I’m a beauty salon (almost) virgin, and every few months when my forehead is three-fourth occupied by a bushy unibrow, I reluctantly walk into one to avoid being the poster girl of hirsutism. I don’t scoff at the salon regulars; I have the utmost respect for their patience and willingness to shell out a considerable fortune for the purpose of beautification. I can’t help fidgeting after a mere five minutes of sitting still on the chair and find it very hard to spend a couple of thousand every month to look prim and polished, when I could buy at least five new books for the same amount. The books usually win.
My salon guy is used to my restlessness and forcibly maneuvers my head into uncomfortable postures while cutting my hair. While getting my brows threaded I scare away half the customers with pain-induced expletives and facial contortions of horror. I had even endured hour long facials prior to a couple of weddings or important social events. It began with soft hands generously slathering my face with fruity concoctions and gentle massage, but that isn’t relaxation enough and the beautician places cucumber slices over my eyes, dims the lights, puts on some soothing music, and leaves the room asking me to ‘simply relax’ for a while. That is all very considerate but I can’t relax while lying completely motionless; the tip of my nose would itch; or my phone would beep and I am overcome by the irrepressible urge to check it; and by the time the beautician returns with her Buddha-like serene smile, the cucumber slices had mysteriously disappeared from my eyes and I am busy texting.
Walking into a salon and seeing the dazzling, blemish-free complexions and the lustrous, perfectly coiffed hair of the regular clientele deflates my self-esteem quite a bit and revs up the guilt about the neglect I subject myself to. The remainder of the self-esteem is sucked away by the salon staff that is quick to point out my coarse hands, rough cuticles, dark under-eye circles, thin and unmanageable hair, acne-prone skin and arms in serious need of waxing. As I stare at the mirror in front of me, listening to their monologue on my flaws, I picture myself morphing into a grotesque monster. There is always some ridiculously expensive treatment available that would take no less than ten sittingsfor each of my flaws. A few even audibly sigh their disapproval on learning that I had never had a manicure or pedicure. I always keep my nails neatly trimmed and hands well moisturized; but apparently that is not enough. It appalls them that I had not heard about cuticle treatments, anti-wrinkle packs, anti-tan packs and skin polishing too.
Most stylists intimidate me with their aggressive advice and over-selling of various products and treatments. During my last haircut at a posh salon in Delhi, where I felt a bit intimidated by all the glossy and shiny people around, the conversation that occurred was as follows:
Hair Stylist: Your hair is very dry. Aap baalon mein tel nahin lagate?Me (grinning indulgently): Not regularly.Hair Stylist (in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear): Kyon? Kisine manaa kiya hai?Me (cowering, mumble a barely audible): nahi.
A friend, who is a recent salon-convert, came over today and gushed about the benefits of regular salon visits. I noticed that her hair had an admirable bounce and her skin positively glowed. She trailed a perfectly manicured talon over her arm to point out how the ‘carpet of hair’ had been waxed out to reveal silky skin. ‘Everyone is so perfectly styled out; it would be a crime to remain unkempt’. I am not exactly a ragamuffin with wild tresses and dirt under my nails, but I lack the salon sheen. I was sold on her arguments and kept prodding her to feed me more information. Turns out bikini wax has become an essential. I shudder at the thought. If some day I smuggle a tube of lignocaine jelly and decide to go through the hell of bikini wax, I would absolutely have to shoot dead the waxing specialist. There is no question of letting her walk around in this world after such a disturbing encounter.
After the pep-talk I received today, someday soon I would drag my lazy feet to the nearest salon, attempt to sit still for an hour and surrender myself to the expert hands of a stylist, and not think about the five new books that wouldn’t be added to my shelves this month.