Everyone knows there are high standards in Dubai when it comes to appearance – and the school run is no exception. Someone was just telling me the other day how her husband’s friend, visiting from the UK, accompanied her on the school pick-up with his eyes on stalks.
It helps that we live in a hot climate, of course; many women are tanned and if not, they at least look sun kissed. Over-sized sunglasses hide a multitude of cosmetic sins, nails are painted bright colours and sparkly flip flops add a flash of bling.
The fact Dubai is populated by so many nationalities means there are always exotic-looking mums from places like Lebanon, Cyprus or Jordan on the school run – their swishy hair, pretty, size-6 sundresses and lack of sweat pores creating an unmissable dash of school-gate glamour.
It goes without saying that Dubai is full of beauty salons, whose job it is to keep these women looking fresh and youthful. Inside the salons’ hallowed walls, you’ll find ladies being preened, threaded and waxed to perfection. Normal folk, like me, also frequent these havens for much-needed maintenance.
But, looking your best doesn’t always come easy. Aside from the expense and time needed, there are cultural differences that every woman in Dubai has a story about. By this, I mean the way beauty therapists accidentally insult their clients, rather than making them feel uplifted with good-old-fashioned flattery.
You might, for example, be offered a new wrinkle cream, or told they can’t do the massage because you’re pregnant (when you’re not). You might be having your eyebrows done and asked if you’d like your upper-lip moustache waxed too. Or offered some special whitening cream to make your skin look less black. There are loads more examples on Catboy’s Facebook page and they’re all hilarious.
Not being immune to the cosmetic pressures that exist in Dubai, and being married to a pilot who regularly visits exotic locations with 27 flight attendants (I’ll say that again, 27! And all in their 20s), I pop to the salon when time permits [whispers: I’ve heard if you don’t, it’s a little like your husband bringing a ham sandwich in a brown paper bag to brunch].
Last week, I was there for some laser hair removal [lowers voice again: on my chin]. I’ve been having IPL (intense pulsed light) on some stubborn areas for years due to polycystic ovaries, it never works permanently and I must have spent a fortune on it. Usually I have the same person, who just gets on with it, but this time a new technician walked in. A talkative lady, who felt like a bit of chit-chat.
After some small talk, she popped the dark glasses on me, peered closely and, with a hint of concern in her voice, asked: “When did you last come?”
“Um, yes, it was a while ago. I was gone for the summer,” I replied, by way of explanation.
“Yes, too much,” she tutted. “Too much!” [c’mon, it’s not THAT bad!]
Then came the sound of her padding across the room to fiddle with the machine – presumably to switch it to a higher setting.
“Oh. You have hair here too. You want removed?”
“No, thank you. That’s fine.”
“Maybe next time,” she suggested, helpfully. “Where are you from?”
“The UK,” I mumbled, wondering what she could possibly ask next – whether everyone in the UK was hairy, perhaps?
Quite honestly, if I could have walked out the salon with that brown paper bag over my head, I think I would have done.
Could have been worse, I suppose. She could have recommended I take Pregnacare vitamins.