Wednesday, October 16, 2013

West African Beauty Tips

As a way to keep our spirits up given the uncertainty of our jobs (and paychecks), the men in our embassy have banded together and decided not to shave until the budget has passed. I've affectionately termed the effort "Beards for Budget."

A few times I've joked that I, too, will contribute to the facial hair morale booster, by not waxing my mustache. In response, I received mostly half-hearted laughs and a quick change of subject. After my third offer, when the recipient of the joke squinted his eyes and zoomed in on my upper lip, I realized why people weren't laughing. You can't laugh if it's true.

Living in Africa isn't great for beauty maintenance and let's be honest--it's not like I put much effort into it even before moving to Togo, back when it was easy to go over and see my friend Joni who would wax anything and everything. My God. There's hair there?

After my encounter with a nail salon in Guinea, I decided that while in Africa, it would be better to stick to simple things I was capable of doing, like cutting my toenails and shaving my legs. Everything else could wait until I made it back to the US.

A Guinean Pedicure.
However, after my realization that people were actually considering buying me a mustache grooming kit and a membership to The Handlebar Club for Christmas, I came to the conclusion that maybe I should make an effort. Just this once.

I gathered nail files, nail polish and wax strips. I was ready to have a day full of manicures, pedicures and hair removal. I started with my nails. I cut them down, did the cuticle thing (ouch!) and then rubbed the square-sponge-file thing on them, not because it does anything, but because I've seen them do it before. What is that thing, really?

Next, I went for the wax strips. I warmed one up, shmeared it on my upper lip and asked Mr. Kate to pull it off as fast as possible. After I realized the gross excess of pleasure he derived from ripping hair off my face I decided that even though it would be incredibly difficult and painful, I would bear through the pain and do it my self next time, for my own best interest. I would basically be like that guy who had to cut his arm off to get out from under the rock, except I'd be a chick with a mustache.

Then, since I was at it, I moved on to my eyebrows. I cut the strips so they would fit under my eyebrows. I looked up and used both eyes as I was pasting them on my face to be sure I was doing it correctly-- if you think I'm bad at beauty maintenance, you should see me with make-up. There is no chance at me surviving in a world where I need to draw on eyebrows.

After I was sure the strips were on correctly, I looked in the mirror and braced myself. Ready, set, RIP! I looked down at the wax strip. Wow. I had a lot of straggler hairs floating around under my eyebrows! Where did those come from? My eyebrows don't look that different! I stared at my eyebrows for a moment, trying to understand.

Suddenly, I felt a throbbing on my eye. I shifted my focus downward. Most of the eyelashes on  my right eye were gone. A lone, hairless eyelid remained.

So, here I am, two days later, hoping that eyelashes grow back quickly and that nobody notices my perpetual downward stare, which I hope makes my bald eyelid stand out less.

My West African beauty tips you ask? Simple. Embrace hairiness. Stay away from wax-your-own-anything kits. IT'S NOT WORTH THE RISK.

That Handlebar Club membership is actually starting to sound like a great Christmas present...

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