I found my first pubic hair during a sleepover at Kyla Warren's house. It was her 13th birthday, and while everyone else watched The Exorcist in the living room, my best friend, Aimee, and I—terrified—hid in the bathroom. During our sequestering, conversation turned to puberty, and that naturally led to our standing back-to-back and checking ourselves for pubes. "Oh my God," I said. "I have one hair! How long has this been here?" I'd grown my first real live pubic hair—the beginning of a bush. And though I didn't know it at the time, that moment was the genesis of a cycle of removal and regrowth that would be more merciless than Linda Blair's projectile vomiting.
I grew up in the 1980s, back when Madonna spread for playboy and you couldn't even see a slit through all that fur. When I was a kid, women's locker rooms were full of thick, musky, lush bush. My mother would lead me by my hand through the changing rooms; I was eye level with muff after gloriously full muff. But the reality was, boobs were what I avoided looking at while being led through that wiry jungle, because boobs are naked and looking back at you. A bush is modest; it's basically 3-D underpants. Nowadays, locker rooms offer up a smorgasboard of adult vagina, from "bare like a baby" to "Howie Mandel's soul patch" to "Oh my God, you can have that much hair?" Kids must be confused.
For me, bush alteration began with simply trimming my bathing-suit line. As I became sexually active, I moved toward bushlessness in tiny increments. At first, it was cutting the hairs shorter but still keeping the full bush, then it moved on to removing all the hair in what I call my "undercarriage" (because I'm kind of modest). I eventually adopted the Howie Mandel soul patch, but these days my pussy is all over the place. Not in a promiscuous way but in the manner of a uniform hairstyle. I don't keep myself permanently waxed, because I'm lazy and it isn't a lifestyle necessity. I mean, I'm always bikini ready—because I live in California. That's just state law and I'm a law-abiding citizen. But I've tried everything, at various times, to keep up with the glamorous life of well-oiled pornographic vaginas. I've endured many Brazilian waxes, including one brutal mishap when she waxed the same area twice, fully removing a layer of actual labia. That double wax put me out of sexual commission for a week and made my vagina look like Freddy Krueger's face—sorry, Robert Englund, not very glamorous.
One thing I don't do is politicize bush—or the lack thereof—as a feminist statement. The closest I've come to making a statement with my pubes, albeit subconsciously, was letting them really fucking grow out—Jerry Garcia 50 hours into Woodstock style—because I wasn't interested in a boyfriend anymore. That's when you know it's over, boys. Basically, I do what I feel is right for me sexually. (But maybe that is feminism.)
A lot of people think the hairless look is a modern invention. But they're wrong. Among the Egyptians, the Romans and even the otherwise hirsute Vikings, smoothly shorn women were considered fancy as fuck. And why not? Cleopatra? Waxed. It took good old Western religious zealotry to make bare labia feel immodest, and by Victorian times, the bush was in full bloom. It was like sex didn't even exist! In fact, pubes were so au courant then that the merkin became super trendy. That's right, people—a toupee for your vagina; you know, just in case your hair wasn't hairy enough. That was when we officially lost the clitoris for a period in time. The lost clit years. I'm sure Cleopatra had men and women bowing down to/on her clit and the Vikings were absolute clit worshippers. Then religion was all, "No! Stop enjoying the fucking around! Just marry, shoot sperm and make babies!" Boom. Covered vaginas.
Shaved vag was kind of a hush-hush thing women could start doing with the arrival of cheaper home razors in the 1950s, and shaving grew in popularity but was still considered "fetishy." It wasn't until Carrie Bradshaw got a Brazilian wax on Sex and the City that hairless vaginas went from underground quirk to something you could acquire at every strip mall in North America. We couldn't all afford Fendi baguettes, but we could scrape up the cash to get the hair ripped from our mounds and reintroduce our clitorises to the world, together.
I recently had a conversation with an Oscar-winning woman who told me the bush is back. (I mention the Oscar only because it clearly means her pop culture observations are more valid than ours. She did win an Oscar, after all.) "Young girls aren't waxing," she told me excitedly. "Kim Kardashian is an 'old lady' to teens and 20-year-olds, and bald pussies and landing strips are considered very 1990s. Kim had hers permanently removed, and young girls consider that an old-lady thing." Wait, Kim Kardashian has old-lady vagina forever because her hair is permanently removed?
So if waxing and Kardashians are synonymous, and Kardashians are considered "old," is the official return of the bush imminent? We live in a society that rejects the concept of being even slightly senior. Carrie Bradshaw is pushing 50, so logically no lithe thing is trying to emulate her vagina in 2013.
In the past few years I've noticed young women with a little fuller, more natural bushes appearing in my Tumblr feed more often (though I follow "artistic photo-graphers," which might stack the deck, pube-wise). Either way, I have to say it's anice change. Maybe what's happening now is, since every single bush look has had its moment to shine and be accepted en masse with this generation of vaginas, women can finally choose how to adorn their mound without having to categorize themselves or feel categorized by partners or by kids in the locker room. Now that we all know how to use a clitoris, hiding it behind a little hair—if you want to—isn't going to make us forget about it.
Whether we go for full-blown 1970s beaver between our tanned thighs or a bald and vajazzled place to land, each woman should be doing what she wants to do with her pussy. If the big, big bush totally comes back, that's fine: As I mentioned, I'm lazy. And if enough women have had their pubic hair permanently removed to necessitate the return of the merkin, that's cool too. I'll be the first to send one to Kim Kardashian.