For the woman who bought a Groupon for the service of not one but three Brazilian waxes—the fact she had never before had a Brazilian notwithstanding, as she had for many years regularly subjected herself to the pain and humiliation of standard bikini waxing and so stupidly thought, How much worse can it be?—because, budget being an issue, it seemed to the woman a wise and thrifty thing to do (the package rate of three Brazilians proving considerably less expensive than a single standard bikini wax purchased at full price three times—she’d done the math), not to mention the woman’s regular girl (did she really just call someone her girl?) had recently decided to abandon her career at the day spa in hopes of completing a degree in taxidermy, thus leaving the woman in search of a new girl (there she goes again) and what better opportunity to give a girl a cosmetologist a try-out than at a discounted rate, and furthermore the woman thought, having been married now for over a decade, Why not spice things up? (a notion lifted straight from the glossy pages of MORE magazine); and whose babysitter twenty minutes before the Brazilian appointment cancelled via text message, thereby placing the woman in a bit of a conundrum for she had promised to take her children to the pool this afternoon and, not wanting to shave her bikini line in order to do so (as that would require waiting another couple of weeks for the hair to grow long enough to be effectively waxed, by which time the first of the three Groupons will have expired), the woman briefly considered postponing the appointment merely a day or two and proceeding to the pool without shaving—a scenario in which she would be obliged to keep her shorts on and therefore stay out of the water on this the hottest day of the year while her children would, no doubt, loudly and repeatedly while tugging on her limbs, beg the woman to get in the pool and play with them, and in so doing would attract the attention of the other mothers—the ones in their floppy twill hats, the ones who would be so thickly slathered in non-toxic, oxybenzone-free sunscreen that it shows greasy white across their shoulders, the ones who joyfully splash around with their children every day as if there is absolutely nothing on earth they’d rather be doing, the ones whose swimsuits look like dresses and who probably ceased any sort of grooming down there long ago (if, in fact, they ever bothered with such nonsense for this is a town crammed to the gills with bushy eye-browed La Leche League militants)—who would, every one of them, be listening for the woman to offer an acceptable reason for refusing to play in the pool with her children, a thing for which these mothers have already determined there is no acceptable reason—and so it was with this in mind the woman made the snap and ill-conceived decision to keep the Brazilian appointment and take her children along, hence filling their backpacks with snacks and coloring books and Hotwheels and Polly Pockets, and charging them to keep busy and quiet while mommy gets…a massage, and once she had situated the children on a magenta chaise in the salon’s waiting area, and after half-heartedly assuring the fabulous gay receptionist that her children would be no trouble at all, the woman followed the new girl, Misty, into her assigned chamber and, as instructed by Misty, stripped from the waist down, draped herself with the Egyptian cotton towel provided, and climbed onto the padded table where she now lies—knees in the air, eyes on the paisley wallpapered ceiling, Misty between her legs—enduring a procedure about which the answer to the question: How much worse can it be? is becoming clearer by the second, clearer with each time Misty meticulously applies a strip of searing hot wax, waits for it to harden, then rips it off saying: Exhale, when she has never bothered to say: Inhale, and it is at one of these such excruciating moments the woman realizes that, in her haste to be punctual, she has forgotten to take the preemptive dose of Vicodin (left over from her C-section) as her babysitter had advised—the same babysitter who cancelled, the babysitter who is a hairless blonde waif—but it is too late now, the torture is well underway, as Misty manipulates the woman into various awkward positions in order to gain leverage at different angles all the while gabbing gabbing gabbing and ripping and saying: Exhale, and gabbing some more, gabbing about where in town to get the best fish taco, gabbing about the prejudicial scoring at her son’s skateboard tournament, gabbing about the Kardashians and the hoarders and the twerking, pausing every so often to look expectantly at the woman, who remains silent, not only because she has nothing to contribute to this vapid conversation, but because at this point (Rip! Exhale!) she would surely be unable to speak without weeping, and then just as she—the Groupon woman—thinks things could not get any worse, the restless voices of her children begin to penetrate the chamber walls (Luke Skywalker this, Kit Kittredge that) and the woman asks how much longer and Misty says only half done and the woman says how can such a small area take so much time and Misty says I’m a perfectionist and the woman says my lucky day and then, as she hears the unmistakable zip of Hotwheels racing across travertine tile and begins to reevaluate her No Electronics parenting philosophy, Misty asks would she like a landing strip or a heart shape or possibly a monogram(!) and in response, the woman, confused, explains to Misty that she had understood a Brazilian by definition to mean the whole ball of wax, the whole she-bang as it were, thus cracking herself up—these idioms! in this situation!—but Misty is blank, she doesn’t get it (though to be perfectly fair: Misty doesn’t get much) and whereas the children’s voices are growing louder with phrases like how does that work and what’s this thing for, the woman—left knee next to her ear, heel flexed toward the ceiling, foot tingling with the urge to kick Misty in the face (at which point Misty actually says: Don’t kick me, as if she could read the woman’s mind)—continues to crack up in spite of herself, when from outside the chamber comes a terrible crash, and everything falls silent, except Misty who keeps gabbing about vajazzle and pedazzle and pelvic tattoos, and as Misty tweezes and chips at stubborn bits of hardened wax, a lone hot tear escapes the woman’s eye, rolls down her temple and into her ear canal, and she is certain that when this is over she will be so apologetic that she will give the fabulous gay receptionist, who must think she’s from hell (which makes the woman very sad because gay men used to adore her and, let’s face it, there is no higher compliment) a gratuity twice the amount of the service itself, never to return, thereby forfeiting the two remaining Groupons and resuming her search for a new girl who is more like her old girl (the future taxidermist), a girl who will not speak, will not utter a single word as she works, but will loop a lovely playlist of new age harps and Native American flutes, overdubbed with the sound of ocean waves and distant thunder, while she manicures for the woman in this tranquil setting a nice, natural triangle, neat and trim, the kind to which the woman has become accustomed, and about which, by the way, her husband has never had any complaints, and equipped with which she may wear a sexy-yet-tastefully-age-appropriate bikini and enjoy the simple pleasure of lying in the sun, freed from concern for the unseemly exposure of androgenic hair; but who, for now, lies in pain and humiliation beneath paisley wallpaper, helpless to the perfectionism of Misty who says, again too late, Exhale!
We beseech thee, O gracious Lord, have mercy.
AK Benninghofen grew up in the Mississippi Delta. She spent the first part of her adult life living in New York City and Los Angeles, slowly realizing she did not want to be an actress. Currently, she lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with her husband and children. AK’s work has appeared in Evergreen Review, Monkeybicycle, Necessary Fiction, and elsewhere.