November 10, 2007

About all that hair.

We all know by now that Christopher Hitchens got a "back, sack and crack wax."

So let's move on to a general contemplation of humanity and its body hair:
It is hard in the West to recall that there was a brief moment when the ladygarden was left untended, and the female body celebrated and desired in its natural state. The actress Sienna Miller is now filming Hippy Hippy Shake, a movie about the Oz magazine trial, and photos have circulated of her naked, except for obligatory flowers in her hair. And yet for all the effortful re-creation of the Sixties, one glaring anachronism remains: the Hitler moustache of a Brazilian wax, which marks Miller out as a totally 21st-century girl. Perhaps Hair and Make-up couldn't manage a merkin.
Oh, yeah, I remember those hippies. Remember:
Give me down to there hair
Shoulder length or longer
Here baby, there mama
Everywhere daddy daddy
What was the "there" there, if not... "the ladygarden"? It says everywhere. Could it be any plainer?
Shining, gleaming,
Streaming, flaxen, waxen
"Waxen" didn't mean you should be waxing your hair off. It meant it was fine for it to be waxy.

Here's the video for the song. You know, I remember when they were filming "Hair" in Central Park, and the call went out for people with a lot of hair to come out and be extras. I considered going — I looked like this around that time — but I was too busy or too aloof or — oh, who knows what I was thinking about in the mid-70s.

Back to the main article:
But then around the mid-90s some mysterious memo went out to twentysomething women that it was no longer sufficient to tidy the “bikini line” so it didn't cascade down the inner thigh like a spider plant.
Oh, yeah, before the mid-90s, you could wear a bikini and reveal pubic hair growing all down your legs! [CORRECTION: Ha, ha. I misread that.]

Let's get the history straight. The bikini hair that caused a stir in the mid-90s was brimming over the top like this — on the cover of The Black Crowes album "Amorica." Even The Black Crowes didn't go for the down to there hair — and neither did anyone in the 70s. Not in a bathing suit anyway.

(Hmmm.... maybe you could in Britain.)
The gyms of Britain were suddenly full of women waxed into weeny welcome mats, with all the stubble, bruises, pimpled hair follicles and burst blood vessels that accompany this excruciating sexifying of the sex.

Like a trend for comedy-size breast implants, inflatable lips, hair extensions, extreme nails and high street daywear revealing more tittage than a ten-quid hooker, waxing filtered down from the porn industry. Here defuzzing makes the action, as it were, easier to follow. And for male performers depilation adds the illusion of an extra inch. Maybe Hitchens had that in mind.
Now, I'm thinking of this banned album cover. (More banned album covers here.)

And don't you love Wikipedia? Check out the luxuriantly detailed article "Merkin." President Merkin Muffley — the (bald) President of the United States in "Dr. Strangelove" — came easily to mind for me. But there's so much more:
The narrator, Humbert Humbert, in Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita (1955), recalls, "Although I told myself I was looking merely for a soothing presence, a glorified pot-au-feu, an animated merkin, what really attracted me to Valeria was the imitation she gave of a little girl."

Pynchon, in Gravity's Rainbow, says, "He wears a false cunt and merkin of sable both handcrafted...by the notorious Mme. Ophir."...

The 1969 film Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? written by and starring Anthony Newley, is a veritable cornucopia of dirty-joke names. In addition to the two in the title, there's a character (played by Joan Collins), named Polyester Poontang.

Pearl Jam and Neil Young released a two-song companion to Mirror Ball called Merkin Ball....

In an episode of Family Guy, an advertising agent offers Joe Swanson a car, his pants and a merkin so that he will sign up for an advertising contract....

On the 1967 Chess LP The Baroques by the Milwaukee band of the same name, the word "merkin" is heard in the song "Bicycle." The lyric is "...I'll take back the merkin I gave you for Christmas, and you'll be sorry when the wind gets cold, 'cause it'll be hanging from the aerial of my bicycle...."
Lots more at the link.

20 comments:

Jeff with one 'f' said...

"It is hard in the West to recall that there was a brief moment when the ladygarden was left untended, and the female body celebrated and desired in its natural state."

Like, the brief momen that was all of recorded human history until 15 years ago? That brief, eons-long moment?

Ron said...

what kinda veggies does one get from a ladygarden, kumquats?


Boy, in that 70's pic, it looks like you're planning to dislike someone who calls himself TRex...

rhhardin said...

Fashion today trims to a landing strip thing, a sort of cargo cult.

Eric said...

