Hairspray and High Heels in a Post-Soviet Town

Do I have to leave my coat there? Can I take my phone? I can? Good.

Seeing myself slowly nearing the chair. Why does this feel like the green mile? It’s the tasteless green floor.

Sitting down, the fattest I’ve ever looked, larger than when I was factually 20kg heavier. A tall blonde, here to make me feel worse about myself, takes out my hair band and has a quick ‘flick’ through my hair.

“What wanting today?” asks the thick Russian accent.

It’s not uncommon for beauticians in Latvia to be Russian. I speak to her in English. She was born and raised here, but when the Soviet times ended she gained a non-citizenship passport. After studying in marketing in London, she found herself here — working for a beauty magazine.

She once said there’s not enough room to be creative in the marketing field in Latvia. Left without a purpose, someone eventually asked her if she’d like to go work in the beauty field itself, beyond writing.

“Some machines with infrared that detox you.”

I know all too well, I go to the bastard twice a week. It itches like hell and makes me feel shit, but it apparently makes you thin, so fuck it.

Whilst working with the machines she decided to study dermatology.

“It’s fascinating, you learn about nutrition and skin care, treatments and biology. Even get to work with high-tech machines. I love it.”

Later on she gained a full citizenship, opened a business and it’s been running now for four years.

Shit, I have to go downstairs and book an appointment with the waxing lady. An entire body wax in one day; arms, legs, bikini and even armpits. Prefer to do it all at once. A single day of hot wax and it’s done. I’d hate to spread it through the week.

The hair dye is really starting to sting at this point. I’ve never been good with that. Eyes are watering just enough to make me feel awkward.

I decide to browse the net (does anyone even say that anymore?) on my phone. God, this mirror makes me look fat. That and the berry-white chocolate cake I had last night. Who can I look at to feel better?

In truth, I find a lot of these appointments dull. I don’t care for the small talk either.

Nodding, mhmm, raising of the eyebrows.

Perhaps I just don’t fit in here. It’s uncomfortable and I feel exposed. I treat beauty technicians like the doctor: strictly business. But it still makes me feel strange. What if I’m the ugliest woman that’s been here? What if I’m the ugliest today? Do other ladies here have hair as bad as mine? Jesus I should really get my nails done.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a fancy manicure. I don’t build my life around my looks, and I can’t walk in high heels. But, at least from my own perspective, the age has come when I feel like I can no longer rely on the natural beauty of youth. I need a little dab of this, or a smattering of that, to aid the nature. I don’t come here because I want to look good, I come here because I think I don’t.

“Washing hair!”

A positive to the whole experience. The water is so warm and I close my eyes.

Now, why does every women’s product smell like periods?

Periods have a very distinct smell. I can recognize it from a distance. Slightly metallic, hospital-y. I think it comes from pads. We’re told that the natural smell of a bleeding vagina is not good but hey, this daisy pad (which gives you thrush) will mask it and you’ll smell a different shade of rank.

All the women’s products smell exactly the same, but with a light tinge of peach or alcohol (depending on whether it’s for your hair of face). I spent 78 EUR on cosmetics the other day, simply because I felt too bad not to after the torturous procedure of face cleansing.

“Do we cut too?”

“Just the ends please.”

“Yes, bad ends. You need product for your bad ends, makes them good. And come here for dye, I use only natural. I show you product after. Do you want spray?”

Do I need it? What is it for? Should I know? Do people have it? Shit…

“Yeah, sure.”

“Yes, spray good, it keeps hair from moving”

What?

I pay and leave. My hair is to the point. It’s not moving at all! But it looks so fucking natural, you wouldn’t believe.

I’m meeting my husband at a cafe. I’ve spent a day indulging in my looks so it’s time to reward myself with a nice lunch. I shouldn’t have alcohol; I have detox tomorrow and if I drink tonight it will suck even more. I get salad with mushrooms; my husband gets a burger and chips. I would like some chips but I’m trying to avoid fatty foods.

My husband orders a large portion of chips.

‘Will you manage to eat a large chips?’

‘I’m sure I will.’

I’m done with my salad, automatically reaching for some chips. Salad doesn’t make you full. I’ve eaten almost half of the chips. Husband knows. Husband is silent. He came prepared.

‘Do you have money for the taxi?’ I ask.

‘No, do you?’

‘Well, go take some out!’

‘Why are you snappy?’

How dare he? Doesn’t he know how much I do for him?