After a lifetime of assuming that all guys went au naturale, Josh Burt realised that everything he knew was wrong.
It’s a weird day when you realise you’re possibly the only guy on the planet who hasn’t trimmed his pubes. Like, ever.
Looking back the clues had always been there, but like a monkey at a maths convention I’d just never put two and two together. The pubeless guys in porn – “it’s bloody PORN,” I’d laugh, “it’s cartoon, that can’t be standard practice”. The many many blokes with trimmed pubes at the local gym – “they’re just posers,” my inner voice would honk, “it’s unusual behaviour, you’re the normal one”.
The friend who talked about using a beard trimmer to “sort out downstairs” – “an anomaly!” The work chat one night about shaving your balls – “they were kidding!” We were just typical lads having great banter. Typical lads sitting around a table, drinking our beers, basically lying to one another. Typical lads with a healthy forest of pubes and not a care in the world. Typical lads - untrimmed, standard, unmanaged, no noodling in the cupboard. Just normal guys with a full fisherman’s beard in their trousers.
Or so I thought.
And then one day the penny, finally, dropped, and I realised that I might be the only guy in the world who had never trimmed his pubes. Allow me to explain…
The moment the penny dropped
It was the summer, Brexit had just happened, and the world seemed to be caving in all around us, so when the show Naked Attraction came to Channel 4 – basically a Blind Date featuring naked people, on television, to distract us all from the chilling state of our reality - like most of the country I tuned in. Tuned in to see some boobs and willies, and to enjoy the rich tapestry of pubic hair that has always defined what it is to be a man.
But it was barely there. Each week the show would feature three or four blokes with their clothes off, and each time I’d notice that their pubes were nothing like mine. They were neat, they had little hairstyles. Often their nutsacks would appear smooth as marble, and their top-pube area (official term) would be trimmed into a sexy little moustache. A Chaplin perhaps, or a Selleck. I’d chuckle nervously and peer at my wife out of the corner of my eye to gauge her reaction. Was she surprised by the highly coiffured state of these pricks? Did she, in real life, yearn for me to go at my hedge with a strimmer?
This couldn’t be normal. It just couldn’t.
Lady Fate then stuck an oar in. An email pinged into my inbox “Subject Line: Guys are going mad for Boyzillians” – a Boyzillian, it told me, was the new trend for waxing your private parts to look extra appealing when you removed your pants. The email casually pointed out how “1000 per cent of men now trim or shave their pubic hair” (roughly, I’m paraphrasing here). Was the world just having a big joke at my expense? Were my friends about to burst in blowing fog horns shouting stuff like “AH MATE” and “YOUR FACE!”? Or were they also cogs in this global conspiracy to know something I didn’t? Had they spent years secretly treating their blacksmiths aprons like little pageant poodles without telling me?
I was both flummoxed and flabbergasted, and more than a little bit concerned. I had a nervous feeling in my stomach that I don’t think I’d had since school – it was like I’d missed the boat completely and now everyone would laugh at me for it. So I decided to man up, and to breezily broach the subject with some friends of mine over lunch one day. It was summer, we were in the park near work eating sandwiches.
“Tell you what lads,” I started, real casual like. “Sometimes I feel like I’m the only man alive who’s never trimmed his pubes.”
Their chewing stopped, and a baffled silence immediately descended.
“What you on about mate?” asked Friend #1.
“Yeah, what you on about?” repeated Friend #2 like a parrot holding a Coke can.
I rode out the silence for a second, while the team of “awkward situation” experts in my brain attempted to cobble together a quick plan to get me out of this. They weren’t quick enough.
“I’ve… I’ve never trimmed my pubes,” I admitted.
Coke sprayed on the grass like a misty fountain. There was a cruel pause that I knew was going to give way to mocking laughter. The taboo subject was opened and there was no going back.
“Bloody hell, it must be a rainforest down there,” came the stifled reply.
Re-evaluating my grooming habits
Now, let’s clear that one up for starters. It isn’t a rainforest down there, it’s more a kind of wispy woodland. My face is by far the hairiest part of my body, the rest of me is fairly modest by modern standards. My chest hair is meek and un-encroaching, my leg hair flutters in the breeze rather that matting to my calves. On a global scale, I’m probably “averagely hairy” – you wouldn’t see me in a circus, put it that way.
“So do you guys actually trim then?” I asked timidly down the pub later on, like a concerned mouse covered head to toe in soft pubic rodent hair.
“Of course, mate!” they chimed.
