The water sloshes around my feet. I lean back, the chair pounding on my back. I watch my belly jiggle with each punch. My arms relax and I close my eyes. I wake to the feeling of someone at my foot and surrender to the person who clips, cleans and massages my foot. I walk out into the sunshine and breeze with painted nails and a spring in my step.
My skirt swirls around me as I pirouette in the privacy of my closet. I glance at the mirror and take in the lady who for a moment forgets who she is and revels in the idea of her. I like what I see. It has been years since I subjected myself to any kind of personal grooming. On an impulse, I had my eyebrows trimmed, my face slathered with fragrant creams and my hair wrapped in henna.
With the faint smell of henna clinging to me, I hum along with the radio as I pull in to the first stop on my errands list. In an hour I am done and back home to raised eyebrows and exclamations of “Why are you dressed up Amma?”
I wash up, slip into my lounge pants and resume my mom avatar. As I bathe Laddu, I wonder why I resist the things I seem to enjoy. I can’t seem to understand the dichotomy. I take pride in not using makeup. I let my hair gray to a point where I look a decade older. I pass the ubiquitous nail salons wondering how they are so crowded every time I look. Yet, on the occasion, I do take care, I enjoy the reflection in the mirror and the sight of painted toes.
Then it comes to me, the grooming rituals of my childhood. The coconut oil, egg yolk wash, kadalai maavu with milk and turmeric face packs, the constant brushing and tying up of my hair. The rare acne covered with sandal paste to dry it out. As a child influenced by Jo of Little Women and Georgina of the Famous Five, I aspired to tomboyishness. The mindless aping of all things non-feminine. I longed to chop my hair, wear trousers and do away with painted lips and nails.
As I age and now raise girls, I realize how flawed my thinking is. I look back on the years past and wish I had taken the time to look and feel pretty knowing it did not diminish my strength in any way.
Even if I do not go all the way, I suspect a few pedicures in my future.