The air is thick with hairspray and despondency. As these beauticians help their clients to look prettier, you would think they would be rewarded with at least a smile or two
How a trip to the beauty salon brings out the ugly side in some people
With a full-time job and daily commute from Dubai to Abu Dhabi and back again, neither massage indulgences nor regular trips to the salon fit neatly into my schedule. But on a recent day off, I decided that I was due for a trip to East Elegance in Al Barsha, a beauty salon I have been visiting for haircuts and colours for more than a decade. I booked myself in for a hot-oil head, neck and shoulder massage.
When I arrive, I push open the door to the small salon and step inside. The five chairs are all occupied, and two women are having their hair washed at the sinks. Locks of freshly-cut brown and black hair are scattered on the floor, and at first, there is some confusion from the receptionist about my appointment time.
I insist I made an appointment on the phone just a couple of hours ago, but she struggles to hear me over the deafening roar of a hairdryer. Clearly, this place is no longer the secret, hidden gem of a salon I was used to, and I realise a calming, peaceful massage is looking increasingly unlikely.
As one woman’s blow-dry comes to an end, I’m told to fill her seat, and my treatment begins. My masseuse soaks fluffy cotton balls in hot oil before rubbing them into my scalp. As she works on the back of my head she tells me to look down, and as I do so, I can feel oil dripping down my forehead. Because I have taken off my prescription eyeglasses for the treatment, I’m not able to see just how far down the oil has reached, until my left eye starts stinging.
I quickly grab for a tissue and dab my eye, as the masseuse realises what’s happened. “Madam, I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry,” she stammers, stepping back, hands up, as if she’s bracing for an attack.
“It’s OK, don’t worry,” I tell her. I could have avoided this, after all, had I only wiped the oil away a few seconds earlier.
I notice that her hands are slightly shaking now, and a few moments later, she says again: “Madam, I’m so sorry for that.”
Again, I smile and tell her it’s fine. Only then, do I look to my right and notice a young woman scowling as she sits having her hair curled.
Another customer sits in the waiting area with her head wrapped in a towel, her foot tapping impatiently as she waits for a beautician to call her over for her blow-dry.
A middle-aged woman is sitting nearby with her head tilted back as her eyebrows are threaded, and every few seconds, she yelps, scolding the beautician for not being gentle enough.
I feel like telling the obnoxious woman that threading, no matter who performs the task, will unfortunately never be pain-free.
The air is thick with hairspray and despondency. As these beauticians help their clients to look prettier, you would think they would be rewarded with at least a smile or two, if not a few words of thanks. But there’s none of that here.
Sadly, disrespect is almost inherent in the personalities of some individuals who are accustomed to speaking down to, or altogether ignoring, those they deem to be of a lower class.
I can only hope that their tips will compensate for what they lack in manners.