I remember watching a scene out of Braveheart — Scottish men in kilts going off to fight the evil British, standing by the fields to begin the war, and waging it full force. Then came the spears raining from the sky and the swords mercilessly plowing through bodies, as if a breakfast knife through warm butter.
As I sit there, watching her tower high above me, and swish her sword to one by one slaughter the lonely, yet unruly soldiers, I wonder if the pain those characters would have felt is anything comparable. Unlike the characters in the movie though — who will meet their eternal grave upon feeling the knife — these guys will be back by this time in two weeks. It is a constant battle that is neither won nor lost. She the lonely swordsmen, but strong enough to behead them all. And I am the middleman — the ground upon which they fight.
At this hour, after the long day, her tweezers seem be gnawing away at my stomach, reminding me of the lunch I should have had. Through it all though I look forward to shedding the extra bit of mass: walking in public with all the excess of eyebrows was beginning to get to me.
While she moves to get her scissors, I look at the chair beside me. The girl, — known as the band-andaaz — is so carefully going through every inch of the woman's face, trying not to leave a scar — or hair — behind. As I watch the lady's face grow red as a ripe summer tomato, I thank god I don't have to go through that torture. Plucking eyebrows are one thing. Having to run a lawn mower on your face every week is another.
She returns and stands above me. A true Persian lady some would call her. In attitude, flare, and even facial features. As I sit there feeling her hands move in and around my eyebrows, I can tell that it is going to be one of those dark, stormy days. She is mad — fuming. I can feel it by the rapid movement of her hand, which pulls out those nasty beings… tat tat tat (pause) tat… tat tat tat (pause)… tat. She is usually calm and consistent — there is no rhythm. She is moving to a drum — the drum of war that is.
“Kokab, beh khodaa agar baraash naahaar beghiri…” (Kokab, if you buy her luch, I swaer…) She does not go on to complete the threat.
There is a war going on here. A different sort of war that sheds no blood and the weapons are cunning, hurtful words and the dying victims are always things called pride and dominance. Its boundaries are determined by the desk in the middle belonging to the boss. Today though, it is the boss's daughter who, typical of the one in the movies, is running her hands through her curly hair, while chewing gum and talking on the phone. There is the right side army and the left side army. Each has a single commander, and a few soldiers to follow her lead.
The commanders on each side are the leaders of the group: The eyebrow lady, Foti Khanom, on the right and the number one person in charge of hair, Farah Khanom, on the left. Their objective for waging war is not very clear, and constantly changing. One day Farah Khonam did not cut Foti Khanom's customer's hair on time. Another day Masoomeh Khanom answered the phone while the boss, Eshrat Khanom, was out and had left the task to Foti Khanom. And in the end, perhaps it's just a group of foozool, middle aged Iranian women working in a salon.
Although she is not the oldest person on the staff, Foti has been here the longest. She also draws the most customers. But the staff on the left side is older. After the boss leaves, and its times to hand over power to the staff, why shouldn't they be next in line for the throne and enjoy better salaries, tips, as well as kind words from the usually unapproachable boss.
I am not sure what it is, but somehow, you will always find yourself sympathizing for Foti. Contrary to the typical salon worker, she is not nosy. She is not very chatty. She is polite. And most importantly, her dress code does not remind you of a dancer in some wild music video.
This is quite an interesting place: an all-female salon in Iran. People come to have their bangs cut as if going to their best friend's wedding. You sometimes think that you might be caught in the middle of a fashion shoot. Manijeh shows off the latest bikini top she has bought from her trip to Spain and Zahra has the newest designer miniskirt from her trip to Dubai. Maybe people, by nature, like to show their accessories in public. And this is as “public” as it gets here.
She hands me the mirror and asks me what I think about her work. I always wonder why she does that when all is over with. So what if she screwed up and half my eyebrow is gone… what can she do about it? But maybe she knows that — all too well. She only hands me the mirror when she has won the war … and won it well.
Next battle, same place, same time, in about 2 weeks.