Marianne Ayala

In “In Cold Blood,” Truman Capote writes how the teenaged Nancy Clutter brushed her hair 100 times each night before she went to sleep. She combed her well-coiffed locks over and over again, finding some measure of control in the repetition and order. Nancy likely brushed her hair on the night of Nov. 14, 1959, just as she always had, garnering her final scrap of peace before going to bed.

Like Nancy, I, too, find comfort in the seemingly insignificant measures of personal grooming. Without a chic 1950s bouffant, the envy of every gal in Holcomb, Kansas, I must find other ways to treat myself. There is no act of self-care that imbues me with more confidence than a bushwhacking of my southern forest.

I’ve trimmed back my garden hedges more than a time or two, and for a while, that’s as far as I was willing to go. I don’t want my parting gift to a lover to be a bouquet of pubic tendrils resting on his pillow, but I was never willing to drag steel across my leather coin purse. My mons pubis was a manicured lawn, not a freshly Zambonied skating rink. But time makes you bolder, even children get older. And I’m getting older, too.

Two weeks ago, in the heyday of Hallo-week, I was feeling a little gutsy. I received an invite to a circus-themed party a day earlier. These bougie bastards sent out a Paperless Post, so I knew my costume needed to be commensurate or better than whatever lavish wardrobes the hosts would don; however, I am a simple man of limited skill. My only strengths are a preternaturally underdeveloped sense of inhibition and a thunderous set of thighs acquired after a middling career running cross country in high school. Playing to my best assets (emphasis on ass) I decided to dress as a sexy elephant for the party.

We, as a species, lack an appreciation for 13,000 pounds of leathery gray rotundness when applied to the human form. People also have a weird thing about vestigial tails. For my costume, I elected to decapitate a plush elephant toy, pinning it to a bikini-cut pair of briefs I purchased, with matching black combat boots and t-shirt. I did not wish to make it appear that my elephant was emerging from a dense jungle bush, so I decided finally to bring a sharp object dangerously close to my wild thornberries.

I was in the shower for 30 minutes. I used a third of a can of shaving gel. My battery-powered vibrating razor died halfway through the process, but I was as smooth as a baby dolphin, ignorant to the cruel horrors of this world, like the dolphin hunters of Taiji, Japan. Also, razor burn. Despite numerous applications of BikiniZone Shave Gel, angry red pustules emerged from the scorched earth of my penile neighborhood. My best assets (emphasis on A.S.S. or angry scratchy skin) became raw, red and irritated. Slowly, a dense bramble patch returned to the formerly barren plot of flesh.

In the shower, surrounded by a swirling cloud of steam, I delicately cupped my flesh-dipped gumdrops and considered how else we groom ourselves. Entering my senior year, a period fraught with trite yet inescapable existential questions, I am considering who in my life has become metaphorical overgrown pubic hair. Not just the people in my FroCo group with whom I have not spoken in years, but also the people rooted deep in the pubic mound of my life. Time makes you bolder, even children get older. And I’m getting older, too.

At the circus-themed party, I found myself standing in line to the bathroom holding a bucket of Ruffles chips. My closest friends had either left or scattered throughout the party, talking to people who likely didn’t have potato chip-breath. Despite the fact that I had removed an overwhelming amount of thick, luscious pubes, I did not feel the confidence I had anticipated.

Throughout this year, I’ve often become frustrated when I find myself surrounded by friends but my thoughts are elsewhere, mulling over the aforementioned trite yet inescapable questions. My first inclination is often to remove myself, taking a razor to the relationships I have built over the last few years. In the moments by myself, I am a clean-shaven dolphin trapped in the coves of Taiji. No matter what I do to spot-treat my actions, whether BikiniZone Gel or masturbation, the red pustules form and I am left with A.S.S.

The irritation, my own and my skin’s, subsides and the hair always starts to grow back. Maybe these friends, pubic and otherwise, are meant to stay.

Jack Barry john.c.barry@yale.edu .