Beauty veauty

Sharp tools and tongues abound in the world of grooming

brunch Updated: May 26, 2018 21:55 IST
Rehana Munir
Rehana Munir
Hindustan Times
Hammered into submission, we leave salons with bruised egos and ridiculous treatments(Photo imaging: Parth Garg)

There aren’t many skills I can lay claim to. But there’s one that I’m quite proud of. Put me in a moving auto on a Mumbai street during BMC’s peak digging season (now available all-year round), hand me a stick of kajal and see the fun. I can perfectly outline the lower rim of my jumpy eyes without even consulting the rearview mirror (which announces that love is sweet poison). A neat, emphatic black line highlighting my unmarketable skill. It is also my sole and consistent effort in the general area of beautification.

Curl up and dye

Okay, perhaps not sole. When you discover grey hairs on your head at age 15, you initially draw a secret kinship with Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye. The fun fades quickly when every grey addition to your hair is commented upon. And then come the suggestions. From calcium tablets to obscure jadibootis, worried family, friends and people you meet in the lift kindly share remedies guaranteed to return you to the Kingdom of Youth. Then one day, several grey years later, you succumb and have your hair coloured. But is it really succumbing? This beauty business is tricky.

About 15 years into this hair-colouring thing, I find myself asking the question before every ‘touch up’ – what is this for? What does it conceal? The answer is underwhelming. Greying is a somewhat distressing biological fact that can easily be glossed over with relatively minor fuss. I await the day when I’m over the glossing over. When I won’t bother with the colour, because it’s not worth it.

Spar treatment

Beauty salons – well-stocked with scissors, tweezers and needles – are establishments where tongues are the sharpest objects. Anyone who’s entered one is familiar with the drill: “You’ve tanned! You need bleach.” “You have split ends! You need a new shampoo.” “Your skin is dry! You need new skin.” At which point you decide you need a new salon. But wherever you go, it’s the same story. On the next chair you invariably find aesthetes so committed to symmetrical eyebrow arrangements that no amount of threading, cutting and plucking is enough. And salons believe they provide a relaxing experience.

Salons — well-stocked with scissors, tweezers and needles — are establishments where tongues are the sharpest objects

Hammered into submission, we leave with bruised egos and ridiculous treatments. But this is not a call-to-arms against the beauty industry. It’s just an acceptance of the fact that we’re not consistent in our ideas about beauty and its pursuit. Some days it’s a capitalist trap. On others it’s a gentle distraction.

Insert red pout here

Apart from the confidence-boosting kajal, I have no affinity with any form of make-up. But that isn’t a stand. It’s a temperament. Thankfully, we’re moving away from the beauty and brain binary. Red lipstick is as much a feminist symbol as a fashion statement. And that is the beauty of beauty. From ideals passed on through the generations to new and playful inventions, it is a language that is constantly evolving. It includes the traditional and subversive, clichéd and surprising.

It’s when beauty takes on narrow definitions – when it deprives you of agency – that the problems begin. When the beautician makes you feel unbeautiful. Or a magazine. Or your well-meaning but totally demoralising colleague. It’s true we groom ourselves to primarily please those we encounter (every dowdy work-from-home professional will attest to this universal truth). But there are so many layers between who we are, what we present and how we process feedback. A little less judgment and a little more compassion is a beautiful thing. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a hair colour appointment to keep.

From HT Brunch, May 27, 2018

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First Published: May 26, 2018 20:41 IST