Saturday, December 11, 2010

Beauty or a "Beast"?

A few weeks ago, at the beauty parlour, a young girl walked in and had the following conversation with the attendant.

“I want to thread my eyebrows and upper lip. Will it hurt?”

“Is it the first time you are getting it done?”

“It will hurt a bit…”


“Don’t be scared. I will try to do it as gently as possible. Do you want to get your hands waxed too?” asked the attendant noticing that the girl had a lot of hair on her arms.

“No. My mom said only threading. I am in class VII… She said I should start waxing when I am in IXth.”

Class VII! Wow…I thought to myself. A beauty regimen at such a young age! The incident brought a flood of memories.

Following a regular beauty routine was never a very exciting prospect for me. As a teenager, I never felt compelled or pressured to resort to waxing my hands and legs, or undertake any of the beauty enhancing services available. The quarterly trips to the beauty parlour were strictly for haircuts.

I attribute the feeling of satisfaction and contentment with the way I looked to the fact that none of my girl friends were actually doing it. None of us felt that we looked inadequate with facial hair…or underarm hair. As a matter of fact, for many years I related the clean shaven underarms of my mom’s Kitty Party friends, visible through their sleeveless outfits, as something that you did after you became like them: married, with children and husbands!

How and why I succumbed to the regular beauty treatment trap is a tale in itself.

The first time I was given the feeling of inadequacy with my body hair, was when an aunt commented upon it. This aunt was a close relative and that year we had assembled for the marriage of her son, my first cousin. Along with dictating what each of us should wear at the wedding and the miscellaneous ceremonies, (so we wouldn’t end up embarrassing her in front of the “other party”), she remarked to my mom about the “hair” on my face and hands…. Sure I was taken aback! “Who the hell does she think she is”…was my first thought.

My mom, a woman who cannot be coerced into doing something she did not believe in, laughed the comment off. But the aunt pursued the matter saying that “girls in Bombay start all this really early…” (which meant that since we lived in a little town called Cochin, we were unaware of the ‘latest’ trends).

Then as it happens during all weddings…the ladies were going to the beauty parlour to fix their hair and get their faces professionally made up. I dragged along because I’d nothing better to do at home! At the parlour, my aunt remarked to the attendant about how I was 17 years old and was still not following a beauty regimen. I was embarrassed to say the least. Soon a discussion on the “small town mentality” began…and since my mom didn’t come along, I had no ally to turn to.

I don’t know why I turned to the attendant and told her that I wanted the works. Perhaps it was to spite my aunt. Perhaps it was to prove to her that ‘small town girls’ can be hep too. Perhaps the rebel within me had been shaken to attention.

Cut to this day. I am stuck with monthly trips to the parlour, whether it fits into my scheme of things or not. The sight of unkempt body hair ensures that I rush to the parlour whenever the need arises.

So when I encounter young girls willing to explore the secret of smooth hands and legs, or clean, shapely eyebrows, I am almost tempted to stop them. Because they have no idea what they are getting in to…for the rest of their lives!
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