beauty

White Walks

My mind keeps going back to an unexpectedly solitary walk I happened to take on one snowy day of December 2011.

I was studying in Sheffield then. A beautiful town in north Yorkshire, surrounded by trees and hillocks everywhere. I had to interview someone who was supposed to meet me at Novotel. It had snowed heavily the night before and it was freezing. I still managed to throw on some super warm furry coat and walked out with my recorder. I was in my own sweet musing world when I realized that there was not a soul anywhere in sight but just heaps of delicate, fresh snow wherever the eye could see. There were no vehicles, no people, no animals, no sounds; even the air seemed to be non-existent before the very noticeable snow-covered everything. It didn’t strike me then that the trams were also closed which probably meant that everything was closed for business. I was really sincere back then and walked 4 kilometres with my legs digging deep in the soft snow with every step I took. It didn’t even strike me to cancel the appointment. I just kept walking happily.

I had never experienced anything like it before. The feeling of being lucky enough to take first steps into the fresh snow. It’s not the same as walking on the snow that has slightly off-white shoe prints. It was the feeling of walking on an unexplored virgin territory. It was the feeling that the world just happened to end and you were the only one to be left behind–the owner of your time, your destiny, your steps.

When I reached Novotel, I was obviously told that there would be no interview. Al though I was sincere, I wasn’t stupid to be disappointed with this. The cancellation just meant that I had all the day to myself and a couple of hours before people started coming out of their houses to play snow games. I realised that I had my camera but the snow had killed the battery. But as luck would have it, I managed to get some in a pound store next to Debenhams. The snow was so magical that it made every mundane thing, like a shop you saw everyday, look celestial. Yes, even Debenhams!

I randomly walked about taking pictures of snow covered reindeer meant for Xmas, just vast expanses of snow, snow on roof tops, snow in parks, snow on the sidewalk and snow decorating the church window. I walked all the way back home, taking every detour possible and just take in all the snow and the peace that came with it. There were no people, there was nothing but snow really…but it was not scary. It was surprisingly calming. The coolness even slightly kissed your eyelids and took all the weariness away. I walked through the park and was hyponitsed by the view. A still lake, surrounded my snow covered lawn, with an outer ring of dense snow flecked trees. It was heavenly.

I never felt this way again. I don’t have to. This was a special series of coincidences with very limited or no likelihood of recurrence. But I seem to drift back to this day on a particularly boring day or at a time when everything is just too much and nothing seems to convincing or justifiable. I guess beauty of such magnitude is so timelessly effective  that it will soothe you if not convince you of anything.

The Battle of Hair

I’m currently reading Caitlin Moran’s How to be a woman. I’m only into the second chapter and she has made several interesting points in a straight forward no-fuss way and also raised questions that make me reflect on my life and how it revolves around things that I’d otherwise discard as unfair to womanhood. I have been a meek participant of the crusade of hair removal since as far back as I can remember. First it was only in my thoughts, later it seeped into my actions after I had enough resources to put myself through the numbing pain of removing every follicle with painful attention to detail.

I think modern women have been perpetually at war with their hair and pull their hair everyday over how it crops up everywhere it shouldn’t and how it’s sparse where it should be most dense…on the head obviously! I think this is the first aspect of womanhood that girls who hit their puberty encounter. You look all smooth and pretty till you’re there and then you suddenly have pubic hair, hair on your legs, a slight unsightly mustache if I may, eyebrows that look like wild untamed bushes. All this at a time when you’re just learning about sex and everything around seems to evoke sex for you. This is when you think you need to look pretty and moderately sexually attractive, but  when you have unwanted (?!, may be it’s there for a reason called protection) growth everywhere and no money to take care of it. Oh the miserable age of puberty! This is also the time when you become aware of your body and are likely to withdraw into your own shell. You don’t want to be noticed, and having facial or body hair makes you noticeable, at any age unfortunately.

It’s not even funny how much planning goes into managing hair.  I keep it till the last minute so that it is closer to the day I want to look smooth and hairless, but it has enough buffer period to let my rashes heal so that I look naturally beautiful. How awesomely natural is that! I can so relate to Moran’s piece about this planning. I prefer to get done with my hands and legs 2 days before the day I want to look fancy, eyebrows a day before so that they look sharp and carved and pubic hair 2-3 days before. Because after using the epilator, it gets sore and knobbly there, and there is an occasional drop of blood [when there is conflict between your sane side that keeps telling you that you’re subscribing to the popular belief that women should have luxuriant flowing tresses but absolutely no sign of body hair; and your superficial stupid side that tells you that you want to look like those models from the hair (or no hair) ads] when I’m trying to multitask to prove to myself that it doesn’t take time and try balancing my leg over the sink while reading a book and dexterously moving my hand over the most delicate part of my body without looking at it,  and my hand slips slightly to the right. What happens next? I don’t remember because I saw stars and almost fainted.

Once the days are sorted out, I go through meticulous planning about what methods I’d use to epilate which parts of my body. Threading for eyebrows, waxing for upper lips and arms, but not for legs shaving  as I get a lot of in-growth because of waxing. Pulling hair out with the epilator for underarms because it’s easy to manoeuvre, then waxing for the pubic mound and epilator for the rest…ouch it hurts even thinking about it; and then shaving for whatever remains. I feel ashamed of myself even as I write this. I mean I am an educated, modern woman who doesn’t need to do all this. Even my partner doesn’t care one bit about a little bit of hair here and there. But it’s all in my head. Probably because a million advertisement and videos that bombard us with unbelievably and effortlessly good looking ethereal women with a rich crown but no hair anywhere else that mere mortals like me are led to believe that we have major shortcomings that need to be taken care of on an urgent basis.

What they don’t show us is probably the very same women spending hours at the salon and even more hours locked in their bathrooms with a hand mirror or microscope imagining the existence of a wilful hair that needs to be uprooted; they don’t show a team of experts zooming into every single part of the clippings to remove even non-existent blemishes and create something that would put even wax and plastic to shame. And what they don’t see is how these ads and videos are the cause of disappointment, mortification, low self-esteem and in extreme case, depression for millions of teenager women world-wide. What they don’t see is how it’s a wrong, unhealthy expectation setting for teenage men worldwide who just grow up believing that women in their life should look a certain way, but fail to realize that all of that doesn’t come naturally. I remember an incident when a male colleague pointed out that  it was time for my monthly salon visit as my eyebrows looked like a jungle. I didn’t get angry, I just pitied how this extraordinarily intelligent man was but a victim of social conditioning. I told him of course that I don’t do things just because a random guy told me to. It’s pathetic how men who are so brilliant and can read data like stories fail to read beyond the adverts.

Anyhoo this is a debate which can conclude in establishing that we are victims of media’s bombardment but can’t translate into making us stop spending/ wasting time on the excruciating hair removal rituals.

Sarah Haskins, a woman I absolutely worship has a hilarious video called “Your Garden” which I’m unable to find anywhere now. 😦 Please watch it if you do find it and also send me the link. Extraordinarily articulate and funny that she is, she makes the very same point in 1000 % better way and in just under 2 minutes. Here’s one of her other videos, just as hilarious and thought provoking.