Rip Me, Gianna

I wrote this story about leg waxing for Bike Magazine in 1994. So glad I no longer shave … or wax.

by Lee McCormack

They tried to make it as pleasant as possible. When I entered the salon the staff welcomed me, asked me to sit, and offered me a glass of wine, which I declined. After a few minutes, Gianna, my aesthetician, appeared and led me to the rear of the shop.

I must admit I was a bit worried. The women at work all said they were afraid to try what I was about to do, and many of them had survived childbirth.

Entering the room, I was immediately soothed. The walls were white, hung with flowery, earth-tone posters. I sank into a padded, contoured bed as Enya flowed from ceiling-mounted speakers. I asked Gianna if I was the first man she’d ever waxed. “Yes.”

Gianna dipped a giant popsicle stick into her jar of molten wax and honey, then spread the goop on my left upper thigh. I laid back and savored the music, warmth, and fragrance. Then she pressed a 3-inch by 10-inch piece of cloth onto the cooling wax and ripped it off. It sounded like duct tape being yanked off a roll. AAARGH! Imagine all your hairs, all your scabs, everything, torn out just like that. I should have slammed that glass of wine.

Apply the wax, let it cool, rip it off. Relax the body, tense it up, flinch half off the table. The grisly project repeated itself again and again. After a dozen such mutilations I slipped into a mild endorphin high. My mind wandered — to the posters, the music, my slight arousal, to how I got myself into this situation in the first place.

My first scrape with a razor came almost five years ago. It was the night before my first NORBA points series race, at Big Bear, California. I’d been riding almost a year, had lost about 25 pounds, and had gained some muscle in my legs. I walked, talked, and rode (sort of) like a mountain biker, but I desperately wanted to look like one.

Many of us became mountain bikers because we fancy ourselves hardy, do-it-yourself folks who don’t need the security of a group. That’s ironic because in time we all start looking alike. Our herding instinct exerts much power: first the black Lycra shorts, then a jersey, then, voila, you’re in a warm bathtub with a sheepish grin on your face and a fuzzy razor in your hand.

In general, hairy riders are either uninitiated Freds or the kind of hard-core dudes who would enjoy a good waxing. My buddy Peter, and expert racer who lived alone four years in the Sierra Nevada mountains, says he doesn’t shave for two reasons: 1) he takes great pleasure in making guys with smooth legs look slow, and 2) when he crashes “the blood mixes with the hair and it gets all matted and stuff,” which he thinks is groovy.

Smoothies, on the other hand, are more taken with the whole image thing. They see their bodies and bikes the way a muscle car aficionado sees his Camaro — as objects to be chromed and adored. I’ve asked dozens of cyclists why they shave their legs. Some say it makes wearing corduroys a lot less noisy. Most tell me it’s for aerodynamics, massages, or crashing. None of these riders can admit the real reason. I guarantee your average moto narcissist spends less time going fast, getting massaged, and removing Band-Aids than he spends hacking at his stubble with a Lady Bic. Mountain bikers shave their legs for one reason: to look cool.

I’ve never met a muscular rider who can stroll past a reflective surface without fawning over his legs. We owe it to ourselves, to the people, to remove every trace of pilosity so our honed quads and calves can cry out to the world, “Worship us! We are beautiful!”

Yet, considering the number of bald-legged moto heads strutting their stuff at bike shops and riding areas, little information exists for men looking to shave their legs. We guys talk about some pretty sensitive subjects (sex, bowel movements, anodized titanium, etc.), but the subject of exactly how to thin the forest never comes up.

So, on that night before the Big Bear race, I took to the bathtub with a Gillette and a can of Edge, but no clue. I didn’t know how high to go, so I shaved all the way up. This proved abrasive in the following week. Plus, the razor I’d just used on my beard sliced flesh more efficiently than inch-long leg hairs.

When I emerged an hour later, my legs looked anything but cool. Crimson ribbons spiraled from dozens of tiny gashes. I had whittled my two tan tree trunks to white, skinny twigs. Most of that bulk I thought was muscle was actually hair.

I haven’t had more than a quarter inch of hair on my legs since then. It doesn’t matter whether I’m racing or not, fat or thin, fast or slow — shaving’s part of my shtick. I’ve tried just about everything to remove leg hair quickly and easily. Of course there’s the blade, then there’s the electric, then Nair, the Epilady, and now, waxing.

My electric works anywhere (I often shave while driving), but it doesn’t shave close enough. Nair smells awful and it melts my skin before it erodes my coarse hair. As far as pure self-mutilation goes, it’s hard to beat the Epilady — the torturous device that catches hairs in a rotating coil spring and yanks them out of their roots. I could only endure a few square inches before I returned the vile contraption to its female owner, who was also afraid to use it. Watch for Singapore to buy the remaining stock for crowd control.

Which brings me back to Gianna. She spent an hour torturing me, after which every follicle shined bright red and my legs felt like they had been grated. Leg waxing hurts as much as an Epilady and costs about $50 per monthly punishment, so it doesn’t rate well on the pleasure-to-dollar scale. But after a few days my skin recovered and my legs looked cooler than ever, which means I may have to try it again next month.

After all, pain is temporary. Muscle definition is forever.

© Lee McCormack
Bike, Sept/Oct 1994

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