Waxing and whining

I’ve been picky about hair dressers for as long as I’ve needed haircuts. Once I meet and fall in love with the hairdresser destined for me, I go to them for years until either one of us leaves town.

But the rest of the hair on my body doesn’t get the same exclusive treatment. In fact, just the opposite. I’ve been to the big fancy waxing places where you could fall asleep while they de-hair your shin with magical hairy fairy wax.

But if you’ve been to an Indian home-turned-parlour – and you know the ones I’m talking about – then everything else is just fluff. These places – they’re loud, they’re rough and they scare the hair right out of the follicles. Two girls armed with wax strips and butter knives come at you like seagulls after a chippy, and turn you from a wildebeest to sheared sheep in under 30 mins. (If you’re in a hurry, they can make that four girls.)

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Generally called Angel’s Glow, Fair Beauty, Ladies Touch (Not a typo) or Miss Lovely, all of them offer the luxury and service of trying out wedding gowns in a fish market by the train tracks.

I was at one such magical place this past weekend.

Housed in a 2-bed apartment, the parlour makes you feel at home instantly. And by home, I mean the place where all your least favourite family members have gathered, but you can’t leave because the promise of free food has already made you its bitch.

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The living room serves as the reception (a row of chairs stacked against the wall) and as the hair-dyeing, face-fixing, hair-cutting zone. The chairs and mirrors point to the TV, which plays loud Bollywood music or, if you’re lucky, even louder Hindi soaps. This room also doubles up as the Society of Aunties Against Single Standards (SAASS) (omg this literally means mother-in-law in Hindi. It was purely coincidental and I love my mom-in-law who would never make it into this club.)

This group of powerful and opinionated women would make for ideal feminists if not for their fellow-female-cutting-down chainsaw and girls-your-age theories. But given their love of double standards, it is imperative to make your point and get out of the way, so they can disagree with you while agreeing with you.

I’m ushered into one of the bedrooms. Each bedroom is divided into refrigerator-sized subsections of semi-private waxing booths. A cold, hard plastic chair greets me, while my wallet trashes around my pocket wildly, begging to be spent at a swankier joint. Nope. Imma save that for the dermatologist.

We skip niceties and the waxer forward-slash life coach proceeds to scrape a vegemite-level schmear of wax along the length of my shin with the blunt side of a spatula-formerly-known-as butter-knife. Who cares if the wax just burnt through two layers of epidermis when you’re hoping the knife doesn’t puncture one of your blood vessels.

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When she stumbles upon my fourth tattoo, she can’t contain herself any more. Our conversation starts abruptly when the waxer informs me, the waxee, that when I get bored of my tattoos, laser is going to hurt. She knows. Her one client is never getting inked again. I shouldn’t either.

I mumble incoherently about knowing what I want, while it is painfully obvious that the woman with the hot wax and blunt knife knows what I really want.

Our awkward silence is broken by an active member of SAASS from the adjoining room. The conversation has been building up from Bollywood movies to Bollywood movie stars. Some heroine who is over the hill (30s) just had a baby. The woman getting her greys dyed black is about to drop some red hot wisdom. She cuts another woman off to loudly proclaim, in a voice that drips with wisdom – that women have a time for everything – studies, marriage and children. Maybe a career if it fits.

Of course she’s going to back it up.

“Why else would the female body hit puberty and menopause when it does?”

Boom.

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Given my stance of not taking any bullshit this year, I want to stand on the chair and educate them about positive body image, being strong female role models and uplifting girls, not boxing them in.

But I find myself standing atop a chair with more pressing work. The waxer is waxing the back of my legs and she finds it easier if I stand on top of the chair facing the wall, giving her a better vantage.

It is from this vantage that she spots my ankle tattoo. She decides that I don’t deserve her wisdom, so she mumbles to herself about spoiling your body. She throws a few rhetorical questions at my calves.

I steel myself to answer her. Yes, it hurt. No, my husband “doesn’t mind” – neither did my parents or 3-year-old son. Before I could school her on my-body-my-choice, she asks me to step down from my pedestal.

