SO here’s how my recent email exchange with my editor went:
Me: Started on my next article with the working title 'Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow' on account of getting my legs waxed.
Ed: Hahaha… Can't wait for it… What for? If I may ask…
Me: Well, the doctor said it's a good way to condition myself before I start my estrogen shots in a week or two. It’s all part of my plan to enter the female age group category, so I can finally get a shot at a podium finish.
But I’m getting ahead of the story. Let’s start at the beginning, which was a day before, while topping up at the halfway point of a bike ride with my teammates. Talking about all things cycling, conversation turned to the justified necessity of keeping one’s legs hair-free. For cyclists, there are three principal reasons for shaving or waxing their legs:
1) Improved Aerodynamics: Aerodynamics engineers will tell you that removing sources of drag will result in cutting resistance and thus yielding more efficiency per stroke. For cyclists of remarkable ability, it can mean the difference between the yellow jersey and, well, second place. And no one remembers who came in second.
2) A More Comfortable Massage: When your masseuse runs her/his hands over those tender spots that need attention - I’m talking about legs here — you can expect smoother strokes and kneads if your legs are devoid of hair that can cause some discomfort, aside from consuming more oil.
3) Makes Road Rash Treatment Less Traumatic: With more surface area comes more dirt (sticking to it). You want to be able to treat road rash with more expediency, so imagine if you had to clean out a wound surrounded with curly locks or stringy mane. Another benefit to hair-free legs is it makes applying (sticks better) and removing kinesio tape and bandages easier and less painful.
As for intangible advantages, some cyclists (and swimmers) claim a psychological benefit of feeling faster as they cut through the air and glide through the water with more velocity due to the absence of hair. And then there are the unconfirmed reports that women prefer smooth-legged men over Neaderthal-type hairy dudes. But that’s up for debate.
So now that we know about the Whys of going hairless, it’s time we learned about the Hows. The three most commonly employed methods of stripping one’s lower limbs of hair are:
1) Shaving: This is the earliest known and easiest way, and is probably the most convenient method of the three. All you need is a razor, some skin lubricant like soap or shaving cream (or none at all), and you’re in business. A few carefully angled strokes here and there and you’re ready to hit road and trail.
2) Depilatory Creams/Gels: Until a little over 10 years ago, male cyclists the world over had to filch their girlfriend’s or wife’s Veet, Nair, or Sally Hansen depilatories to be able to get a smoother finish to their legs. Today, companies like Veet have come up with products that cater to men who want to show more skin than shrub. Depilatories allow a smoother grow back without the stubble associated with shaving; their application, which can be done during bath or shower time, allows for multi-tasking and is thus time-efficient.
30 Waxing: If women are to be believed, men are the vainer sex; and thus will not allow themselves to be left behind in the looks enhancement department. Waxing is now common among male athletes like cyclists and triathletes (Lookit, Daisy, smooth legs and underarms!), who are known to go further north of their thighs for that clean and hairless look and feel. Waxing goes to the root of the matter by ever so forcibly ripping the entire strand from its mooring. The result: a longer grow back period and an ultra-smooth-to-the-touch finish.
Wax On, Wax Off
When I nonchalantly tell the missus that I’m getting my legs waxed, her green light reply (‘Great, I’ll come with you.’) says I not only have validation, but support as well, from the one who always tells it to me straight from the shoulder. So on the recommendation of friend and team mother, Ting, I drive to the nearby mall and enter the nail salon to ask for the hot wax treatment (Hot wax is better than cold wax because it opens the pores, echoes Ting’s sage advice in my head). There’s a big difference between getting a full leg and half leg wax, and since my thighs have as much hair as a nearly denuded forest, I settle for the half leg wax. I can figure out the thigh situation later (see below).
I’m led into a well-lit room with two huge, cushioned chairs, one of which is occupied by a middle-aged woman getting a simultaneous manicure and pedicure. My feet are first placed in a footbath where they soak for a few minutes. Soon after, the salon attendant who will perform the waxing — let’s call her the waxer — sits facing me, removes my feet from the bath, dries them, and applies some astringent to my lower legs in preparation for the actual waxing procedure. Beside the waxer is a receptacle plugged into the wall outlet, which holds the honey-colored wax at a specific temperature. The waxer then takes what looks like a tongue depressor and dips it into the receptacle and dabs a dollop of wax on a hairy portion just below the nail of my right foot’s big toe.
