 'Sorry, you know what I mean.' She had nothing to be sorry about'it was so gay even I was more than embarrassed to be doing it, let alone having a conversation about it with my mother. Remember, this is before the word manscaping became part of our lexicon thanks to Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

To my great fortune, my sister, her husband, and their two kids happened to be visiting my parents that weekend.

'Hold on. Julie just walked in,' she said. I could hear her muffling the phone, but in the way only a mother could, meaning I heard every word. 'Your brother is getting waxed!' she said, distraught.

I could hear my sister in the background. 'Really? Maybe Jeff should do it. He's hairy.' Jeff, my brother-in-law, is a great guy, a family man, a man's man, but not someone with whom I want to share my personal grooming habits.

'Jeff, come in here for a minute,' I heard my sister yell. This was not happening to me.

'Ma, I gotta go. I'm going to be late for Rima,' I said.

'Rima? This person has a name? What kind of person aspires to pull body hair off someone's most intimate areas? More importantly, what kind of person lets her do it?'

'Actually, she is about your age, and she's this great normal Russian woman who tells me all about her daughter studying classical piano and her son who just finished his sophomore year of high school.' (I left out that this was usually when I was lying face down while she was ripping hot wax off my ass).

'Oh, my God! I just can't even''

At that moment, my brother-in-law walked into the room, and I heard my sister telling him to raise his shirt. He sounded confused but did as he was told, as he knew better than to not follow orders when my mom and sister were in the room.

'Yeah, you could definitely use a wax. It's like a sweater,' I heard my sister say. 'I can take you to my lady at home. She's quick and painless.' I could hear my mother's groans.

'I really have to go now. I'm going to be late.'

'One second. Your dad just walked in from the office,' she said.

Great.

'Why is Jeff standing with his shirt lifted? I don't need to see that shit,' I heard him say. I love my dad! He nailed exactly what I was thinking.

'Do you know what your son is doing? He's getting waxed?' my mom said. 'He's having his hair on his chest, back, and God knows where else ripped off with hot wax,' she barked.

'I don't really see the big deal, Jane,' he said to my surprise.

'What?' my mother and I said in sync.

'It's really no different than our backyard,' he said. 'When we first moved in, the trees in the back were totally overgrown and the bushes looked like they hadn't been trimmed in years. You said yourself it looked like a vacant lot. We didn't even want to invite anyone over to spend time in the backyard until we cleaned it up,' he continued.

'Where are you going with this?' she asked.

'I'm saying Robert needs to trim his tree and bush before anyone spends time in his backyard.'

Mama Says:

Now that I know a little about gay men, I just don't get why they feel they have to wax every hair on their body. Do they like pain? Do all gay people'men and women'wax? Believe me, I am learning as I go along. I'm trying here.

I personally think some chest hair is attractive. I don't know why Ron doesn't have any. My son-in-law should wax, though, since he has a lot of body hair. I discovered it one day in the kitchen. I guess when I think about it, who wants to be with someone who feels like he's wearing a coat?

Bottom line, my son waxes'I have even dropped him off at a wax salon'and while we're on the subject, he has better manicured nails than I do. And there is nothing feminine about him. I'd like to be more like my son. He is getting it all together. Maybe I should start going with him, although I suspect that might just send him over the edge. I would like to meet this Rima, though, and find out why the hell she does what she does.

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