Ed’s note about this essay –
In this essay Hema used a well placed hook and a familiar (to most), everyday setting to draw us in quickly and set the scene. Stating her fears up front worked well to build tension, and it invited us to empathise with her. She foreshadowed the irrationality of her fears by attributing them to her “brain” rather than to a more all-encompassing sense of herself. She then supported this by listing increasingly unlikely fears. The moments of humour provided a relief from the tension and she again used features that are intimately familiar to people of a certain age (ahem — my chin hair salutes your lip hair) to give an immediacy and vividness to the events. Hema also subtly makes commentary on the absurdity of the beauty industry and the fact that so many of us are willing to put ourselves through pain, and even to pay for it. By reflecting on her own experience, she invites us to place ourselves in her shoes and to reflect on our own routines. Finally, Hema returns to the theme of her irrational fears, rounding out the essay with a reminder that we often cling to irrational ideas despite knowing they are irrational.
I’m most scared right before she begins. When your neck is resting at an obtuse angle, you cannot feel anything but powerless against the pain that’s coming. I can smell the metallic heat as she warms the wax up and my insides churn in panic. My brain has decided the wax is too hot.
“Please don’t scrunch eyes.” She says in a heavily accented voice. I’ve endured labor pain, twice. I was Rosie the Riveter for Halloween. I can do this. Breathe. I file the possibility of second degree burns on my face along with my other irrational fears – my kids getting lost, bashing my face against a pole and losing my front teeth, falling into an open manhole. That file cabinet in my brain is full.
Her unfamiliar body closes in. She’s not my usual eyebrow lady. Why isn’t she blowing on the wax?
She lays a thick layer of hot wax just under my eyebrow. It’s not screaming hot, but my nails dig into the foam armrest upon impact. The wax cools instantly and weighs down on my eyelid. And then without warning she yanks it. Through closed eyes, I see stars, planets, entire universes forming in a hot dark ocean of pain.
Why do I do this to myself? I don’t mind bushy eyebrows, but it’s that rogue hair on my upper lip which brings me here every time. You know the one. It’s persistent, coarse, and wiry. It’s a great source of amusement to my husband and it acts as my worry bead while I’m in a reflective mood. I quite like it, but the jerk is beginning to turn gray, reminding me of the slippery slope that aging is.
I try to think happy thoughts, to remember this pain so I can write about it later, but soon the wax is on my upper lip and when she yanks it off, the Big Bang takes place all over again, completely numbing my brain. A few more minutes pass and the torture I put myself through (and pay for) is over.
I walk home feeling great despite the shimmering pain under my skin; a freshly formed planet brimming with possibilities, carefully avoiding manhole grates and poles.