Take our average parlour experience for example.
Wait, before you get cheesed off and brand me, here's a disclaimer. I'm not your bra-burning feminist who refuses to shave her armpits and/or to use perfume.
Uhh, no. I like clean arms and legs -- on me and others ;) as much as you do. But my recent trip to one of these modern-day temples for women realy got me thinking.
My mom, like every other middle-class Indian mother worried about her daughter (read, worried about her looks, skin tone and eating habits) kept insisting it's time for me to take that plunge.
If you are anywhere in the 20s zone, and a single woman, you'll immediately understand what I'm talking of.
For us, "coming of age", is intricately related to the kind of treatments and the amount of money you spend at the parlour. Still lost? OK, I'll explain.
When you are in school, the max you are scheduled to try out at the parlour is the haircut. Okay, hair styling for today's kids, but that's pretty much about it. You jump onto that styling chair, while dying to be like the style divas who disappear behind the parlour's screens/curtains, to emerge shining after an hour or two. Or not. :P
Then, you take to your threading/waxing chapter, so the screens are no longer a mystery, but you are still not a diva.
And then comes the time when you graduate to the world of masks and steams and facials. Oooooh! Now, we have come of age!!
Well, being naturaly disinclined towards this 'coming of age', (it scares me, coz talks of marriage almost invariably follow), I agree I've been pushing it off and generally delaying the experience for some time now.
But what the hell, I said to myself today, and bravely walked into one of the best parlours the city has to offer. Bangalore, that is.
I looked at the card and asked for one of the 'treatments'. (Why do they call it a treatment? Am I infected/sick?).
Anyway, a charming lady (er make up is meticulosly done and her feet look like she hardly ever walks on Bangalore roads) leads me to a smallish room, tastefully done up in white and lavender.
"Lie down, relax", says Miss Beautiful Feet. With due credit to her, her smile seems genuine.
Anyway, I lie down, mortified of my horribly large feet and almost unkempt hair.
Did I catch a secretly disapproving look?
I already begin to have misgivings.
However, I'm inside now, and lying down on their bed, so there's no way I can run away, can I?
And the "treatment" begins. It's suposed to de-tan me, while cleaning my skin pores and generaly taking me a step closer to looking like Aishwarya Rai.
Hah. I suddenly have a vision of myself, with shining hair, glowing skin and 'take-your-breath-away' looks.
And that's enough to make me fight my misgivings.
But wait. Why's she tugging and pulling at my face?
'Hummmph?' I ask
'Its the massage,madam,' the clever girl deciphers my question and replies.
Aaah, ok. So I let my cheeks be pulled at, lips twisted, forehead bulldosed for almost 10 mintes. Or so I think.
And just as I feel the intensity slowing down, I get slapped. Seriously. Slapped.
'Whtttt?' I ask. BUt I know already. MASSAGE.
And I get slapped all over my face for some more minutes.
I'm already losing it by now.
To make matters worse, now Im supposed to burn myself with steam. It's horribly hot, and don't these guys know the latent heat in steam is much more than in water? It burns!!
But Miss Beauty Feet is smiling. And she launches into a diatribe on the benefits of steaming oneself up, and how people come in and request more steam time and etc etc etc.
Her look of disapproval is no more subtle now. She's judging me.
And I'm sick of it all. And I'm past caring.
Hah, I say. Will I let her pull away at my cheeks (I have always hated it, even when people would do it to me as a child), tug at my lips, press my nose with metal weapons and then burn me....AND rip me apart for this?
No. So I dish ourt a curt "you know what, I don't want the treatment anymore," and get off the bed.
Miss Beauty feet is so startled she doesn't know what to do, and I'm out of the room before she can recover.
The manager is worried. Yeas, these high-funda places have managers too, like the maitre-d at high-funda restaurants.
But I just ignore the questions and the stares (and occasional jeery smiles). I pay and leave.
And I call my Ma to make a point. If she wants me to "come-of-age", she had better throw a ball.