Monday, June 24, 2013

Pretty Boys all in a Row

This appeared in The Week...
             Pretty Boys  all in a row…
I have stopped visiting my neighbourhood parlour. There are several reasons for that. But primarily, I don’t go in there anymore, because I feel what used to be a welcoming, estrogen-driven comfort zone in the past has now turned into a pretty embarrassing space. Why’s that ? Well for several years, there have been more men than women perched in those fancy chairs. I have absolutely nothing against male vanity ( swear!), but I so wish those blokes would stick to their own salons and leave us to ours. Visualise this : a youngish, attractive-ish  lady  is getting her upper lip waxed/ bleached/ threaded. Right next to her sits a burly, hirsute man getting his nostril hairs clipped….is this a pleasant sight for either of them to be subjected to? I think not. Here’s another common scenario : a middle –aged desperate housewife has pulled up her billowy maxi to reveal alarmingly hairy legs that are in serious need of depilation. Her regular girl is examining the hairs closely and offering a graphic commentary (“ Madamji…. Why did you wait for such a long time? You have a forest growing on your legs. This is going to pain! Why don’t you go in for our full body laser treatment? We are offering a summer discount. Or, there is another good package – get your arms, legs and underarms waxed and we’ll give you the bikini wax for free.”). The hirsute man is listening keenly. He butts in to ask, “What about a full body wax for me?” Aaaargh!
Most beauty parlour chairs these days are taken by beauty conscious men who somehow prefer to patronise newly made over uni-sex salons. Some of the guys are much prettier than the ladies. Certainly, they are better groomed. I notice their meticulously tweezed eyebrows, neat French manicures, shaped hairlines, tinted forelocks, pampered pedicured feet…. and marvel at how hard they’ve worked to look that way! By contrast, most women in the same salon resemble shabby laundry bags. They’ve turned up in crumpled caftans, flip flops, a make-up less face, straggly eyebrows, chipped nail varnish, and worse  -   dense hair on their visible body parts.Almost without an exception, they can be overheard complaining about the lack of time (“ I’ve been working like a beast without a break for two straight months. When I am not in the office, I am on a plane. There’s just no time for all this nonsense.”). The men listen in to the conversation and occasionally offer helpful tips. Wait a minute – was it all that long ago when we women formed the sympathetic audience nodding understandingly while men banged on about their mad work schedules and how they lived on airplanes?? Oh dear. The new order is far from appealing.We know the market for men’s beauty products is out-galloping every other cosmetics’ category. But sharing night cream and hand lotion with your lover/husband is a bit much! It’s almost as yucky as sharing a toothbrush.

Hmmm. A lot has changed. I am all for change. Change is good. Change is exciting. But this kind of change? Naah! If men really, really want to blow dry their hair, paint their toe nails, wax their armpits and fix various parts of themselves, can they not create their own spas and salons? This is the worst kind of male intrusion into our personal space since the introduction of common lavatories. I resent it vehemently and wish to reclaim the territory. But seeing the time crunch both men and now, increasingly women too, keep griping about, here’s an idea for Richard Branson : How about full- fledged beauty salons on board those wretchedly long flights? Once upon a time Virgin did offer similar facilities in the smashing Virgin lounge at Heathrow ( I had a terrific hair cut there). It’s time to extend the same facilities on long haul flights. But puh-leeze, Richard darling – separate cubicles, yes?We know you love drag. But do think of paying passengers who aren’t as adventurous, okay, sweetie???


Ashwini Sane said...

M'am, U hit the nail right on the head!This is the new generation,we are all 'gaonwallas'. My 5 year old is so brand aware and never wants to comb his hair but 'Style' his hair, gets a haircuts and looks in the mirror for hours!!! Since he is with me most of the times,reminded me once to ask the lady at the salon for the cost of coloring and henna!!!! Wonder what he will do in his teens!!

Anonymous said...

Full body wax?
Kya baat karte ho yaar..

Jogeshwar said...

Gone are the days when gifted handsome burly men like Dharmendra came out of fields not parlours.

Abhirami Muthu said...

I like the 'puh-leeze'

Anonymous said...

When I first went to London way back in 1985, I gawked in awe. The culture shock hit me.

In central London, there is a railway terminal called Victoria, whose structure has one too many similarities with Bombay's Victoria Terminus [it used to be known as VT and now Mumbai Chatrapathi Shivaji Terminus or CST] where there used to be a hair dresser by name Peter The Hair Stylist.

For some strange reason, I walked in.

"Are you Peter and are you English?' I must say I asked the question in a clipped British accent.

"Aye, guv," came the answer in a working class Cockney tone.

"Ah wud wan' a beard trim, mate. Willin to serve what your oldies called coolie?"

"Carrying a chip over yore shouldah abou the colonial Raj eh? Wudda done the same mahself," came the reply.

My beard was trimmed and then shaven.

The charges, Peter said were 6 pounds sterling.

I gave him 10 pounds, said, keep the change and began walking away.

"Hey that is too big a tip. You sure you not sozzled, mate?"

I pretended not to hear and as my steps took me away, I almost felt that I had managed to get the Kohinoor back after a white Brit had shaved me.

Today, I know better. I ought to have save the four quid. And as a better informed journalist having realised how much we have hocked our nation abroad - especially in the Old Bailey, I laugh at myself! Oh stupid me!

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Anonymous said...

So what is the big deal if guys have started taking personal grooming seriously? Isn't it finally a victory for all the women who have, for centuries, been nagging about how untidy and unkempt their partners/husbands/boyfriends are.
You claim to be all for male grooming, yet you are averse to the idea of sharing a salon with them? Why, do you have to share a wax strip with a (as you said) 'hirsute' man? I'm sure that's not the case. Yes both the parties might get grossed out looking at each other's not so perfect bodies. But doesn't that also in some way bring a sense of understanding, even appreciation of our natural shortcomings?
I think it does.
Yes, painting toenails is taking it a bit too far but I'm just going to treat it as a figment of literary exaggeration a writer of your stature has to resort to, to keep the feminist and pseduo-feminist interested and then go- "Hah! Men are so stupid, aren't they!"
Shobhaa, another thing. The men you are talking about, they are what we call 'consumers'. So you cannot expect each one of them to open up a salon for themselves just because some women suddenly have a problem with men sharing the grooming space with them. As a matter of fact, the business concept of a unisex salon is pretty much a successful one. Even in a conservative country like India. You might want to read this article about the growth of this industry.
If the idea was grossing a majority of people out, I don't think unisex salons would have survived, even flourished the way they are right now.
What you are terming as a death knoll for the female privacy and the male intrusion into the female space, is actually more of a personal problem. It is a sorry state of affairs if a woman thinks, believes and propagates the idea that female space literally means how many square feet of a salon the women can have exclusively to themselves!

no name said...

The idea of sharing face cream and hand lotion with the partner is super charming to me. I'm a woman in my 30s and love it when we can both go to bed smelling of lavender or something equally delightful.
You're an old fuddy duddy if you think lavender on your man is uncool!

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