Meanwhile, so steadfast is our SAASS activist in her archaic views that she continues to Godzilla over everyone else with half an opinion and half a head of foils. By the sounds of it, mostly everyone in the reception/ face-fix room/ hair-do chair agree with her. They only wish for a chance to get into her SAASS club; they only wish she would accept their humble offerings in the form of a salacious story of their sister’s neighbour’s wayward daughter.

As I walk past these stalwarts of society in various stages of bleaching and dyeing, I feel guilty for tearing these women down in my head. I may not agree with a word they say, but it’s safe to assume they run their homes like a tight ship and practise a uniquely Indian form of feminism, which will always be at odds with what they preach.

Besides, I’m not picking a fight when I’ve just paid 1/10th of what it would’ve cost me elsewhere.

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All images from Google the Saviour and Creator.

If you ever find your way to one of these magic 2-bedroom-multi-room-salons, remember to keep your ears open and hand-sanitiser close. You’ll be wiser for it, and hairless in half the time.

How Advertising Trained Me For Parenthood*

madmum

Impossible is nothing.

That one line got me into advertising. I didn’t own a single Adidas product until last month (Dem Superstars got me), but that tagline blew my mind (as did the whole speech by Ali).

And advertising is everything it promised to be! The ideas and the mental blocks, the little wins and the epic crashes, the stress and the drinking, the stress drinking, the exhaustion and the exaltation, the imagination, the lies and the promises, the celebrations.

No segue needed.

How Advertising Trained Me For Parenthood* 

Mr. O, the Art Director.

“I can’t wait to start working with you on the awesome puzzle that we’ve both been dying to start all week.”

Open the box. Too much excitement.

“Wow, that’s a great idea! How about this? No, let’s try my way. That doesn’t make sense.

Hate the colours, hate the design, hate the puzzle. Your opinion is shit. It’s all shit anyway.”

Done.

“Wow, I’m a fucking genius.”

Mr. O, the Creative Director.

“Yay! You have a story for me. I cannot wait for you to blow my mind.

Aha aha. Hmm. Ok I see what you’re trying to say. I love it. But maybe a dragon comes and drives an ambulance over the seahorse. I want fire-breathing dragons. And dying seahorses. Unexpected, but believable.”

Mr. O, the Account Manager.

“I love you so much. You’re my favourite person in the whole world. I would trust you with my eyes closed, but my hands are tied. I simply cannot eat this meal you’ve painstakingly prepared for me. I want to. Oh how I believe in it, but I just can’t. My hands. Damn these shackles. Love you, though. The best.”

Mr. O, the Producer.

To mum: “Dude. I’d pick you over him (dad) any day. You’re so much more fun. He just doesn’t get it like you do, ya’ know. Let’s be besties. OMG LET’S DO LOLLIES!”

To dad: “Dude. I’d pick you over her (mum) any day. You’re so much more fun. She just doesn’t get it like you do, ya’ know. Let’s be besties. OMG LET’S DO LOLLIES!”

Mr. O, the HR guy.

Casually strolling down the hallway after bedtime.

My brain: HOLYFUCKINGSHIT WTF IS THIS GUY DOING HERE OUT OF THE BLUE? I should just go clear my desk.

Mr. O, the Supplier.

“Ohhh you wanted to me shower today?? Oohhh see I thought you said next Tuesday. Oh no. I can’t do it today. Trucksninjasbikes. Maybe be more clear next time? I’ll still have that bribe cookie though, thanks.”

Mr. O, the Copywriter.

“Yes, that’s e before i, 2 comes after 1, and B is for butterfly.”

To himself: “Geez. They wouldn’t survive a day without me.”

Impossible is a toddler.

*Nothing trains you for parenthood. Not even parenthood trains you for parenthood. Also, Title Case Because Advertising. 

Look at me, I’m hideous!

