Being a chaplain at a college with an extensive health and beauty department means that there’s little excuse to neglect my personal grooming. But I admit it: my nails are chewed, my heels are cracked and now the winter’s here, thick tights cover the hobbit-like hair on my legs.
Watching myself on the telly the other week, the camera zoomed in. I saw my face loom large across our flat screen, and noticed my eyebrows were getting a bit out of control.
So, I booked in with the lovely Jade (level 2 beauty) for a wax and a pluck. I’ll confess, I’m a wuss and will do everything to avoid pain. The last time I had my eyebrows plucked, I slapped the hand of the girl doing it (I ended up tipping her a tenner).
Jade was already nervous and my anxiety wasn’t helping. She wrapped me in a fleece blanket and turned up the Mystical Sound of the Dolphins of the Rainforest Pan Pipe CD (or whatever it was) to help me relax.
We began with the obligatory consultation about what I wanted and what Jade thought would be best. I laid back. There’s been a fashion recently for eyebrows to be drawn on. There’s also something called the “Scouse Brow”. Jade told me that lots of her friends are having their eyebrows tattooed on; she seemed to think it was a bad idea, mostly because she’d no longer get any appointments for eyebrow-shaping.
I looked Jade in the eye and said: “I’d like them to look natural, please.” Jade nodded and smiled and looked like she understood. But it wasn’t long before I realised I might not have emphasised the word “natural” as much as I should have. I filled in my feedback form, thanked Jade, paid and left. I suppose they will grow back. To be honest, they are not that bad – I won’t need to draw them on. But it did hurt, the skin is red and my husband stifled a giggle when I got in.
Of course, style goes in cycles. The young women of today are just doing their own take on the Elizabeth Taylor-esque brow. However, I couldn’t help but feel that Jade had listened to, but not heard, me. It’s a familiar feeling when we work with our young people.
I do wonder what Jade’s take was on the morning’s events. I suspect as I left, she shook her head and thought how much better I would have looked if only I’d listened to her. I think Jade probably said: “You know, that chaplain listened to me, but she didn’t hear me.”
The customer may always be right, but consultation goes both ways. Hearing, listening and communicating are not one-sided and in any discourse every contributor brings their own opinion. Of course, in an eyebrow pluck it’s the poor sap with the eyebrows who carries them around, but perhaps Jade was right: maybe I could have done with just a little more off round the edges.
Rev Kate Bottley is chaplain of North Nottinghamshire College @revkatebottley