Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Best Laid of Make-up, and Men

(Published in Zeitgeist, The New Indian Express, on March 28, 2009)

The clamp she was driving at my eyes was disturbingly similar to the one in A Clockwork Orange.

“What’s that?” I asked in a panic, as it was fixed somewhere on my eyelid. Floating in my mind was a horrific cross between stories of Nazi concentration camps where the eyelids of Holocaust victims were snipped off, and memories of an ophthalmologist turning my eyelids inside out during what I know will be my last ever eye examination.

“Eyelash curler,” came the calm response.

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony had already started playing in my head and the lady doing my makeup for the rare occasion I prepare a face to meet the faces that I meet, turned into the nurse from Stanley Kubrick’s classic.

But that was not to be my biggest discovery of the day. When I got back to interaction with humanity that didn’t remind me of blemishes in the collective conscious of the world, my first question was posed to some men I had relative faith in, to be as in the dark and therefore as amused by my trauma as I was in hindsight.

“Can you believe such a thing as an eyelash curler exists?” I asked.

“Hanh, yeah…I’ve heard of it,” one replied, uninterested, “so…yeah…”

“I’ve seen one,” another said.

I looked at the third, half expecting him to say, “I’ve used one.”

“You’ve never seen one before?” he enquired, with the sort of look I would sport if someone asked me who Diego Maradona was.

Well, nearly as bad.

The incident was a natural follow-up to a trend I should have spotted earlier. Just a few weeks earlier, someone I know was staring intently at my hair. Having been brought up by a father who took a couple of days to notice I had got my hip-length hair cut up to the shoulders when I was in college, I assumed the person in question was trying to figure out what was different about my face.

“I’ve straightened my hair,” I explained, helpfully.

“Yeah…I know,” this guy, who got married a couple of years ago, said, with a frown, “you’ve blow-dried it straight, no, not used an iron? Because…” and he rotated a hand near about his ear to express himself better, “…it’s sort of beginning to curl up at the ends.”

“Dude! Marriage has turned you gay!” I said, in disgust.

I firmly believe, ever since the Star Wars song in Anjali left me with a lifelong fear of ghosts, that incidents that scare one temporarily must be thrashed out with someone else before they leave their mark on one’s philosophies of life.

My intentions were honourable, to this end, when I told a friend, “dude, this guy I know – he got married like two years ago – could make out my hair was straightened with a hairdryer and not a…a…straightening…uh…straightener…”

“Hair iron,” he said, patiently, and then waved an arm in the air by way of explanation, “girlfriend.”

Once, a friend of mine, frustrated after a metro ride during which the women asserted their rights to push and prod him when he slipped into their reserved seats, told me he believes a new movement, Menism or something with a better name, would crop up to rein in women’s advantages. Having been forced to study the history of the several waves of feminism, I know I’m right in sensing a similar pattern. First, men fight to enter female-dominated arenas like the kitchen, and make themselves known as the Jamie Olivers of the world. Then, they figure out more about make-up than at least one woman. Soon, we might come across a crowd of them burning their underwear at a public square, and then we’ll know Menism-or-something-with-a-better-name is here.

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