I feel compelled to describe my introduction to eyebrow threading.
I feel it necessary to emphasize that my own knowledge of same was born not of any sophisticated leaning or, even, especially, zealous adherence to latest innovation in beauty therapies.
No. My eyebrow threading initiation was a happy – though admittedly quite painful – accident.
Once upon a time, back when I resided in relative civilization, I used to get pedicures at a tiny salon in Arusha in northern Tanzania where I lived (with friends and lattes and – yes – regularly buffed feet) for sixteen years.
The salon was owned and managed and almost solely staffed by an Indian lady called Noori. She wore tight blue jeans, high heels, glossy pink lipstick and her hair in a voluptuous henna-red pile upon her head.
I ended up in her shop mainly because I couldn’t afford to go anywhere else, but also because it was convenient to where I lived – the right side, the farm side, of town – where there was rarely a queue and I could flick through back copies of Indian Cosmopolitan – a 170 page medium to illustrate the colourfully chaotic clash between East and West.
I sat whilst my feet soaked in a bucket of suds, my laptop or diary on my lap, quietly absorbing the flamboyant atmosphere around me. Noori visited India regularly and brought back with her treasures to sell: kaftans and cheap jewellery and skin skimming trousers not unlike the pairs she wriggled into every morning. Her CD choice was eclectic so whilst I pretended to write, I might listen to Sade or Michael Jackson or the richly undulating strains of the latest musical offering from Bollywood.
Frequently Noori’s salon was full of other Indian ladies. Sometimes they indulged in ‘treatments’: a massage, a wax, had their tresses painted with cow-dung coloured paste that on rinsing shot their dark hair through with auburn light or endured a spot of eye-watering, eye-brow threading, but more often they simply descended upon her for a gossip: relating the progress or not of their ‘slimming’ efforts (Noori, with her hourglass figure was clearly an idol to be upheld and emulated); sharing deliciously in the latest scandals of their local community or coming armed with the fruits of their shopping trips to Mumbai or Calcutta or Delhi. It became evident to me, sat silently and unnoticed in my corner, with my jeans rolled to my knees, that Noori’s was a social hub as much as it was a trading post: shopping lists and fists full of dollars were exchanged with promises to deliver the requested goods within a week or two or three, depending on the duration of the trip back home. These high-pitched, excitable conversations were conducted in English peppered with lilting Gujarati and punctuated by laughter and squeals of delight or gasps of disbelief. And always, always, saturated by such infectious enthusiasm, that I wished I was party to their plans and promises and not an invisible spectator.
I watched bags being unpacked and I smiled inwardly as a bevy of Indian beauties paraded in front of the salon mirrors, saris held up to their shoulders as they – and I – admired the richness of the fabric, the silvery scaled glinting of sequins as lengths of material were flicked and tossed and lovingly caressed and sighed over.
Sitting in the salon, I visited India vicariously. I shyly ventured to tell Noori that my mother was born in Mumbai, mindful to be PC.
“Oh we locals don’t call it Mumbai!” she laughed, tossing her mane of hair, “it’s still Bombay to us.”
As it is to Mum. As it always was to my Gran.
And during those fanciful flights to the sub-continent, I gleaned a small souvenir.
Noori told me, looking sternly at unkempt brows, that I needed to thread them. She instructed me to tip my head back and hold the skin of my lids taut and then, with a length of sewing yarn wound tightly between the fingers of both well manicured hands, she proceeded to use it to tug the stray hairs and tidy up my face a little.
Tears ran down my cheeks, the skin around my eyes went scarlet but my brows were neatly aligned and matching within moments. I stared at my expression in the mirror Noori proffered.
There now, she demanded, in her singsong voice, isn’t that better?
It mightn’t have felt it, but it certainly looked it.
And so I continue to thread my brows whenever the opportunity presents because I like to steal back into the memory.
And because I’m too idle to tweeze.