The wax is hot but not scalding; it doesn’t even give me a jolt when it touches my skin. It is, in fact, soothing. She takes a small strip of paper and lays it over the area where she spread the wax, smooths it over with a few brisk sweeps of her thumb, and then… Rrrrip! The sudden tug on the paper strip causes me to gasp, not out of pain, rather out of surprise. The waxer shows me the hair sticking to the tape, and I nod in amusement as my eyes dart from the waxing paper with hair from my big toe clinging to it, to barren area from whence it was uprooted. She asks me if it hurt, and I tell her not at all.
The process is repeated several times to the rest of my lower legs. I sit back and watch as the exposed, hairless portions of my shins reveal a paler and shinier surface complexion than I am unaccustomed to. When the waxer has finally stripped my entire lower limbs of their tresses, she gently massages astringent and lotion into my legs and ends with a chirpy “Sir, flawless na po kayo. (Translation: ‘Sir, you are now flawless.’)” I let out a chuckle, thank her, and proceed to the counter to pay for the waxing and leave a nice tip for a job well done. I notice there are waxing services with names like The Executive Package and The Athlete Package, but my excitement to show off my newly waxed legs to my family prevents me from lingering to inquire about what each package covers (or uncovers).
Depilation And Beyond
My kids gives me the typical, tepid ‘That’s great, Dad’ response when I proudly declare myself flawless. The wife is more supportive, and suggests I use her electric-powered depilator to remove the sparse growth above my knees ‘to complete the look.’ The gadget looks user-friendly and harmless enough, until I switch it on and put it to work. With the kind of pain that this torture device can inflict, I’m just glad I wasn’t born to Indian or Middle Eastern parents.
I’m done with my first waxing and depilation. An unbearable feeling of lightness (and smoothness) is upon me, and I cannot wait to determine the effect my naked, polished limbs have on my next bike out and swim session.
Waxing my legs wasn’t such a bad idea, and I’d recommend it for anyone who wants a faster swim/bike split (kidding!), a more pleasant massage (true!), and a less traumatic road rash treatment (But try to avoid it!).
One minor drawback though: I don’t know what’s come over me lately, but I can’t seem to stop touching my legs.
Mark Spitz and the Russians
Swimmers usually shave all body hair to reduce drag and US swimmer Mark Spitz planned on shaving his for the 1972 Munich Olympics; however, people gave him so much attention about it, he decided to keep it. He’s quoted with the following amusing anecdote: “I had some fun with a Russian coach who asked me if my moustache slowed me down. I said, 'No, as a matter of fact, it deflects water away from my mouth, allows my rear end to rise and make me bullet-shaped in the water, and that's what had allowed me to swim so great.' He's translating as fast as he can for the other coaches, and the following year every Russian male swimmer had a moustache.”
Rant Of The Month
Is it fashionable, a form of stress release, a Freudian display of breastfeeding deprivation, or do some people simply prefer the slow, painful route to pushing daisies? Whatever it may be, I cannot fathom the reasons people smoke. From where I sit, smoking has no redeeming value or benefit, except for the companies that peddle the stuff; with 15 billion cigarettes smoked everyday, that’s a windfall of revenue.
Smoking dries up your skin, stinks up your breath and clothes, blackens your gums, stains your teeth and fingers, lowers your resistance to sickness, and for the lucky ones, wins an instant membership to the cancer wing of their favorite hospital. Why would anyone with half a brain smoke?
I haven’t seen anyone lately who looks cool pulling on a fag. I’m also convinced that smokers have a higher tendency to be litterbugs than non-smokers. And just as silly are those trying to quit, sucking on those e-cigarettes that give off flavored/scented smoke. Like that’s supposed to help. Helps you look stupid, is what it does. If you’re a smoker, try looking at yourself in the mirror while puffing on one of these cancer sticks and notice just how right I am.
Where’s this all going? Not very far. To quote an ad from way back when: Smoking Is For Losers.
"Quitting smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times."