Arriving at Sandton, I am confronted with the sterile shine of the place. Everything gleams and promises seduction. Farieda and I move around the mall, dressed almost identically, taking it in turns to drag our "caboodle". We take selfies in front of the shops, with display items. Throughout, people watch us. If we were singular, perhaps we would not produce such a spectacle.
We enter the Woolworths store and ask for advice about different grooming procedures. We elect to have our eyebrows threaded. Taking it in turns to sit in the chair, whilst the attendant looms over us, plucking our eyebrows with thread held between her teeth, I try and ignore the pain. The pain from holding my skin taut, my hand has to press my eye deep into its socket, until it gets hot and I see stars. The attendant presses her card to me and asks to keep in touch.
Poor Farieda's skin has been irritated from the threading and has swollen over one eye. We speak to the experts but they recommend little.
Moving through the mall, we turn into Edgars and approach the make-up counters. Chanel, Bobbi Brown, Estee Lauder, Clinique... so many choices. We decide to speak to the make-up artists at Bobbi Brown, their make-up suggests that it will be the most "natural". We share the same make-up artist and again, take it in turns to receive our make-over. Farieda goes first. I am aghast as I see the thick shades of foundation, base, or whatever mark her face. As the artist, begins blending and buffing Farieda's skin, a whitish pallor sits on top of her natural brown complexion. She no longer looks like herself. And then they begin with the eyebrows.
Painting over her carefully sculpted and plucked eyebrows, she paints a heavy outline, completely obscuring Farieda's natural shape. Then comes blush, a swipe of lipstick and she's done. I'm feeling apprehensive when it comes to my time in the chair. And I'm right, when I emerge, I no longer look like myself.
I end up buying a lipstick, "Roseberry" #26.
Our selfie feed grows and grows, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook....
We decide to get some food and go and sit in a coffee shop in the courtyard, where Nelson Mandela's statue is. We wait and wait, no service. No one comes to give us menus, no one checks on us and no one takes our order. After observing that we are not going to be served, we leave and sit on one of the benches along the periphery of the square. We open our caboodle and look at its contents. The caboodle is filled with items for grooming. We take out some of the packets of hair and begin plaiting further lengths of hair onto our plaits, extending them until they drag on the ground. The strands coat my fingers.
Watching people in the square, they walk up to the giant Mandela statue and pose at his feet. People of all ages and backgrounds seem to come here to swarm at his feet and document their presence at this important signifier of South Africa and also of Sandton, a space of aspiration for many. We take our turns and pose, showing off our outfits and more importantly our hair, that billows in the breeze. A little girl says something in Afrikaans to her mother, which i can't understand. Farieda says that the little girl is talking about how long our hair is and assumes it is natural.
Leaving Sandton, we get onboard the Gautrain. We begin the hygiene process and spray ourselves with body spray, squirt mouth wash into our lipsticked puckers and chew gum. We are told we must spit the gum out as it is prohibited on the Gautrain. Surreptitiously painting our nails and slathering on more make-up, we embellish ourselves thoroughly.
The process of de-aspiring begins with the removal of our wedged high heels and putting on our house slippers.