Haji Mohamed Dawjee
Haji Mohamed Dawjee

Thoughts of an outsider at a beauty magazine event

I tagged along with a fellow newspaper journalist to a magazine event the other night. A women’s beauty magazine no less, but obviously the word smart is somewhere in the tag line, you know? Just to balance it all out.

In all honesty, I can’t even remember what the title of the affair was. Fragrance fantasy, sense-tastic something, something. Needless to say, in the heart of Sandhurst, in some pseudo-villa with the view of other pseudo-villas, I stood out like a sore thumb. No, worse, like an unfashionable sore thumb covered in warts that shouted “awkward”. If I draped a venetian blind over my nipples and went just like that I guess I probably would have fit in more. But I didn’t. I wore my comfy ninja shoes with the rubber soles, loose-fitting boyfriend jeans and a shirt that I bought at a Belville station from a Somalian trader. I didn’t mind the staring. I welcomed it. “Look, I said. Look all you want. Because I don’t do hot yoga and I still look this good in all my average garments.”

Inside the mansion was huge. Was it a house? A guesthouse? A hotel? Who lives like this, I thought. We waited and waited, and while I sat on the garden furniture tucked far away from the madding crowd I caught a glimpse of the “help”, readying themselves and preparing glass after glass of sparkling wine. What year is this, I thought.

Slowly, middle-aged women started flooding in. PR people, estate agents, people living out their Devil Wears Prada fantasies. About 100 of them all together. Kugel accents aplenty. The editor of the magazine, finally happy that the entrance hall was full enough started to talk. She used the words sensation and sense a lot. I stood in the corner next to a door that led to a room. The wind kept blowing it open and when it did, you could hear silly giggling on the inside and then someone would rush towards it and close it again. The third time this happened I literally looked inside, made eye contact and proceeded to roll my eye-balls hard. In full view. “What did I just do and why did I do it?”

Meanwhile the editor continued to share narrative from her life as child, why she for some reason thought all ginger-haired people smelt like cinnamon. She then stumbled over a Proust quote to emphasise her charming story and when she was done, we were all promised “a sensory experience of note”, where guests could wander from room to room and experience “smells, tastes and scents” (what?!) and where women could “choose to be surprised” (what again?!)

Separated into groups wearing red dots and blue dots, we were ushered into rooms with gold spray-painted branches tied with ribbons, bird houses with lilies sprouting out of them to name a few. Each room themed according to the fragrance, with alcohol and food to match. Sensory mod? Remember? The tiny tasteless plates of pretentiousness were devised by some famous chef. Clearly I am not cultured enough so I do not remember his name and clearly my cheap food palate does not appreciate the sophistication of a foie gras-induced menu. I was expected to eat chunks of tuna with tiny wooden tweezers forks made for dolls. I understand how to use my hands delicately; I am a musician, but this fork thing? I just could not do. I got bored. I gave up. I tried the crème brulee instead. Oh, yum, fancy custard with browned sugar on top. Let the curdling at the back of my throat begin. Clearly I was missing something?

Finally a waiter arrived with a non-alcoholic drinks tray. I could wash all this down with some water. Unfortunately it was not long before my hydration dreams were dashed when the waiter moved on after being harassed by questions from guests sitting close-by. “Is it tap water?” they asked. As though someone was about to force feed them bilharzia.

Naturally I did not understand the whining about the bad stitching on their Burberry coats or the appreciation for Tuscan-designed houses. I also did not understand the keen sense of enjoyment. And I felt sorry for the models. I wanted to feed them, give them books to read, something.

Is this what the “one percent” do for fun? My annoyance started to taper off and I began to feel really bad for these people with their money and their Land Rovers, with their bad postures from the heels they could not walk in and with their “oohing” and “ahing”. I felt bad because they were so oblivious. I had tasted this elite life for all of one, short evening and I did not like it. It tasted like the unseasoned duck liver lollipops that were being served. And if that is a culture or an experience of it, I am sort of glad that there’s only one percent who has it. Go forth with your crutches of distraction but don’t pretend like that’s not exactly what it is.

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