“ORpears of beauty, creators of the well-made, advocates of the attractive, artisans of the harmonious, apostles of beauty.” And the beauty specialist, the beautician. Or at least, that’s how Sara Patrone defines themwhich in his book The misunderstanding of beauty (Meltemi editions) takes us on an exciting journey journey to the “modern temples of perfectible beauty”, i.e. beauty centres. He does it with wit and irony starting from a privileged point of view: she herself, while studying for a degree in Philosophy at the University of Genoa, trained in a school for beauticians and worked in various salons.
Seeking peace from the beautician
There are many places like this, differing in costs, furnishings, prices, marketing strategy and atmosphere. But ultimately, perhaps, they can be concentrated in two categories: those where you enter to wage war on your own body, and those where you enter to make peace with it. The first, those that the author defines as “whimsical ateliers of body metamorphosis”, are populated by a parade of “beautiful bodies”, blow-ups of icy models; cardboard posters depicting laser beams that promise to erase hair from already smooth legs; wrinkled oranges rolling on smooth, spherical buttocks.
Here the parts of the body on which to “operate” with gouges, pliers, strips are not the same for all: each one chooses those about which they have more reservations or which they ask to speak more about themselves. «The most classic of the beauty combos concerns what due to ancient modesty some customers still call “extremities”: that is, hands and feet that experience their quarter of an hour of celebrity culminating in brushstrokes of matching nail polish».
At the beautician for an hour of silence
«In my experience as an beautician/philosopher I realized that the imperative that orders the extermination of certain parts of nature from the matter we are made of suggests the existence of at least two bodies: one “right” and one “wrong”. The first is smoothed, tamed, tamed with soaps and fragrances, graceful in shape and features. The second is at the mercy of its own secretions, of the untamed growth of hair, pimples, nails, and on which wrinkles and furrows quickly appear. It is in this context, of antagonistic bodies that reluctantly give in to an armistice, that war metaphors are born :”Defend yourself from stains!”, “War on cellulite!”, “Your allies against wrinkles!”” observes Patrone. One day, a lady who used to wax her hair told her that she was her “hair killer”. hair”! In the centers where you enter to make peace with your body, the environment is more familiar, the furnishings are made of soft cushions, nurseries of orchids and the scent of essential oils. Once inside, the beautician’s scrupulous attention to the body’s gestures, facial expressions, volume and tone of voice combine to transform the appointment into an experience that evokes a journey into another dimension from which he returns reluctantly.
Relax away from it all
«Here clients are looking for contact, cuddles, help in sleeping» says Francesca, a beautician for 40 years, from the province of Milan. «In massage they are looking for something similar to the hug of a friend, the caress of a companion . Some come to enjoy an hour of peace and silence, far, at least ideally, from the frenzy of life.” Others just want to make a gesture of self-love, says Monica, a beautician in a center in Parma, who remembers Alessandra’s case: «A beautiful woman, 52 years old, grown-up children, professional in the insurance sector. She never told her family: but every Friday, thanks to leaving the office early at 3pm, he treats himself to a massage.” What harm would there be? «No one» Monica clarifies.
«If it weren’t for that many women still come to us secretly, from their husbands, from their children, even from their friends themselves. To get an idea of how widespread this practice is, just look at how many there are who pay in cash, so as not to leave a trace, so as not to have to justify an expense that could be criticized by their husbands, even when they are emancipated and independent women.” In any case, regardless of whether a beautician is a make-up artist, make-up artist, lash & brow designer (expert in eyelash and eyebrow construction), epil specialist (waxing specialist), there is a skill that they all have in common and that makes them irreplaceable professionals: they are excellent seismographs specialized in reading the personal history of a woman starting from her skin, from the tensions she holds in her body and in the folds of her face, in the bitten cuticles of her hands, from the way she presents herself in the shop: with her hair tied up.” then they get dirty with the mask and the oils” or fully decorated, imperious and triumphant.
From the material to the existential
«The appointment with the beautician is like a psychological session, but disguised» underlines Patrone. The conversations aren’t just about the color for your nails, the innovative serum for the wrinkled skin on your neck. Very often they start from there, but within a few appointments the confidences go beyond the boundaries of the “material”, of the body, to sink into the “existential”. Not infrequently they condense into tears.
«A good beautician is not the one who pushes her client towards unattainable perfection based on a rigid and suffocating aesthetic canon, but the one who knows how to empathize with her, knows how to listen to her, understand and interpret her tastes, his needs, even those buried in the recesses of the soul” Francesca comments again. «She IS capable of generating harmony, and a sort of concord on a visual level, for the good of the eyes and the soul». «This is why the job of a beautician is not just any job» specifies Patrone. «Because while it takes away muscle pain, the annoyance of hairiness, the annoyance of tight skin, it leaves something else in exchange: self-confidence and security. Or at least well-being, which is already a first step».
The superfluous is necessary
When she worked as a beautician, Patrone often wondered what drove a woman towards a beauty centre, what was the profound reasonor. «I was aware of the link between aesthetics and survival and how the need for beauty is so imperturbable that it shrugs its shoulders during periods of recession, giving rise to the “lipstick effect”, the phenomenon whereby a non-primary good such as makeup , instead of reducing its sales, inexplicably increases them. As if, when things aren’t going well, nothing was more necessary than the superfluous.” In short, going to the beautician is not an obvious action, which is done only out of vanity (a term that derives from the Latin “vanus”, vain, empty). Which then, in any case, there would be nothing wrong, even in spite of what Rita Levi Montalcini, interviewed for her hundred-first birthday, stated: “The body does what it wants, I am the mind”.
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