And the “of course, mate” replies continued to chime the more people I asked about this - and once the wind was in my sails, believe me, I was asking A LOT of guys. They warned me of the “itchiness”, they told me long anecdotes about it all “getting a bit sticky” down there during the hotter months, they bragged about how the chicks loved it, how it “looked bigger”, and how having a manscaped groinal area meant having even better sex in the bedroom area (which I frankly found hard to believe, because my nine-hour sex marathons on clifftops are generally pretty awesome).
In fact, the more men I quizzed on this the more I realised the general consensus is that the tidier the pubic hair the bigger the penis looks, as if the size of one’s manhood instantly increased by chopping into a few short and curlies. What’s more, I had been lagging behind for years.
Even men I thought I knew really well had been doing this for donkey’s years without ever telling me. Did it change how I felt about them? NO.
(NB. actually yes, possibly a bit at first. It isn’t the most usual thing to be having a pint with an old pal while secretly wondering how his dick looks at the moment.)
So the consensus appeared to be that guys did, almost to a man, trim their pubes. The question that most alluded me at this point was whether girls were affected by this in any way. I decided to bite the bullet and find out the only way I knew how. By asking them. In a massive public group message. On Facebook.
What do girls advise?
“GIRLS,” I began, “hypothetically, say a man didn't bother manscaping his body hair, would this be a massive problem?”
A contemplative hush deafened me for a second, before the answers began to flood in, like water through a blistered dam.
“Fuck’s sake Josh, trim that shit down! You think we want a mouthful of hair when we go down there?”
“It’s a life skill you really should have developed by now.”
“Depends on the quantity and where it is.”
The consensus here was a little bit hazier. Where blokes seemed convinced by the power of the clipper blade, the girls were more of an even split, possibly even more open minded about men going fuzzy than I expected. Some felt that it was only polite to keep yourself neat, while others alluded to it being an expression of masculinity to run wild – and I suppose that’s what I’ve always assumed, at a subconscious level.
With a mirror held up to my own thoughts on masculinity and femininity, I was surprised to find myself – a modern man who cries at movies, and did Art History A Level – being a little bit old school, a little bit draconian in my assumptions. Women, I’d decided early on, must be clean, neat, and pubicly understated. Men, on the other hand, could be podgy, unkempt, and hairy.
Did I need to re-examine my stance on this? Was my luxuriant display of pubefullness preventing me from being a truly modern man? Was I somehow holding mankind back by not adhering to a new social convention?
Most importantly, was my wife, the mother of my child, offended by the wookie in my trousers?
“Honestly Josh, I’m really not that fussed,” she said. “I think we’re possibly at a point in our relationship where I’m used to what you have down there.”
She then repeated those immortal words again - “I’m just really not that fussed.”
But was she really not that fussed? I wondered. Or was she saying that she wasn’t that fussed because actually she really was quite fussed? Would me arriving into bed with a new-look dick configuration add fuel to our fires of passion? Or would it just be confusing after nearly a decade of getting to know the same groin?
And so with those thoughts circling my brain like 1950s teenagers in a knife fight, I tentatively made my way to the bathroom, with my beard trimmer in hand.
It was going to be now or never…
So what happened next?
Naked from the waist down, soundtracked by a buzzing clipper blade, the whole thing felt furtive. Nuggets of acquired wisdom echoed around me. “Don’t take too much off!” “The itchiness when it grows back is unbearable!” “Girls like neat, but they don’t like nothing” “It feels really sticky in the summer without pubes!” I was also nervous about shaving my balls, I kept having strange premonitions that looked a bit like that scene in that surrealist film where they slice through an eyeball.
So I settled on somewhere in the middle ground. Like a coward going for a radical haircut, I’d arrived at the barbers, bottled it, and just asked for a trim. I looked down from above at the ungodly mess beneath me, and decided to neaten it all up a bit, taking tentative sweeps at it with the trimmer, and going particularly easy around my precious bollocks. Would this be the making of me as a sophisticated gentleman? Would I finally be the feminist icon I yearn to be? Would it make my dick look bigger?
“I mean, no, not especially,” said my wife as I stood self-consciously in front of her displaying my plumage like a really insecure peacock with its dick out. “It still looks exactly like your willy, just if it was going for a job interview or to a dinner party.” She paused, contemplatively, “Have you cleaned up the bathroom?”
And it was as I cleaned up that bathroom, with my newly coiffured, slightly arrogant-looking groin watching on judgmentally, that I decided to make this part of my new grooming regime. Yes it looked a bit weird, yes I felt strange and uncertain, like a bald man trying out a wig for the first time (although essentially doing the precise scientific opposite of that), but at a deeper level it just felt like the right thing to do.
A few short months later, and my pubes have never looked more polite – I’ve even started using conditioner in them.
My dick, however, remains the same size.