WARNING: If you are a prude this is not the post for you. Take a deep breath and click on the following link, which will guide you to a topic equally fuzzy but more appropriate to your delicate sensibilities: http://www.dailypets.co.uk/.
Okay. Have we weeded out all the nice nellies? Good. Onward.
When I found out I was going to need chemotherapy earlier this year, a lot of jokes came to mind about losing hair in all sorts of places. Losing it on your head is obvious, of course, and people who haven’t been touched by chemotherapy (or alopecia caused by something else, such as an autoimmune disorder) might not stop to consider that there is a great deal more hair on the average (particularly adult) human body than on the head.
Most chemo patients I have spoken to or read about have lost at least some of their eyebrows and eyelashes in addition to the hair on their heads during treatment. And many have joked about no longer needing to shave or wax their legs or underarms in order to optimise appearances in the latest jort or halter top (both of which most people shouldn’t be wearing anyway — ah-hem — whether or not they are currently featured in InStyle Magazine).
I started to consider the possibilities. This could be a good thing, I thought. After years of unsatisfactorily bleaching the brunette peach fuzz on my upper lip, which frankly resulted only in a blonde moustache that caught the sunlight just so, I might be able to cut down my personal grooming efforts by a sizeable chunk every week.
Yessir. Goodbye as well to plucking those pesky industrial-strength eyebrows that once threatened (they’ve given up a little after years of maintenance, sigh) to weave my two prominent arches into something resembling Bert on Sesame Street or the actor, Peter Gallagher.
But what else? Ah yes. The bikini area.
Although initial thoughts of losing my hair “down there” made me cringe, because I don’t fancy resembling a prepubescent girl, it didn’t take me long to find humour in the situation.
“Well,” I joked with my very best friends who were already intimately acquainted with my raunchy self, “if the pubes go I can always just get a ‘vag toupee.'” I laughed at my own joke and started to come up with alternative names for such a prosthesis (although vag toupee is kind of my fave). “I could call it a ‘vig,’ after ‘vag wig,'” I quipped. Peals of laughter. “And if you would rather not have hair but you want something down there you could bedazzle your area and have ‘vling!'” (Umm, that’s “vag bling” for our octogenarian readers).
Little did I know, I was not original. Not even a little bit. That’s right; it turns out the vag toupee has been around for a very very very long time. I mean longer than chemotherapy. Longer than America has been independent. Seriously!
And this brings me to a brief history of the vag toupee, a/k/a the merkin.
The Oxford Companion to the Body dates the use of a merkin, or pubic wig, back to the mid 1400s! Back in the day, women used to shave their pubic hair to ward off crabs. Prostitutes would take it all off to hide evidence of sexually transmitted diseases. In both such cases, a pubic wig was employed in order to hide the evidence and make their goods look, well, good.
But wait, that’s not all!
Today, merkins are used by fetishists and drag queens (everything else on a drag queen is false so why not the muff). In addition, Hollywood employs merkins all the time to cover up inappropriate pubic hair styles (for example, if the movie takes place in the 1950s and the actress has a Brazilian, which is not true to the period), to make an actress’s cuffs match her collar (e.g. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and perhaps most often, to conceal the labia so that a film doesn’t get the dreaded NC-17 rating, which is somewhat lethal to wide cinematic distribution.
Sort of ridiculous, by the way, that a man can have his hog out in a film and it doesn’t warrant an NC-17 rating, but God forbid a labium creeps onto the corner of the screen and everyone runs for cover. Puh-lease, people. But that’s a blog for another writer. I am not here to protest inequalities between the sexes. After all, men can get boob cancer too!
Total aside — if you have ever seen Last Tango in Paris, that was not a merkin. That was a real bush. It is no wonder the poor actress who played that role was so screwed up after that movie. If zillions of people had seen my vag fro looking like that I would have been screwed up too. Actually I don’t think I could even attempt that look without a dozen merkins, or at least some pube extensions. Just sayin’…
The long and short of it (tee hee) is, I got an unexpected education on the subject of the vag toupee when I started to poke around there (tee hee hee — sorry I couldn’t help it). And when you think about it, the merkin really is a clever little device.
But I am sorry. The word merkin is completely unacceptable. I don’t care what the origin is, and from what I have read it may be a variant of the word malkin, meaning “mop.” See http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=merkin.
Vag toupee is much better. 🙂