Thursday, 16 August 2012

Vanity, thy name is woman

With the month of Ramadan drawing rapidly to an end, I am experiencing the usual feelings of sadness and melancholy I usually associate with this period. Although we, Muslims, always pray 5 times a day, it is probably the increased and deepened acts of worship and spirituality (as well as the gentle reminder of our hunger pangs) that result in an intensified and more constant awareness of the Almighty during this month.

Usually I manage to escape the hype and feeling of excitement about the arrival of Eid. This year has been different. The reason is the infectious excitement felt by my older three kids who have all chosen to fast for the whole month this year (with 7-year old Nuha doing so for the first time). The rapidly approaching end of this challenging period has evoked in Shakeel (13) and Tharaa (10), a sense of pride in themselves, but especially in their little sister, who has insisted on challenging herself, despite my constant assurances that she could/should eat and despite Aisha (2) constantly shoving food under her nose.

And so I too got caught up in the celebratory spirit this year. For once my kids have their outfits early. Mo and I too have actually made the effort to purchase new outfits. This is highly uncharacteristic of us. Normally, during the last two days of the fast, I'd realise with an 'oh crap' that I don't have anything to wear and that everyone I'd be seeing on Eid had already seen me in my oft-recycled special outfits with so much regularity, that they were probably wondering if I were in uniform or perhaps part of some longstanding dare.

So I had a dress made, bought make-up, shoes and jewellery and became really excited at the prospect of looking like a shiny new penny on this special day - instead of a recycled old rag doll the way I usually do.

Mo's and my 16th wedding anniversary dinner outing last week gave me the perfect excuse to give my make-up a test run. The results were rather pleasing, I must say. Upon returning home, I put Aisha to bed and then I too fell into bed, before realising that I had not yet washed my face to remove the heavy mask of product I'd applied with perhaps too much zeal. But I was in no mood to drag myself from under the warm covers, so I was rather pleased to spot Aisha's baby bum wipes within easy reach. How clever I felt, as I wiped my face, using quite a few wipes until I was satisfied that I'd done a thorough job.

And then it started. The most indescribable burning sensation spread all over my rapidly-reddening face. I leaped up to splash icy water on my skin. (Why, oh why had I not just gotten up in the first place?!)

The result of my innovative cleansing routine became apparent over the next few days, as I developed an angry red goatee around my mouth. In addition my skin started to develop dry flaky patches near my eyes and on my forehead. The more I tried to address these problems with various products, the worse they became. Mo suggested visiting a dermatologist (After all, which man wants a wife with a more prominent goatee than his own?). I agreed, but then decided that I would, in my final attempt to avoid paying dermatologist fees, apply some Vaseline petroleum jelly. Good old Vaseline, how eternally grateful I am to you. After wearing it on my face day and night for a few days, not only did it eliminate the redness and flakiness - it also ended the wretched burning sensation. It has also left my skin feeling so smooth and silky. I am just about ready to toss out all my face masks and just stock up on this tried and tested remedy which has left my face feeling (and maybe looking) like a baby's bottom.

What a close call I'd had. Imagine having gone to so much trouble to get myself ready for Eid, just to be covered in an angry mask of redness and peeling skin. Despite my skin feeling slightly more sensitive than usual, I could not help but give myself a high-five for having dodged that bullet.

So relieved was I that I decided to approach the hairdresser to take the daring step about which I had been fantasising for the past few years, but had always lacked the guts to do. I was clearly lucky - my positivity was, for me, both uncharacteristic and unprecedented.

So I informed the stylist that I wanted a fringe. I gave him very specific instructions - don't give me a wide heavy fringe which originates at the crown and do not layer my back hair. I just wanted a light fringe and a blunt easy-to-maintain trim at the back.

I clearly remember being emphatic (uncharacteristically so) about these instructions, so the stylist had either been temporarily deafened by the blaring music playing in the salon while I had been giving said instructions, or he had thought that I looked like the type of gal who would appreciate a good practical joke - because he proceeded to do the exact 3 things that I had specifically asked him not to do. Thus, I now have a fringe so wide that it practically spans half the circumference of my head; which originates, yes, you guessed it - at my crown. And very annoying, unruly layered back hair.

I went from having this hairstyle:

Image obtained here

To this one

Image obtained here

Fortunately, I wear hijab for most of the day, so this disaster will be hidden from the world. However, it does not really make me feel much better, since I still own mirrors and the sight of me has me confused about whether to recoil in horror or burst into fits of mocking laughter (the way Shakeel did when he first saw me the morning after my haircut).

I am indeed surprised at my own vanity over the past few weeks - this from a woman who only remembers to brush her hair every few days when she passes a mirror and finds Whoopi Goldberg staring back at her.

Perhaps my series of beauty mishaps are a message for me not to lose perspective. After all the day is about celebrating the end of Ramadan with the emphasis on providing charity and spending time with loved ones. I'll try to remember that, while I frantically cover all the mirrors in the house.


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