Of Frills and Feminine Grace


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.


  1. 1. I take it you are in Desh now ! Welcome.
    2. I KNOW. I have never stepped into a beauty parlour for 40 years of my life (not even during my wedding) due to some weird notion of ephemerality of beauty and such crap, but once I discovered the pleasures of a pedicure, I am a convert. Coincidentally, I had a pedicure yesterday too, and eventually got a crick in my neck at staring at my now-reasonably-lockable man feet.
    3. I recently discovered the pleasures of a good facial too – I have been reluctant because I have naturally healthy skin (touch wood) and I was afraid of ruining it. But facials, I discovered, in expert hands, is something else altogether.

    • LG, not yet in desh. Soon though. 🙂 I hear you on the whole pedicure/facial thing. Am a convert too. More than anything, it was one precious hour to myself. Bliss!

      • Then you know what, when you come down, we must bond estrogenically over facials. The only drawback is that we may not be able to talk much once the goo solidifies on the face.
        But coffee is good too…just putting it out there.

  2. Haha, good for you, Lakshmi! It’s never late to give in to new experiences :). Your post took me back to precious moments of childhood: I grew up surrounded by the cast of Famous Five, Secret Seven and Little Women, among others.

    Have you read Shashi Deshpande’s Summer Adventure trilogy? Some of favorite books of all time. Your twins would be at the right age for those.

  3. Good one. I was the same growing up but now once in a while pedi and facial make me feel good and relaxed. Like you said, they don’t change me in any way. I’m still very much me. 🙂

  4. Never a tomboy but never had the patience to dress up. But yes, all the pedicure fun began only after the kid. And l luxuriate in that feeling every single time. As always your walk through the emotional aspect is so spot on.

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