I’m a reasonably good traveler, I like to think, but sometimes I do lose things. I’ve lost socks, I’ve lost receipts, I’ve lost phone numbers. I’ve lost time, sobriety, sense of direction, and (more than once) my pride. Once I did the unthinkable and lost my passport. In an airport. (Just… don’t even ask about that.) I would have thought that last one was the worst thing possible. But that was before I had the chance to say, “I accidentally lost my pubic hair in the Middle East.”

Now, there’s something about traveling puts you in the mood to try new things. After all, if you wanted to do everything the way you’d always done it, you’d just stay home, right? So that is why, when the American woman I’m staying with said that she had a local woman coming over that evening to wax her, and asked if I’d like this woman to attend to me too, I said yes.

I’ve never waxed anything before, or been remotely tempted. It’s not that hard to shave, and I’m not obsessive about hair anyway. Also, it always sounded painful to me, and who needs that? But… I was charmed by the idea of a waxer making housecalls, and as it happened, I was planning a trip the following week to a remote island with beautiful beaches (beaches = bathing suit = want smooth legs). I also would never find a better price: US$40 would do both legs, one’s “lady area,” and a follow-up massage with baby oil besides.

In fact, I reasoned, it might be even cheaper for me because I actually don’t shave my pubic hair. That’s by choice—I like the way my hair looks, and I like the way it feels. I like brushing my hand (or someone else brushing his hand…) lightly over the tips and feeling it all the way down. I shaved once in college, just to see what it was like, and I didn’t like it one bit. My skin felt a little numbed, and the bald look I found frankly unnerving.

I don’t speak Arabic, and the woman coming over didn’t speak English, but no matter… the other American woman spoke Arabic, and I asked her to explain that, while I was happy to have my legs done, above that I only want the edges trimmed up. Swimsuit-friendly, in other words, but leave the little triangle in the middle. There was much nodding and agreeing, and I also gave the international hand gestures for “Please leave my bush intact.”

The other woman went first, and then it was my turn. I lay down on the carpeted floor, over a spare bedsheet to protect the carpet from baby oil. The woman wasn’t actually using wax, but rather a sugar/honey mix with the consistency of spackle, but the idea was the same: She applied it to my skin, the mixture stuck to the hair, and removing the sticky mixture removed the hair as well (by the roots).

She started first with my calves. She’d put a little on, and then sort of rip it off again. The sensation was not unlike being attacked with a lint roller—perhaps a lint roller that used duct tape. Before each application, she’d mutter “Malesh,” which is Arabic for “Sorry” or “It can’t be helped.” A way of saying “This might hurt a little.” It wasn’t too bad, though. After a while, I had little pricks of tears in the corner of my eyes, but I hadn’t gasped in pain or anything.

Ah, but then she went a bit higher, and also had me bend my legs to get at the backs. Now, the backs of your thighs are hard to shave. They’re awkward to reach, and you also can’t see what you’re doing. In shorts-weather, I’d take care. But here… where the local dress custom for women means that I need to keep arms and legs covered at all times… well, how much time and effort do you need to really spend there? So the hair was longer, and thus hurt more coming out.

She knew it, too. I could tell because instead of saying “Malesh,” she’d switch more and more often to “Bismillah.” Literally meaning “In the name of God,” this is a word with many interpretations and uses (and these can vary just a bit from country to country)—you can use it to begin something, like a project or even a meal, but it’s also used to sort of excuse yourself when you have to commit an unavoidable sin. For example, I once heard a man use it when he was in the US and had to pray, but couldn’t determine which direction was east (for Mecca). He’d done his best to find out, and made his best guess, but he couldn’t be absolutely certain. That was a “Bismillah” moment. If a man had to grab a woman’s arm, perhaps to prevent her from tumbling to her death in a ravine, or something, he might excuse himself with a “Bismillah”—he shouldn’t touch a woman, no, but he’d have no choice, because saving her life would be more important. And… ripping out long hair in a very tender spot, that turns out to be a “Bismillah.”

All I could say in response was “Tammam,” meaning “OK.” I mean that literally—it was all I could say, because it was all I knew how to say. Somewhere along the line I should have picked up the Arabic for “OH fuck that HURTS oh my oh my ouch ouch OUCH!”, but it was too late now.

As she got closer and closer to my pubic area, I do remember thinking that perhaps her idea of a bathing suit edge and mine were not quite the same. I lifted my head to see if she’d strayed over the border, so to speak, and … I noticed a huge gob of the sugar mixture sitting right there on top.

Um… how was that going to come out?

You guessed it.


OH LORD! I don’t even know if there are words in Arabic (or English) for that; I beat the floor with my fists instead. You women and men who’ve been waxed before know what I’m talking about. For those who’ve never had the pleasure, let me suggest applying something to your own pubic hair—perhaps superglue—and then ripping it off. If you are for some reason already hairless (genetics, or an unfortunate accident with radiation, or you already shave), you could probably get the same effect by stripping naked, holding a strong young cat over your nether region (claws against your skin), and applying the superglue to the cat and ripping it off him instead.

What could I say? Of course, only “Tammam.” The woman just beamed at me. She showed me with great pride the amount of hair she’d gotten off me. And once you start down that road, you can’t turn back. Not that she tried. Nope, she gleefully bismillah’ed her way through the entire bush. Up to the belly, down around to the backside, and all points in between. ALL of them. At a certain point, I wasn’t able to say “Tammam” anymore, so she actually took over saying it for me. “Tammam! Tammam! OK, OK.” Yes, it turned out that she knew as much English as I did Arabic. I was OK, we both agreed, or she agreed for me.

Finally it was over, and I lay prone while she massaged my legs with baby oil, front and back. The pain subsided, or rather evolved into a flushed tingling warmth. She indicated that I could now get dressed, and when I rejoined my friend in the living room, she explained through my translator (who seemed to be working perfectly fine now!) that I should wait half an hour before bathing, to let the baby oil soak into the skin and protect it. I thanked her (I also know “Thank you” in Arabic, but that’s not the right response to a Bismillah Moment), and I not only paid her the $40 but a $5 tip besides. She’d done a lot of work, after all, and who knows? Perhaps she could use the extra for English lessons.

I’d wanted something different, and I now have it. Will I keep it? I’m not sure. I’ll have to think about it as it’s growing out. For now, though, I like it. It’s a reminder—visible and tangible—of how travel brings the unexpected.


Sharazade is a professional writer, editor, and consultant, with more than 15 books published under another name. She divides her time among Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the U.S. Not surprisingly, her stories tend to feature some aspect of travel--modes of transportation or exotic locales.

She enjoys stories that are realistic enough that they might have happened and fanciful enough that they might not have. She values communication, adventure, exploration, passion, and love.

Her first collection of erotica, Transported: Erotic Travel Tales, was published by Fanny Press. It is available from Amazon.com, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble.

She is currently at work on her next collection of erotica, which will feature several stories set in the Middle East. There are currently no plans for a waxing scene, but there could be a Bismillah Moment or two…

Find Shar at her blog on writing and reading HERE