I don’t consider myself a particularly high maintenance person. The Englishman may disagree with me here, but relatively speaking, I think I keep my primping and preening time to a minimum.
I do however have a couple – shall we say – up-keep regimens that I like to try to adhere to no matter where I am.
I like a clean, manicured eyebrow. I always have. Over the years I’ve learned my way around a pair of tweezers (I am never without my trusty, red Tweezermans) but one traumatizing go with an at-home waxing kit was enough to teach me that the upkeep of my brows (and bikini line), is something best left to the experts.
Now, when trotting around the globe, my eyebrows and their all-important shape sometimes need to take a back seat. It’s not ideal, but I will trade the perfect arch above my eye for a visit to a new country or city any day.
There are occasions though, when the stars align, and an opportunity arises to get the brows done abroad. This is easier said than done, however, as finding a safe pair of hands for the delicate job of hair removal is not an easy task – even when on familiar ground.
After years of infidelity; flitting from one salon to the next, I finally found Nagmeh at a day spa across the street from my condo in DC. Nagmeh, I soon realized is something of a depilation guru in Washington, DC.
Referred to by some as the “Goddess of Waxing”, once I found her I never looked back. And after years of keeping my eyebrows in good order, she was one of the hardest people to part with when I left.
I still miss her – we shared some intimate moments in her treatment room after all – but I have ever so slowly been getting back out there.
It was with some trepidation a couple of months ago, that I pushed open the glass door of a small salon near the Englishman’s apartment in Nice. After weeks of due diligence and price comparisons, I had found an acceptable place and decided to go for it.
Now, I will be the first to admit that after all these months, my French is appalling. I have only myself to blame, and it really is an embarrassment. I cringe every time I find myself getting stuck in conversation and have to resort to the old “sorry I don’t speak French” – which is basically every time I open my mouth.
But I managed to communicate to woman in the front of the salon that I was in the market for a bikini and eyebrow wax, and soon found myself sitting in a little room filled with the familiar scent of hot wax, on a table covered with a long roll of white paper.
A couple of minutes later a woman about my age swung open the door and at that precise moment my mind went blank. I literally lost the ability to communicate verbally as each and every French word in my brain decided to pack up and go home.
She looked at me expectantly and I sat mute for a bit too long before she smiled and said “dit moi!”
As if coming out of a deep-freeze I was able to get across to her why I was there. We decided to start with the brows, which was a relatively painless endeavor – as painless as using hot melted wax to rip hairs out of your face can be.
When she held up the mirror I was relieved to see that while I may lack the words, I am fluent in the international sign for “keep them natural, not too thin”
Next we moved on to the bikini waxing – never a pleasant experience, but when bathing suit season arrives I try to make an effort. The young woman went to work and other than a few “Ca-va’s?” in my direction, the chat was thankfully minimal. As the minutes passed, I realized that this was not going to be a quick visit.
She was nothing if not thorough. I counted at least two different kinds of wax in her bag of tricks in addition to the tweezers and scissors. When all was said and done, she had easily spent more time with me in that room than any gynecologist I have ever been to.
Buoyed by my success at the French salon, and after a couple of weeks here in the West Bank, I was determined to check out the local hair removal scene in Ramallah, and to find out what a Palestinian eyebrow grooming might entail.
I’ve noticed a lot of women here have beautifully maintained eyebrows, so I figured I was in good company in my quest for a top-notch threading salon.
I set off into the heat of the day, along the dusty, busy streets and after seeing a lot of men’s-only barbershops, I finally came across “Hair Fashion Salon” which sounded promising.
Up on the 3rd floor of an office building, I found a nice looking salon and was greeted at the front desk by a handsome young man with a huge smile who told me his name was Ibrahim and that he owned the shop.
I said I was in the market for an eyebrow threading and he assured me I was in the right place. A minute later I was reclining on something similar to a dentist’s chair covered in plastic and a slender young woman – with a slightly worrying lack of even a hint of a natural hair on her brow – went to town with a pair of tweezers.
I started to panic that I hadn’t explained myself clearly but after a few minutes she held up a mirror for me to see her handy work and I was relieved to see that she had expertly removed each and every stray hair.
I haven’t had another person tweeze my eyebrows since I talked my friend Caty into doing it in the 7th grade. And although much prefer the speed and relative painlessness of threading, the woman certainly knew what she was doing. And for around $5 you’d be hard pressed to beat it.
When I emerged from the little room, Ibrahim and another of his colleagues offered me tea and coffee and wanted to know everything about me. They seemed slightly baffled as to how I had found my way into the salon and chastised me for not speaking Arabic. They told me to come back soon to have my hair done, and wished me well as I prepared to go back out into the blazing heat of the day.
It wasn’t quite what I had set out to find but it go the job done and I was reminded again of how friendly people here are.
So far, i haven’t come across anything on my depilatory tour of the world that comes close to rivaling Nagmeh’s skill. But I will be back in DC for a flying visit later this month, I might have to stop in and see how she has been getting along without me.