You know the old saying, ‘Like mother, like daughter?’ As I get older I see so many more similarities between me and mine, that I’d obviously been in denial about in the flush of youth. Not only am I developing similar age-related ailments, but also the likeness in face, body and mannerisms is a sure sign that I am turning into my mum. She’s not really into excessive personal grooming, as there’s not much call for it in the wilds of west Wales. Over there, one tends to get one’s body out on show once every two to three years, weather depending, as one look at her toenails will tell you.
So it’s a real treat to be able to take her along to the beauty salon whenever she arrives in our temperate climate, with instructions to the staff to start at her eyebrows and work all the way down. It’s little wonder that I’m not cut out for this pamper-perfect world of Dubai. Left to my own devices, I forget to wax before hitting the beach, my eyebrows are also unruly, my roots show, and my fingernails are appalling. Both mother and I are not averse to a bit of indulgence, but we’ve both had our fair share of previous product mishaps. My one and only facial resulted in an allergic reaction so severe that I could have made a fortune as a stand in for Freddie Kruger in A Nightmare on Umm Suqeim Street.
I developed an ingrowing toenail from an over-enthusiastic pedicure, my last head of highlights had a hint of orange under fluorescent lights and manicures leave me with nails that would make a magician’s assistant blush. They look great for about 30 seconds but as soon as I get out from under those ineffectual dryers, I manage to scrape off a layer just by paying the bill. I remember vividly the toxic aroma of nail glue while I was growing up (as well as the scary mass of fake hair that lived on its own polystyrene head on my mum’s dressing table – but that’s another story), so I couldn’t see a problem in dabbling with shop-bought, stick-on nails. Seduced by the ease, availability and price of my plastic purchases, I marvelled at such a convenient invention, which allowed me to sit at my kitchen table and transform my flaky nightmares into perfectly manicured talons. No wonder by mum used to do it. Only after they had dried did I realise I now had two useless appendages dangling on the end of each arm. I couldn’t go to the loo, scratch my nose, or pick anything up without a few pinging off. I even found one floating in a cup of tea. By then it was too late, as I’d stumbled onto the slippery slope of false nail addiction. It became a vicious cycle, as the glue deteriorated my ragged bitten stumps even further, I was forced to cover them up with more glue and more falsies. It took a long time to wean myself off them, but after attending intensive therapy I can now say I’m finally clean. Mum neglected to tell me about this but chuckled in nostalgic recognition when I finally confessed to my nail faux pas.
Dealing with my upper lip also came with its own set of problems, after one unfortunate therapist tainted the experience once and for all by setting the temperature of the wax too high. She ripped off an oblong piece of skin from under my nose and I had to go around for a fortnight with a red scabby moustache. My next depilatory disaster was attempting to laser the furry blighter into oblivion with a course of IPL. The effect on my moustache was more akin to the conditions of a greenhouse and a heat lamp. It thrived on the treatment and grew back twice as thick. Once again, I blame my mother as memories of her standing in front of the bathroom mirror, looking like Winnie the Pooh after he’s been at the honey jar, come flooding back to me.
So what will happen when my own daughters need to begin their beauty regimes? Well they can’t do anything about their troublesome genes, but I have a feeling that growing up in Dubai, they will take waxing, threading and manicures all in their perfectly pedicured stride and break with our family traditions.
So the next time you see a woman with hairy legs, orange hair, dodgy nails and a ‘tache please bear in mind that it’s probably not her fault. Don’t judge her – you don’t know what she’s been through. After all, she may just take after her mother.