I looked at my reflection in the mirror this morning and was heartbroken with the head that stared back at me. A crown of glossy jet-black hair rudely sat atop my head. Black hair that was steadily replacing my halo of gorgeous teal hair.

Teal hair that used to be vibrant blue. Sometimes Jared Leto’s Joker green. Other times shimmering aqua. And once, a madness of blue, green, purple and mint. Teal hair that once made me thrilled to find a stray hair in my food.

And now the blackness that is cruelly tearing through my scalp and spreading through my glory like hay amongst a rainbow orchard, is threatening to eat away at my very core.

Believe me, I’ve toned down the drama.

I’m unsure about a lot of things, mostly pertaining to myself.

I’m a copywriter with an unreasonable fear of words. I’m a Gen-X-er who can’t hashtag or vine (that’s a verb, right? I just made it worse, didn’t I?). I’m a mum experimenting with my very own Jon Snow Parenting. My lower half is half a dress size larger than my upper half, which is testament to how deep my confusion runs.

Through all of this, the one thing I’m sure of is my hair. Even when I hate it, I hate it indubitably. When I love it, you’ll know.

So when I fell madly in love with a shade of blue, I knew exactly where to put it.

Two days of strand tests and six hours of bleaching, colouring and toning later, there I was, blue as the day Cookie Monster was born. No amount of ‘feeling blue’ puns could drag me down from the blue-sky-high (sorry) perch I was perched on. I could barely tear myself away from the mirror. For days afterwards, I couldn’t wipe the blue dye off my nape or the big grin off my face.

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Photo credit: M @rnanoj

Five months later, as the black crept in and started edging out the blue, I turned the whole thing blue, green and purple.

I was on a high. The kind of high where it’s not only possible, but it’s also poetic to see My Little Pony, Little Mermaid and a 90’s Troll doll in a psychotic threesome on my head.

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Photo credit: The beautiful Indu @quirkyeye

But, people! People have so many questions to shake you out of your high.

“Are you tying to stand out?”

“Are you trying to fit in?”

“Mid-life crisis?”

“Have you completely lost your mind?”

“How bored/drunk were you?”

“What statement are you making?”

“Who the hell do you think you are?

Lucky for me, I don’t need to answer them. You see, they’re all rhetorical questions and the questioners have already made up their minds.

Here’s my question: Why isn’t “because I felt like it” an acceptable answer? Everyone wants a story. A Carpe Diem moment of clarity when I decided it’s now or never. A drunken misadventure. A calling. A lost bet.

I’ve got none of that. Just a woman-child and her desire to have peacock cotton-candy hair.

Try as I may (I don’t), I cannot peel my eyes off myself. In photos with my sweet child, I zoom past him to analyse the scintillating shades of blue and green in my hair. Every elevator ride turns into an exercise in self-admiration and every mirror reflection into a fascinating work of art.

The many colours in my hair are so mesmerising that strangers on the street walk into one another staring at me, so why can’t I lose myself in it?

When babies spend forever admiring their reflection in the mirror, it’s called self-awareness. When I do it, it’s vanity.

Like Carrie Bradshaw would’ve asked: Why is it impossible for us to absolutely, unequivocally adore ourselves?

This isn’t a serious issue like feminism or body image; it’s about not taking yourself too seriously. About doing what makes you feel good. About loving what you see in the mirror because it’s fun and it makes you smile. About being your own pick-me-up.

Sometimes, superficial is the way to go. Do because it’s pretty; it makes you laugh; it makes you pay attention to yourself for a minute longer; it’ll make a damn good story someday.

And when the colours fade, makeup washes off and magic underwear stretches out, it’s just you. The you that dared to colour, toiled to makeup and held your breath long enough to squeeze into that underwear. You didn’t just love the superficial, you loved it on you.

Which is why I’ve decided to embrace the black as a new and intrusive shade in my hair (as of the last 3 minutes). It adds character. Plus I’m an ocean away from my hairdresser and I don’t want to think about it. And even at 40% colour, my hair is always greener on my side.