Sunday, May 26, 2013

Waxing and Waning

In a thick Vietnamese accent she yells across the salon, "Pedicure?"

"Yes, a pedicure and a manicure."

"You pic ow," she points to the wall of enticing nail colors, "I be wih you in min-it."

"Okay. Can you do my eyebrows too?"

"Go way down in back; be wih you in min-it."

The woman sitting at the drying station follows me with her entire body as I walk across the room. What started as a strut quickly becomes a walk-of-shame into the closet sized, orange-walled room. The woman's hands and feet are firmly planted under the UV lamp as she shifts in the seat from her right to the left. She is studying my eyebrows. She is staring at what have become two wild caterpillars perched above my eyes.

I push open the door. It bumps and rotates the reclining salon table. The room is only large enough for the table placed in the center of the closet-sized space and the pressed wood shelving unit that is covered in a faux wood patterned contact paper and holds the waxing station in the back right corner. On the wall to my left is a beauty certification for eyebrow waxing. On my right hand side is a poster offering the dozens of options for eyebrow shapes and sizes. Next to the poster is a five-dollar full-length Wal-mart mirror that is glued to the wall and a hook for keys above the mirror. I think to myself, "There is no doubt the owner hung the mirror at a height comfortable to her own stature; that of a tiny seven year old boy." I stoop down to look at my eyebrows in the mirror.

I have to close the door to maneuver the small space. The table is so low to the ground I complete a full squat to sit down. As I swing my legs on to the table and lay backwards the owner pushes open the door and bumps the table. The table swings around the room. It stops abruptly when my headrest makes a hollow thudding noise against the painted particle board wall just below where her certificate hangs.

"You no come in long time. You eyebrows grow; look bad."

"Please leave them thick."

"You like tick, 'always leave tick,'" she says mocking me.

Forgive me for not wanting to look like Spock or a Chola with filled-in, Sharpie-drawn eyebrows, "I like 'em thick."

She does not even have the wax on my first eyebrow when she says, "I do you upper lip too."

I'm silent after she says this. I am thrown back in my memory to ninth grade when LeighAnne sat next to me in English class.  Her daily routine included removing her compact from her purse, gazing ay herself, and caking on powder. Then she would remove eyebrow scissors from her purse and trim her blonde mustache during class. I am not going to fall in the trap of grooming myself in front of an audience.

I am silent a moment longer. It is not because I do not think I need it. I totally do! I always just take care of it myself; in secret, at home with Nair, like any other decent person. I'm silent because I am contemplating the rest of my day. I have never had my lip waxed. If I let her wax my upper lip I will have a tell-tale red mustache all day. What if I have an allergic reaction to the wax on my lip? What if she burns my skin? Or worse yet, what if she rips my skin off and I bleed?

She is frustrated with me. This time she yells over the noise of the salon, "I do you upper lip too!"

Fah! Like I needed everyone knowing.

"It include in eyebrow price."

Suddenly she is speaking my language. I am cheap, really cheap. If it was going to cost me more money I would contemplate longer, but it is included, shooo she can wax my whole body, "Okay."

My eyebrows are completed quickly. I close my eyes as she puts the hot wax on the right side of my upper lip. She places the gauze on the wax and before I even have a chance to prepare for what I know is going to happen she rips it off without a warning.

"SHIT!" I come out of the reclining table.

She is surprisingly strong for a grown woman that is only 85 pounds. She laughs as she pushes me back down.

Both of my eyes well up with tears.

She looks at me and says, "You cry now."

She pulls open the door. Laughing she sticks her head out into the salon. I can only see her right arm to her elbow and the bottom half of her body as she yells out in to the salon at no one in particular, "She say, 'SHIT!' and have tears in eyes like little baby. Ha! Ha! Ha!"

I can hear the laughter of the woman at the drying table. My eyes narrow. I hope she smudges her manicure.

Why does this Wizard of Oz even bother to have a room with a door when she is announcing my reactions to the world? Would a curtain not suffice?

I am prepare for the left side. I brace myself with stiff arms. I grip both edges of the table, digging my fingernails in to the underside of the vinyl. If possible she moves quicker than the right side. After ripping off the waxy gauze she opens up the door again, "She no cry much dis time."

She turns back to me, "It's hellfee for do this. More times not hurt much."

I walk back out into the salon. My eyebrows are a manageable red and stinging, but my upper lip is on fire. The woman, who is still drying her nails, is smiling as she is watching me like I am her favorite weekday soap opera. She pops her hand up trying to remove it quickly from the drying table. "Cajun Shrimp is my polish," she says to the male salon employee.

She flips her hand around palm up as she curls her fingers in to examine her fingernails, "Awh! I smudged my nails."

I smirk to myself. As I slide my feet in to the hot water to soak and lean back in to the whurr of the massaging recliner the burning fire above my upper lip strangely subsides with satisfaction.

The manicure after the waxing torture.

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