Inside view Fitness

Not skin deep

illustration: Sreejith R. Kumar   | Photo Credit: Sreejith R. Kumar

The golden rule when you step into a shop, especially one that sells cosmetics, is to know exactly what you want. The modus operandi, then, is simple. You ask for the item, give it a quick once-over, pay the bill, grab the packet and get the hell out of the place. Hesitate a little, and you are done for.

The other day I entered such a store to buy a hair clip or hair bands, I wasn't too sure what to get. That irresolution proved to be my undoing. Instead of showing me an array of hair accessories, the smart and well-turned-out attendant turned all her attention to my hair, scrutinising it so deeply and silently I began to feel nervous. Whatever was wrong with it? I was sure I didn’t have dandruff, my hair was clean, well combed and secured with a hair clip. Maybe the ride in the auto had ruffled it.

I was beginning to think she was speech-impaired when to my relief she broke her silence. The relief was short lived, though, for she began with, ‘Why don’t you straighten your hair?’ I shook my head emphatically. ‘No way. My husband calls such hair electrified hair and I don’t wish to shock him.’ She quickly assured me she hadn’t meant permanent straightening. ‘We have an excellent hair straightening shampoo. Good for curly hair.’ ‘No thanks,’ I said, ‘and my hair is wavy, not curly.’ I like to get these things straight.

She scanned my hair again and now that she had found her tongue, there was no stopping her. She aired her views and suggestions freely. My hair looked dull and lifeless. She had just the right shampoo and conditioner for it. Besides, hair should be more vibrant. Why not streak it different colours, just for a change? ‘Streak?’ I shrieked, my face turning different colours in horror. ‘At my age?’ She frowned in disapproval at my lack of sportsmanship and reverted to recommending the special shampoo and conditioner. A free hair brush came with it, she added, a cunning gleam in her eye. ‘Free?’ I brightened, bit the bait and said, ‘I’ll take it, I mean, them.’

It was lunch time and I was the only customer. The other sales girl who had been watching from a distance now came over to join forces with the first attendant. She examined my face minutely, making me blush, and proclaimed, ‘All wrong.’ ‘I know,’ I sniffed. ‘A poor thing, but mine own.’ ‘I meant your eyebrows,’ she said. Ah, I should have seen it coming; I've heard this so often. ‘Why don’t you shape them?’ Pat came my stock reply, ‘My husband doesn't approve.’

The first attendant raised her immaculately shaped eyebrows sardonically as if to say, ‘The husband again!’ But it was true and like others who had asked me the same question and received the same answer, she declined to comment. A woman can often get away with things by citing her husband’s disapproval, but it doesn't work the other way about. If a man were to mumble, ‘My wife doesn’t like it,’ he’s bound to invite pitying looks and remarks like, ‘Of course, you poor fish, we always knew you were henpecked.’

The second girl peered into my eyes. What she saw pleased her. She informed me jubilantly that three or four of my eyelashes had turned white; she had the perfect mascara to mask it. That’s all right, I assured her. ‘All of Boris Becker’s lashes are blonde.’ For the first time she looked uncertain and I pepped up. I had served an ace and I pressed home my advantage. No mascara for me, or any other eye make up.

She shrugged and curled her red lips into a pout. I was about to ask for my bill when a third attendant, full of good food, strode into the store and promptly joined the Board of Examiners. ‘Beginning to sag,’ she announced, passing a quick eye over me. ‘Eh?’ I was shocked. ‘Your cheeks, jowl, jaw line,’ she explained. ‘Oh. So?’ I retorted. ‘Will get worse with neglect,’ asserted the first attendant. ‘As will the lines on your forehead, around your mouth, your eyes,’ the second girl added ominously. ‘We have skin tightening creamssssss,’ the third one hissed...

I buckled under this verbal assault and battery. When I left the place, it was with a light purse, a heavy heart and a heavier carry bag. On reaching home I realised I hadn't purchased the hair bands. Or was it hair clip?

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2021 8:49:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/fitness/inside-view-not-skin-deep/article6686145.ece

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