Exotic Beauty

Around the time of my birthday, I decided that I was Done With Wearing Makeup, and I was going to revert to my natural state, which was that of a geriatric, fresh-faced Alpine woman.

My “personal style” has always very much been neutrals, Saint James stripes, and Birkenstocks (except for a now-embarrassing-to-recall Three Year Tour through the J.Crew catalogue when I lived in Washington), so giving up a full face of make-up was more of a relief than anything. I know some women really enjoy painting it on, and I admire that. But I am something of an inconsistent Bozo in my application of cosmetics, so I looked at make-up more as part of the yoke of professional womanhood that I had never quite mastered, and not as a privilege or a delight.

But the one thing I couldn’t reconcile with this new No Make-Up stand was my natural ginger eyelashes.

I am a redhead by birth; blonde by choice. Accordingly, I was cursed with straight, pale lashes that were not conducive to giving up make-up entirely because without mascara, everyone always asked me if I was sick or if I’d slept well enough the night before. No mascara was a no-go for me. After consulting with some beauty experts and with a trend-forward friend who suffered from the same straight-lashed problem as I did, I was referred to a lash extension clinic on Third Avenue in Midtown.

The very idea of eyelash extensions seemed absurd-bordering-on-impossible, and since I am secretly a Geriatric German and not a Fashion Insider, I was obviously out of the loop on this kind of stuff. But I went along with it, because if it meant that I didn’t have to wear mascara anymore, I was willing to try just about anything.

 You will probably be the only white person there, my friend confessed (she is Korean, and this appeared to be a beauty trend originating from there, or so she claimed), But it’s worth checking out, unless you are very uncomfortable with the idea of having someone stick stuff to your eyelids.

I am less uncomfortable with the idea of eyelid manipulation than I am with the thought of…extreme beauty treatments I said flatly. Remember the last time I tried something…exotic.

She laughed in my face. When she finally regained her composure she said, Are you talking about your first Brazilian bikini wax experience? How could I forget?

More than eight years ago now, on the day before I took off on my odyssey through Asia and Africa, I decided that it would be a great idea to have my eyebrows waxed. While I was at the salon, the waxer convinced me that I should definitely consider a Brazilian bikini wax. Since I was already on the cusp of adventure, I figured, Why not? 

(NB: Some people headed to the Middle of Nowhere in China for an extended period of time in order to contemplate ending a marriage call their lawyers or get vaccines or do rational kinds of things. My 2008-Self somehow never made it beyond the beauty treatments portion of preparing for End Times Adventure Travel.)

Never having had a Brazilian before, I did not know then that there were oh-so-many reasons why not. Unfortunately for me, not only was it my first experience with exotic wax treatments, but my young aesthetician neglected to tell me that it was her first time performing any sort of bikini wax, ever. And being completely uninformed about these things, how was I to know that basically everything was going horribly wrong from the outset? How was I to know that the boiling hot lava being slapped upon my nether-regions was supposed to feel bad, but not quite so horrible? That the odd smell of burning was not the ordinary bubbling of the hot wax, but actually, the searing-off of my skin?

It was that day, eight years ago, in the back room of a salon in Union Square that I learned that ignorance is not always bliss.

Twenty gut-wrenching moments later, I emerged with first- and second-degree burns across the whole of my lower half, and was unimaginably uncomfortably on a 15 hour flight to Seoul. I have been extremely wary of specialised beauty treatments ever since.

With that memory in mind, I booked an appointment at Lash Forever, because the prospect of not ever having to wear mascara again overruled the memory of the pain of my last serious exotic beauty endeavour. I arrived for my appointment; picked out a lash shape (the J-curl); and they hustled me into the back, where they cocooned me into a nice blanket, and taped my eyes shut, reverse Clockwork Orange-style. I popped in my headphones, and an hour later, emerged with eyelashes that looked like normal-person lashes, and not ginger lashes. This felt like a personal victory.

How did it go? my friend called and asked the next day.

Perfect, I said, I didn’t have to get naked, and no part of my body has been wounded or maimed. Total win.

We both laughed and she promised to meet up with me soon. It wasn’t until I hung up with her that it seemed at all funny or strange that I hated wearing make-up so much that I had spent an hour laying prone on a table having tiny shards of polyester semi-permanently glued to my eyelids so I could avoid wearing anything on my eyes in the first place.

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