“Welcome Madam,” says the beauty consultant, “please sit.” She indicates the closed lid of a toilet seat. I sit.
I’m here to check out Aqua - a new concept in pampering.
“Please choose from our menu madam.” She passes me a small catalogue. AQWA it says on the cover. Inside are illustrations of clothing and all manner of hairdos and make-up products. Aqua, you see, is a total makeover experience.
“These are our coats. And here are our gowns.” There are pictures of sumptuous Cindarella style garments. I indicate a couple that I prefer. “But first we will do your hair and make-up.” Flicking through we peruse the hairstyles. I choose one.
Now my consultant pulls and grips my hair into a tight bunch on the side of my head. It falls out a couple of times because my hair is still on the short side but she perseveres until she is happy with the look. To frame my face she adds a bright pink silk flower clip.
“Please choose a colour.” She sweeps her hand expansively towards a long rank of nail varnish pots - some are glittery, most are nearly empty. The slim shelf almost groans under the weight of its toxic load. I opt for a nail polish that I have brought myself. It’s a coppery pink by SpaRitual, one of the less hazardous brands. My consultant dabs it delicately onto my fingernails.
Make-up comes next. I choose a burgundy red lipstick. The lipstick is applied and the therapist inspects her work with satisfaction. “The most important thing about this lipstick,” she tells me, “is don’t do this.” She rubs her lips together.
“Why ever not?”
“Because it tastes horrible.”
Next, a brown eye shadow is applied. As a finishing touch she rubs some kind of pink light reflecting cream all over one side of my face. “Hmmm,” she says with a thoughtful squint, “I think it would look better if we put it on both sides.”
Makeover complete I am led to a mirror for the big reveal. I gaze at my altered image. An escapee from a locked ward stares back at me.
“It’s beautiful Eloise,” I say, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome aunty Lily. Can we go to Pizza Express now?”