Hitchens has my sympathies. At the risk of sounding like a bitter ex-narcissist, the fact is that men's hair gets really gross as men age. There is nothing graceful or dignified about ear hair, nose hair, back hair, and matted chest hair springing out from under the collar. Men who don't battle these things face ridicule for being gross and unkempt. (I'll never forget that when that disgustingly hirstute al Qaeda leader was captured, many people were more grossed out by his awful appearance than his awful crimes.)

This may tie in to the issue of men wearing shorts. Some things which are cute when you're young become disgusting with age. Dignity means anticipating and dealing with them.

joe said...

Damn, Ann, you should have issued a warning before linking to the photo of Hitchens.

joe said...

BTW, I hate the shaved "ladygarden" fashion. Sort of a pseudo-pedophile thing about it.

Bob said...

I once invented a midget character for a story named Little Harry Merkin.

I imagine that Monty Python used the word as a surname at one time or another. They had a similar Mrs. B.J. Smegma, who was blown up in the How Not To Be Seen sketch.

I once conceived an evil lust for the hippie-blonde-next-door, who was very attractive in the 70's fashion, even with the lavishly unshaven legs....

Palladian said...

I don't care what women do, but men absolutely have to stop shaving and waxing their bodies. It was bad enough when half of the gym-flouncing faggots in the world started doing it, but now even straight jocks and frat boys are doing it. There's nothing so repulsive as a grown man plucked and waxed smooth. Ick.

peter hoh said...

Amy Poehler, on Saturday Night Live last December, had this to say:

And lastly, ladies, what’s up with all the deforestation going on down there? You need hair down there! It’s a backup system for underwear! Even when you’re showing it, you’re not really showing it! There was a time when a lady garden was as big as a slice of New York pizza. Then it turned into an upside down John Waters mustache!”

http://www.thehollywoodgossip.com/2006/12/amy-poehler-britney-spears/

cardeblu said...

I don't know why people think that shaven montes pubis and axillae are a relatively new phenomenon. If you look at centuries-old paintings of nudes (especially women and some men), you would be hard pressed to see any--maybe just a tiny bit, perhaps as a precursor to the recent "trims." Of course you won't see hardly any at all on sculptures because of the technical difficulty, save for Mike's Dave.

Is that where our anhirsute image of beauty arose?

I like hairy men, maybe not so much Robin Williams-inish, but, still, I love hairy chests, backs, arms, legs and butts. My husband has it all, but he keeps saying he wants it removed, especially on his back as it makes him itch. I don't like seeing women with hairy pits or their fluff sticking out of bikinis. Double standard? Eh...

former law student said...

Pubic hair traps the enticing pubic scents. Plus hairless women make me feel like a pedophile.

But what I wanted to remark upon is how Limey bastards (a tautology, almost) refer to us as 'Merkins.

Verso said...

Ann quoted the article:
But then around the mid-90s some mysterious memo went out to twentysomething women that it was no longer sufficient to tidy the “bikini line” so it didn't cascade down the inner thigh like a spider plant.

And then said:
Oh, yeah, before the mid-90s, you could wear a bikini and reveal pubic hair growing all down your legs!

That's not what it says, Ann. You misread it. It says that before the mid-1990s it was sufficient
to tidy the “bikini line” so it didn't cascade down the inner thigh."


That's the opposite of your reading.

Ann Althouse said...

Oh, you're right. I should read more carefully!

jeff said...

"We all know by now that Christopher Hitchens got a "back, sack and crack wax."

Well I didnt know it until I saw it here. Wish I still didn't know it.

J said...

"We all know by now that Christopher Hitchens got a "back, sack and crack wax.""

Some of us didn't, didn't really want to, and certainly didn't want to see photos. In the immortal words of Elaine Benes, "naked is not a good look for a man".

Ralph said...

A famous Victorian intellectual (Ruskin?) was so grossed out by his bride's pubes, which he'd never seen on female nudes in art, that he never consummated the marriage. Of course, like the guy in the "Band of Gold" song, he was probably gay.

My conservative parents went to see "Hair" on stage in LA in '69 and brought home the album for us kids! I'm quite sure my mother didn't know what half the words meant, but my sailor father certainly should have.

amba said...

Never did it. Strictly virgin forest. Why not? Lingering hippie sensibility? Not sure. In health club locker room I sometimes thought I was the last one on earth.

amba said...

And it does look like a Hitler moustache! Perfect for dominatrixes.

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Here defuzzing makes the action, as it were, easier to follow. And for male performers depilation adds the illusion of an extra inch. Maybe Hitchens had that in mind.


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