My Pain Training

My winter waxing break.
Now that it's winter my legs and arms will not see the light of day much which can only mean one thing: hairy legs and pits and a bikini line that closely resembles the Tahoe National Forest.

Yeah. If I let myself go I can be that hairy.

I try not to, but hey, it happens sometimes.

[ By the way, if you are squeamish about things that cause bodily pain or horrific details of childbirth here's your out because cute puppies never fail to soften the blow of my way too honest posts. ]

I'm lucky since a lot of my body hair is blondish. So instead of looking like a gorrilla I'm more of a blonde yeti. But it's still there and annoying as hell. For as much as I lean in the liberal direction on the political scale, I hate being hairy and I do not embrace my inner hippy in this respect. Sorry. At least I've chosen to epilate and wax for environmental reasons which IS embracing my inner hippy so I consider that close enough.

So while I was waxing and epilating the other week I became aware of something that both disturbed and delighted me. I couldn't help but notice that I've grown accustomed to the pain. In fact, I can honestly say that ripping a 2x2 inch patch of pit hair is oddly satisfying. There's a wicked relief in feeling the strays being torn follicle deep from my body. 

If you're unfamiliar with epilating, its basically a small device (probably invented by Satan, you know... the same dude who invented the treadmill) which is very similar to a shaver but instead of blades it has a zillion tiny tweezers that rotate and grab each hair and rip them out from the root. Trust me. The first time you use this little electric sadistic motherfucker you will quickly and forcefully become acquainted with copious amounts of stinging torment.

Ahhhh. "The rippin' and the tearin'."

(Tangent warning: that phrase above is a reference to the fabulously immoral and very offensive game Cards Against Humanity. If your friends are geeky and inappropriate this game should entertain you for hours. Sadly, my friends and I all share the same disturbing sense of humor. I will say this about this game: Play at your own risk and don't cry about losing your inner moral compass. Its just a game.)

But offensive card game tangent aside, should you decide to take on this tortuous challenge of epilating or waxing you should at the very least expect the unexpected. You might scream. You might cry. You might plead mercy to some random god of pain that has tweezers for fingers, or you might plead to Satan himself, the inventor, or if you're anything like me you'll mutter between the teeth obscenities you never thought you had it in you to say out loud. If you do end up feeling the need to let go of an obscenity or two, do it. It's actually good for you according to a recent study on pain and swearing. But go easy. Apparently you can desensitize your potty mouth. Make it count.

I think my husband found me cussing curled up in the fetal position on the bathroom floor the first time I waxed my own bikini line.

But it gets easier and less painful every time.

Kinda like an ultra.

Your body starts to adjust to the level of pain. Its still painful. I still wince and cuss. But its kinda like my body expects it and prepares for it. Even when I get more adventurous and decide to wax further and further into denser territories (I have yet to wax the full kitty, I prefer a minimal amount of landscaping down there to keep chafing to a minimum while running) it still hurts - sometimes pretty bad - but I've toughened up to it. A lot.

You know what else hurts?

Menstrual cramps.

And childbirth.


And laboring sans drugs with a baby who is sunny-side up in your womb. That's pretty damn painful. And so is splitting wide open hole to hole when that baby finally decides to pull his elbows in from behind your pelvis and pop out of your vagina like the very last squeeze from a ketchup bottle.

And so is the feeling of being stitched up 1 inch deep layer after layer afterward.

And don't get me started on the pain from the first poop after delivery. Still with those stitches in tact. Ow.

I won't apologize for those visuals. Man up. You chose to read it and I did warn you.

But labor and delivery wasn't as bad the second time around. It was still painful. Ok. I'll admit it. I took the epidural eventually. I was so miserably sick that I literally coughed myself into labor. I wanted some relief and the epidural made for a fine cough suppressant. Before I got the epidural I was having some pretty severe contractions but it was like my body and brain knew what to expect and it just dealt. It was hard... yeah... but not insurmountable.

Women know pain. Mothers know even more pain. We have had to endure many different forms of it. From menstrual cramps, to lactation let-down, pregnancy and childbirth, not to mention all the pain we endure from stepping on legos in the hallway in the middle of the night or our hair being pulled by the tiny, clenched, drooly fists of a 6 month old. Holy crap do we know pain.

Will there ever be an ultra that will be as hard as labor and delivery or nursing barracuda babies? I can't imagine anything being that painful. Honestly. I learned a lot about pain through giving birth and nursing. I learned that I can be pushed to extreme pain (the kind where you feel like you are literally going mad), power through it and come out the other side in tact. Well at least held together with a few stitches anyway.

So this makes me wonder... do women have an advantage in sports that require us to endure pain and discomfort such as ultra running? Because I can tell you that I now have a benchmark of what level of pain I can endure and it's not sissy pain. Hell no. On the smiley face scale (you know the one on all the walls of the labor and delivery rooms) my level is the one with the angry face bitch slapping all the sad faces cuz they don't know REAL pain.  

Considering all we have to endure in life are women tougher than men when it comes to pain? Do we have a higher pain threshold or do we just have better coping mechanisms?

After doing a little bit of lazy person's research (20 minutes of googling later...) there are actually some studies that show women have the ability to cope with pain better than men. Check out this totally random and unscientific Myth Busters episode. But, while women may possess the ability to buck up to pain they may feel pain more intensely than men

Studies on pain can be, well, a bit of a pain, though, because not only is pain subjective, but its hard to know whether women are just more likely to report having pain while men are trying to keep a tough facade. Also, the type of pain may be important. According to some research women tend to be less tolerant of acute pain and better able to cope with chronic pain than men. OK. I could buy that.

But I also believe that previous experience with pain can influence how we perceive pain in the future. I believe all my experiences combined have made me more tolerant to pain in general and better able to cope with it. 

And in a weird way, I embrace it. Its a physical reminder that I'm vibrant with life and it fills a space of intermittent numbness sometimes. It gives me focus. 

There's a strange and quiet solace in the center of pain if you can focus on it, which is hard to do because the center of pain always seems to be moving. There is no other time that I am more present than when I am feeling pain. I know that sounds crazy and disturbing, but its true. To me, pain (of any form physical or emotional) is a gift, albeit a crappy one at times, but it sure makes me appreciate my health and happiness on a whole different level. Sometimes we need low points to make the high points stand out. I don't want to live life in a dream-like, painless, happy state. If we never feel pain how do we know we are truly alive?

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  1. Another excellent post.

    The revised pain scale was hilarious. I am going to show it to my doctor the next time I see him.

    My all time favorite movie quote is "Pain makes man think. Thought makes man wise. Wisdom makes life endurable." According to that line of reasoning, waxing your bikini line will make your life better.

    1. Oh. I like that quote. What movie is that from?

  2. It is from an 1950's era movie called Teahouse of the August Moon. It is a movie, based on a play that was based on a novel. The whole thing is set on post-WWII Okinawa. The movie had lots of good actors, including Glenn Ford and the guy who played Col. Potter on MASH. The biggest surprise in the movie was Brando playing an Okinawan character. It was really weird to see. If you can find it, it is definitely worth watching. Sorry, that was way more information than you probably wanted.

    1. Oh cool! I'll check it out. I hope I can find it on Netflix. Thanks!

  3. Physical pain is nothing compared to psychological pain.
    And everyone, men and women know that pain.


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