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Does anyone else feel socially anxious at beauty appointments?

PHOTOGRAPHY BY HAYLEY PEASE

WORDS BY GEORGIE KIBEL

How small talk can ruin a pedicure.

Have you ever treated yourself to a set of eyelash extensions, had your legs, armpits or nether regions waxed, or been to Endota spa where even just the smell of the waiting room is a godly experience?

Or maybe you’ve just had your haircut post-lockdown, or finally had your nails manicured after months of suffering from haggard cuticles? 

Following what felt like an interminable period of isolation, restrictions easing meant a return to such treasured beautifying appointments. I looked forward to the return to normalcy and rejoiced as businesses opened for people who were dealt with some of the hardest cards during the pandemic.

But I also realised a thing or two during my prolonged period without having my dead ends cut off, or getting my upper lip hair waxed. 

Before any appointment, I feel as nervous as a first date. What if I say or do something embarrassing, or I have body odour that everyone but me can smell? I’m nervous that I’ll misspeak during small talk and make a fool of myself.

Worst of all, when I get eyelash extensions, an appointment that can take upwards of two hours, I make a mental list of conversations that I can have with the technician. To me, the silence is painfully awkward.

When I opened up to my hairdresser (the same one I have had for ten years), she told me that I was overthinking it. The people who work in such roles know how to chat, she assured me. And while her words did comfort me, before my next appointment I felt the same sense of anxiety that I always do. 

And yes, I am aware that these appointments are optional. I do feel very privileged when I can spend the money on such indulgences. But I always regret that the stress I experience often eclipses the enjoyment. A lash tech millimetres from my eyes. A hairdresser standing directly behind me for forty minutes. A masseuse rubbing my neck.

These are the thoughts that race through my mind as the SMS reminders roll in 48 hours before the appointment and I click ‘confirm appointment’ or reply to a text with a ‘Y’. When I hit send, like clockwork, the excitement that I should feel is replaced with dread. The countdown is on, and I must endure the painful, anxious wait until I get to the appointment. 

In fact, because of this extreme anxiety, I tend to avoid undergoing any beauty therapy. I manage to do my eyebrows myself and I get a haircut only once or twice a year. For me, it feels easier to forgo doing it all together.

Of course, these beauty appointments are not a necessity. I don’t have to subscribe to these insane standards that dictate it’s sexy to have a hairless body or pastel-coloured, almond-shaped nails. Critics will argue that beauty therapy is frivolous and vain, and that the money and time we dedicate to our appearance can seem exorbitant. 

But the critics are wrong, because when I leave an appointment and see my caramel highlights reflect the sunlight in a shop window or I wake up and look in the mirror and feel confident with my appearance, I remember why enduring the anxiety before the appointments can be worth it. 

Beauty therapy, much like picking an outfit or putting on mascara, can give you a sense of confidence. It can make you feel good about yourself. 

I always leave the salon with a sigh of relief and get in my car pleased with whatever form of treatment I just received. ‘That wasn’t so bad’ I think, admiring a set of beautiful long lashes or feeling the silky soft ends of my hair. I can’t wait to get home and show my mum my new hairstyle or the colour of nail I chose and for her to compliment whatever new look I have adopted. 

Besides, my hairdresser was right. The people who gravitate towards beauty, cosmetic, and therapeutic industries are people who like to talk. So when I bumble through a sentence or reveal that “I’m sweating” to the discomfort of both myself and the woman waxing my legs, I am almost always responded to with reassurance or a laugh. 

Tomorrow, I am cashing in a gift voucher I received for my birthday, and I’m getting a massage at a swanky place in Armadale. And to be honest, it doesn’t sound that awful. 

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