“Don’t lie to me!” she yelled as she threateningly craned over my head, sharp tweezers poised in hand. The fluorescent strip light above me made my eyes water. I felt like I was on an operating table as my blurry vision focused on the indignant face in front of me covered with a medical mask, green eyes burning. “You saw someone else, didn’t you…?” she jabbed. I squirmed. But eventually, I had to admit I’d committed a fatal sin.
I had, in fact, seen another eyebrow lady.
I know what you’re thinking. It’s wrong, and I’m ashamed. But when I couldn’t get an appointment for several weeks, I gave into the natural temptation of going somewhere convenient and cheap. I would pay for my misdemeanour as my body was waxed, zapped, tweezed, and prodded in the painful process of hair removal.
Her anger was reasonable; expected, even. You cannot cheat on your eyebrow lady. She, who has sculpted your hairs from their prepubescent monobrow days into their present alpha form. I’ve been seeing my eyebrow lady exclusively for years; and I’m not the only one. But, upon reflection, it’s clear that this loyalty we have may seem a bit ridiculous for someone on the outside. You see, Mariam’s salon is 25km from where I now live; yet not even such a great distance can part us.
But our particular bond is not unique. It is a primordial bond that has been reproduced across time and space. From the women of Ancient Egypt who had elaborate beauty routines, the Maori women who get moko kauae (face tattooing), to more familial practices like my grandma putting coconut or sesame oil in my hair as I’d sit cross-legged between her legs every week. These sacred rituals have endured.
Much has been written about the politicisation of women’s body hair: patriarchal pressure to remove it, growing it in defiance, its appropriation and assimilation. These beauty rituals fit into a story of navigating the decolonisation of oneself. But within this, I want to give credence to these special relationships and spaces which are formed and often overlooked for their normalcy, or for being almost too odd and taboo to memorialise in writing.
There’s a solidarity formed between black and brown women across the world existing in white societies. We often need special treatment for different hair types and textures. Through this process, the racial differences between migrant groups are usually flattened, and unlikely bonds are forged. Because despite the vast differences in our ethnicities and cultures, to whiteness we are the same: darker and different.
While lying on her salon bed, Mariam has taught me about Islam and Palestine to Zionism and world politics. In exchange, we share moments of unlikely parallels between our traditions, history, and culture – mine Indian and Hindu, hers Lebanese and Muslim. Cultures where traditional paths are often pushed on strong women who overcome them.
She has become more than just my eyebrow lady. She’s my second mum, a person who has seen me cry over insolent boys and the pressure of exams, and eventually grow up. She has compared me to an Amazonian woman in my hairier days and then transformed me into someone who can find a “jahsh” (donkey in Arabic) as she likes to call men. There is a certain pride and ownership over her work. This simple, banal act becomes something greater through rhetoricisation. These beauty rituals forge autonomous, liminal spaces, free from shame or inhibition, where women of colour come together, away from the world, and emerge anew. So here’s to the interracial solidarity of hairy women—of wogs and curry munchers—together in resistance, becoming hot bitches.