How shaving caused me to (literally and figuratively) grow balls

Last summer I grew balls. I’m not saying this in an I-got-spunky-and-feisty kind of way.

Originally published on on July 5, 2011.

Last summer I grew balls. I’m not saying this in an I-got-spunky-and-feisty kind of way. I mean I grew two sacks filled with fluid between my vagina and anus due to a shaving accident.

Here’s how it happened: I was in the shower shaving with a new razor and, unbeknownst to me at the time, shaved in a way that caused two ingrown hairs. These hairs got so infected that, over a period of a couple of days, one was the size of a quarter and the other the size of a nickel.

I didn’t notice them until I started having a burning sensation when I walked. I sat down on the floor with a mirror and looked at my vaginal region, where I saw two big lumps. My immediate reaction was one of absolute panic. Did I get some kind of STI and didn’t know it?

I immediately called a girlfriend of mine who worked at a nonprofit that educates teens about STIs and AIDS. I described the lumps to her in complete detail. My amazing friend asked lots of questions and didn’t get grossed out or judgmental during our conversation.

“Girl, you have ingrown hairs,” she concluded.

“What?” I had been shaving since I was a tween and had never had an ingrown hair before. After all that experience, how could I possibly have done such a bad job shaving?

I’m ashamed to admit that it took another day to actually call a doctor. I was embarrassed by what I saw and kept hoping it would go away on its own, but by the following day I was in so much pain that my sense of modesty went, along with my refusal to face reality, completely out the window. A call to my doctor was in order.

I relayed my story to a receptionist, who in turn told the story to my doctor. Within an hour I had an appointment with a dermatologic surgeon. Two hours after that I was sitting in stirrups preparing for emergency surgery. A nurse put shots of numbing medicine into the lumps themselves so that the surgeon could go in and lacerate them. I was lying on my back screaming curse words into the air as the nurse shot the numbing medicine into my “balls.” In the middle of all that cursing it hit me: I was getting my balls cut off.

It took about fifteen minutes, and I’m so glad that my vantage point didn’t allow me to see what was going on. I did lift up my body at one point to look, but my doctor scolded me, saying, “What are you doing looking? There’s nothing to see here.” After a two-second glimpse into the action, which featured my doctor and a nurse with tons of gauze covered in puss and blood, I was happy to stare at the ceiling for the rest of the procedure.

When it was over, my doctor sent me home with a prescription for antibiotics and instructions on how to place gauze over the area. The bandages had to be changed every time I went to the bathroom and let’s just say I didn’t fully realize the amount of water I consume until this experience.

Hair removal in the bikini area is the subject matter of the documentary Why We Wax by Kimberley Wetherell, Amy Axelson, and Suzanne Pancrazi. Jane Pratt, who interviewed Wetherell and Axelson about their movie and waxing techniques, also wrote about a waxing experience as part of her new online magazine The idea is this: waxing and shaving the pubic region is nothing new. Women talk about it, men know about it, and both sometimes have strong opinions of whether/how it should be done. The question I had to ask after my experience, which the documentary couldn’t answer for me, was: Why was I putting myself through this? Did I shave for a partner? For myself? Because of broader expectations?

The answer wasn’t black and white. Up until that point I really enjoyed having very little hair around my vagina. I found it to be pleasant visually, and it was an added bonus if a partner enjoyed it as well.

But this is more than just a crazy story about pubic hair. It was a turning point in my life. The first few days following my procedure were quite difficult. It was hard to walk, and I live in an urban area where few people have cars. I couldn’t walk to the pharmacy right up the street to get my prescription filled. So, I took a friend up on her mantra of, “Call me whenever you need anything.” Making that call was hard. The independent side of me had to admit I couldn’t do something, and I needed help in a very specific way. My friend had a car and ever so graciously picked me up, took me to the pharmacy, and made sure I had everything I needed to heal.

It was also a turning point when it came to my romantic relationships. Here I had a problem that involved my sexual health, yet when I called my boyfriend at the time and relayed what had happened his reaction was, “Oh, that sucks.” He didn’t come see me. He didn’t help. There was a part of me that definitely felt, “Hey, buddy, you are in this thing with me.” But he wasn’t.

The same day my boyfriend proved not to care, my best guy friend showed up at my house with food and some DVDs. He was worried and wanted to make sure I was okay. I was on pain medication that made me fuzzy, and I don’t remember many details from his visit. But the next day I remembered one thing quite clearly: I was done with selfish guys.

It was such a simple, but completely altering, way of looking at my relationships. If a guy couldn’t bother to help me when I needed him–and I rarely admit when I need someone–he certainly wasn’t going to be there for me in the long haul. I didn’t want to be with that personality type anymore. I was done.

It’s been one year since my balls surgery, and I haven’t shaved my bikini area since because I keep having scalpel flashbacks. One day I will. Enough time has passed for me to understand that choosing to shave is independent of having or not having a partner. It is an action that I do for myself.

The most important lesson from this whole incident really didn’t have anything to do with learning more about shaving (though I did find some recommended best practices if you’re interested). The most important lesson from the incident had to do with relationships. Remember the selfish guy? I dropped him as soon as I got off of my pain meds and could think clearly enough to say “screw you.” The biggest surprise of all? The best guy friend who brought me food and DVDs–I wised up and realized that he was the person that I should have been with the whole time. I’m very happy and he loves me just the way I am. And every now and then we get a good chuckle about how I used to have balls.

This post was written by Girl Friday, a PYT shrouded in a cloud of mystery. She doesn’t want us to know her real name.

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