There have been a lot of hilarious blog posts from women who have waxed themselves into Brazilian PTSD.
But I am a horrible listener and a man (which is redundant). And I decided that their problems don’t relate to me. And I went ahead and shaved my chest.
I don’t know why I did it. Something about the insanely long hairs reaching out from my nipples, how they stretched like vines of ivy searching for the sun, just seemed wrong to me. Oh, I’m sorry, if TMI is going to be a thing for you, then maybe you’d rather read about how I hate the cha cha cha in the birthday song. That’s a safe post. This post will have much information.
So, manscaping. No big deal, right? It’s not like I shaved one of my more sensitive areas. Not like I took the razor down there and then admitted to it to anyone.
I just zipped the razor a few times around my expansive chest like it was a delicate figure skater and thought I’d be able to just get on with my life like I wasn’t going to be horribly disfigured or anything.
The impact was immediate. The hair was in the sink like thousands of dismembered centipede legs. The air heavy with shower steam. When it cleared, the first things I saw were my rosebud nipples, revealed, perfectly defined, pointing back at me from a vast barren tundra of dough, accusing me with their unblinking stares.
You did this. You.
Their accusation sent my brain tumbling back through time. I was 17 and wondering why I didn’t have a man-forest. My dad grew hair in impossible places and I was still bald as a baby child on my cheeks and chest. My dad could grow indomitable black hair on the tip of his nose if he willed it. And I was all peach fuzz and failure. My dead French ancestors seethed in their impotent rage.
When they finally arrived, those chest hairs were sparse and unimpressive and limp. But they were mine.
And you betrayed us. All of us. You.
I stood there at the mirror. Hating. I have very low expectations of myslef, but even so, I was disappointed. I let me down.
It wasn’t like the time I got my nipple pierced. Or that other time I got my other nipple pierced.
Those instances were just body-mod experiments.
Oh fuck, back through time again?
I was 20ish and caught in the throes of pointless suburban rebellion. It was all the rage for white kids in the mid-90’s. I was living on my own at the time, so maybe I was rebelling against my mortgage?
The first nipple piercing was an experience I’ll never forget. I walked into the tattoo parlor only knowing that I was going to have a hole punched through my nipple.
I thought: Oh they’ll rub some numbing cream on it or something.
I speculated: They probably have some piercing gun that pounds the hole in a nanosecond and feels like a kiss.
I told myself: This shit won’t hurt at all.
The first thing the piercer did was use a blue marker to put two dots next to my left nipple, one on each side. Then he took this huge locking clamp out and affixed it to my nipple and locked it. It dangled there for the entire process.
I thought: OK, now the numbing cream.
Nope. Now the needle. It was like a huge knitting needle with a taste for human blood. The piercer-man brought it to my nipple and pointed it at the first blue dot. It was then that I noticed a neat feature of the locking clamp: it had big holes where my skin and the blue dots were visible. A hole to accommodate the needle. I watched as the needle found the first dot. I heard a pop as my skin broke and the needle began its mission.
The piercer-man didn’t just shove the needle through. He began maneuvering it so the point lined up with the second blue dot. He was a perfectionist. An artist. On the other side of the clamp, I saw my skin stretch. I saw the tip of the needle searching and forcing its way, taking my skin to its elastic limit, a white horn growing, before I heard another pop as the needle won its way through.
Now I had a clamp hanging from my nipple, and a big needle passing through it.
The piercer-man had one move left. He attached my new accessory to the end of the needle and pulled it back out, removing the clamp and leaving the ring in its place.
In that moment, the relief was incredible. It was a rush. An exhilarating feeling. Like the first drop on a very tall roller coaster. In that moment I kinda got maybe how people might think that pain is pleasure.
A year later I went back for the right nipple. Only this time, I was fully aware of the entire process. I remembered every detail. And I was terrified.
He placed the blue dots and my heart hammered.
The clamp came out and my mouth dried up.
I couldn’t watch. The needle went in and the world swam away.
If I didn’t lay down I would have fallen.
After a few minutes of trying to answer the question “Are you okay?” the haze in my vision receded and I was able to appreciate my fresh piercing.
The ring wasn’t surgical steel like the one in my left nipple, and it would itch constantly and leak puss all the time. I wore both rings for another year. Then, on vacation with my family in Disney World, I was swimming and my 5 year-old cousin asked me: “Jeff, why do you have earrings in your boobs?”
And I couldn’t answer him. I thought If I can’t answer a question from a 5 year-old, then something is seriously wrong.
So I took them out. And the itching in the right nipple stopped and my body forgave me.
Shaving my chest was worse than all of that. Maybe not on a physical level, but it fried my brain. It changed me.
These were some of the nasty surprises:
My nipples are always hard. They must be traumatized. Like this dog who got a haircut and just started walking on its hind legs everywhere.
I mean, WHAT GUY WANTS TO HAVE HARD NIPPLES? I have to wear three shirts minimum. Or I’ll be cast as Rachel in an off-broadway production of Friends: the Shitty Musical.
I am whiter than Wayne Brady. Seriously, I knew I was white. But not this white. I’m so white that you can’t see any definition whatsoever. It’s just this wall of light. You can’t discern a thing. Like driving in a fog. The effect somehow leaves me guessing at the very shape of my body.
The hair gets revenge. The terrible truth is that the hair comes back. Slowly. Itchy. Painfully. And it draws blood. Every strand bursts through the skin like the chest-buster in Alien. I have what I call ebola-chest. Right now, under my shirt, hundreds of bumps and abrasions and a million times the question: WHY THE FUCK DID YOU DO THIS, JEFF??
I will never do this again.
I’d rather get my nipples redone.