Once in a while, I like to get together with my friends on Sundays and go to the parlor. Nothing too fancy, maybe just a blowdry or bleach, the usual laundry list of every Pakistani girl.
So, as planned, this past Sunday was the same as every other Sunday spa day. My friend Ailia, sister and I got together for breakfast and then headed off to the EPS*.
(*= Every Pakistani Salon, I have created this alias because literally, this story will apply to each and every one of you who have been to a salon in Pakistan.)
At first, everything was fine, in fact, it was great! We had a great time and aside from the aunties who insisted on sitting between the three of us, we were all having a ball of a time! Then finally, it was time to go. Ailia and I were done with our nails and as soon as we got up to leave, it happened.
The parlor girl, without even greeting me, said: “Aap bohot moti ho gaye hai.”
I was mortified. I didn’t know what else to do, so I laughed it off and said, ‘Haha, acha?’ To which a DIFFERENT parlor girl in the salon, carefully pedicuring another woman’s feet, WITHOUT EVEN LOOKING UP, said
“Haan, kaafi ziada. Thighs peh especially.”
At this point, I really didn’t know what to do and left the salon without saying another word.
I was LIVID.
I paced up and down the driveway of the salon, annoyed and angry. I wanted to go in there, scream and shout and tell them that they weren’t supposed to talk to customers like that, that they weren’t supposed to talk to ANYONE like that.
And you know what? The worst part was I immediately started telling myself that I wouldn’t eat anything for the rest of the day and convinced myself that I HAD gained weight. LIKE!?
I didn’t even know these women and they did NOT know me. Apart from the casual hello’s and small talk when they were doing my eyebrows, we didn’t know a single thing about each other.
I went home and tried to remove the incident from my mind. Later that night, a couple of my friends were over, so naturally, I vented. And to not so much of a surprise, they had all been through the same thing. They had all been to different salons but witnessed the same thing I did. It was horrible. We all had different experiences, but the exact same reaction. Embarrassment, disgust, and anger.
These women pick at our skin, at our hair, and our weight. In a space where we are supposed to be relaxed and at ease with ourselves, we are scrutinized and examined.
And just by the way, though this piece may be about this behavior in our salons, it doesn’t mean that it’s not in our everyday lives. Pakistani women have the habit (which seems more like a hobby at times), to pick at every aspect of our lives.
I have met women in this country who want to know more about my personal life than my own mother.
Like, what the fuck. NO WONDER women have so many issues in this country, we have to deal with men AND women tearing each other down.
And it’s not like I haven’t been through this before. Numerous times on numerous occasions, I have been told the same thing, as have hundreds of other women who enter any salon. If it isn’t my thighs, it’s my skin. If it isn’t my skin, it’s my hair. There is ALWAYS something wrong with me.
But amidst all my ranting and sadness and anger, I had a bit of an epiphany.
To the woman at EPS who told me I got fat: I don’t care.
I am tired of being told what I am supposed to look like. I am tired of being told how to fix my face, my hair, my nails, my personality, my choices – my life.
I will no longer allow people who don’t matter to me, affect things that do.
All the women in this country who live by the rules and ethics of ‘Log kya kehen gae” have got it twisted and they are not the women I want in my life anyway. With every march, with every foot fetish, and with every single good thing coming from ladies in this generation of Pakistani women, there is no room for hate. There is no room for primitive ways, thinking and first and foremost, boundaries.
There is, however, room for positivity, women empowerment, and love. Lots and lots and lots of love. So to all my ladies out there, the next time someone tells you your skin is not as fair as it should be, your hair is not long as it should be or that you have gained a little weight, please do NOT listen to them. You are only as strong as your beliefs and as confident as your mind allows you to be. Be who you are, be proud of who you are, extra eight, short hair, pimples and all.
Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever said anything back to these women? What other instances do you think we should talk about? Don’t worry about ‘Log kya kahein gae,’ hum kuch nahi kahein gae. Let us know in the comments below!
Cover photo source: MangoBaaz