A hairy tale


Once the pain has passed

Some time ago I read a really nice article by Saritha Rai in the global edition of the NYT called ‘Hairdressers Fight Caste Prejudice With Upscale Salons.’

It talked about Bangalorean barbers who have shed caste and discrimination, poverty and illiteracy to drive around in Rolls Royces visiting salon after salon in their chain of salons, snipping here, colouring there and shaving elsewhere.

Not every barber in Bangalore obviously, mainly the lucky few who made it to Saritha’s story.

While I am delighted that everyone’s happy and looking good, making and spending lots of money (depending on whether they’re standing or sitting at the salon), I wish to register a complaint to the Association of Unisex Beauty Parlours, if such an organisation does indeed exist in Bangalore.

It is this: Men and women ought to be attended to separately. Not together. They should come together only after the tending and mending, so the best of the sexes can be shared.

Let me explain why.

I’ve been frequenting beauty parlours ever since I can remember. That’s a very long time ago, as you can no doubt tell by looking at my profile picture.

The mother, who was always protective when it came to my dignity, began taking me to these ‘women’s only’ places, almost as soon as I started sprouting, so that painful miracles or ‘grooming’ as she euphemistically called it, could take place.

Women would be plucked mercilessly to bifurcate unibrows or streamline their bushiness. Arms or legs would get ruthlessly waxed. Often both.

Common sounds in a women’s beauty parlour included, “yaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh,’ (threading the upperlip).  And ‘owwwwwwwwwwww,’ (waxing the under arm).  And ‘you *&^%*  $%#@*er’ and similarly unrepeatable epithets that grew louder and more colourful as the treatment of choice grew closer and closer to the more sensitive areas on a woman’s body, like if you were a swimmer for instance, which fortunately, I wasn’t.

The long and the short was that body parts on public display would get tortured and tormented in some fashion, depending on the body part and the prevailing mode of therapy (lasers hadn’t been invented in that ruder, rougher time of which I speak), so that the woman could come out of the cave looking nonchalant and beautiful, elegant and breezy, as if she was born that way.

Which brings me to my hairy tale.

Once upon a time there were men’s barbers and women’s beauty parlours. The twain did not meet. And that led to happy endings for all concerned. Things should have been left that way.

But just like Saritha’s barbers have evolved, my beauty parlour too has changed. And what used to be a safe sanctuary where a woman could let go of her inhibitions, her guard, and her not-so-pretty side for just a little while, as she got it together to face mankind, today, I see intruders.

Men getting their roots touched up. Their in-grown toenails yanked out. Their chests waxed. And so on, right next to where I’m getting a harmless blow-dry. That’s blow dry.

It is most unsettling and intrusive.

I think there are some places where men and women should not come together until the job’s all done.

The childbirth ward in a hospital is one.  The ordeal can put man off woman forever and that’s not so good for the rest of history.

The beauty parlour is another one.

For the same reason.


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