This winter, I got to take a break from writing about the steamier more wonkish side of life – things like social enterprise, creative capitalism and economic development – to work on some in-depth hard hitting journalism about eyebrow waxing. That’s right, waxing. Check the Spree Beauty book for the full story. Not only that, but I served as a model for before, during and after pictures. Think you’ve had a bad hair day, try having your picture taken with purple wax on your face. Almost nothing says “I feel pretty” less.
Glamour, here I come.
One thing I didn’t get to try for the piece was eyebrow threading. This is a millennia old process by which a finely woven cotton thread is drawn down the head like a rolling pin. Both Wikipedia and all the women’s magazines I read for um research trace the origins of this to the far and middle Easts as well as North Africa. These cultures not only brought us libraries, universities and our number system – which is a Hindu –Arabic mash up – but also eyeliner, henna rinses, mascara and epilation, at the least.
The local spa in Maadi, The N Spa off of Midan Victoria, was my first opportunity to try this supposedly painless procedure. Stepping inside, one can kind of get the feel for the all female world that many women who live here reside in. Its décor is pink and white with flowers every where. I distanced myself from the tear worthy pain being inflicted with what seemed to be dental floss, by imagining it as a modern day harem – with lots of well-off women being pampered and made even prettier, Gossip Girl on tv and well groomed young ladies in white uniforms serving solicitously. Except that traditionally, little children and young girls are also part of the harem and are part of the female side of what appears to be a very engendered society. At The N Spa – it’s purely adult women, and a respite (resisting the temptation to use oasis) from a dusty, hot summer in Egypt.
The word harem traces its roots to the Turkish language, and appears to be derived from two Arabic words – haram , which according to Wikipedia means “forbidden place; sacrosanct, sanctum” and ḥarīm ‘a sacred inviolable place; female members of the family.’ (You down with OED, yeah you know me. . . ) The harem was applicable to polygamous households in the East, and also to places where ladies would learn to be wives of wealthy and noble men. Wikipedia also makes note of hougong, 後宮 Chinese for “the palaces behind,” where the women of the court lived, and could number in 1000s. This word is usually translated as harem into English as well.
The pain was worth it. My eyebrows, I have to admit, look better than any of the places I went to for the article. (This is the danger of working on an article on something like eyebrows, you now obsess of that feature.) Apparently, threading allows for more control on the threader’s part, and thus for straighter lines, and more natural curves. But beware – you thought that Eastern Eurpoean woman at Bliss was abrupt? This woman grunted, tsk’d and YANKED her way to beautiful brows for me. And while I appreciate all seven minutes of her time, a little personality might have deadened some of the pain.