‘How old are you?’
‘OK,’ I think to myself.
‘What a rude question,’ would be an appropriate answer. Or ‘That’s a rather impertinent question!’ Or, ‘Why don’t you guess?’ But these are not at all suitable at the moment, for the question was asked by my beautician Nox. My face is carefully wrapped in gauze and covered in a very cold cream. I suspect that I resemble a mummified Easter egg, or Hannibal Lector. Maybe I should take a picture. But things that seem funny at first glance, are often not funny at all afterwards. Although, I read that someone in 2002 added (in French) to a handling label of an American-manufactured laptop: ‘We are sorry that our president is an idiot - we did not vote for him.’ It was funny, even after a while.
I keep quiet, because it’s not very easy to talk through gauze and also, imagine that Nox really feels an uncontrollable urge to guess my age. Simply because she’s always very good at it. At guessing I mean. She guesses that I’m five years older than I really am, and that I then have to tell her my true age. After that she might be so disappointed that I’m the one comforting her instead of vice versa. She cradles her snotty face in my lap and sobs ‘I'm always righ-hight, and now I can’t even do this any-mohore.’ And while her braided bouffant stings my nose, we also resume our previously talk. That she originates from a big city where she went to school and that she relocated to this village in the mountains close to work. No, it's not a nice village at all, but returning to the big city probably won’t be easy. She’s afraid she will be stuck in this desolate village in the mountains forever where she will marry a villager (who wears only sandals and you will be confronted with those calloused heels to for the rest of you life). But I am making this up because that would be a nightmare for me. What she doesn’t want to do is marry this villager and quite frankly she isn’t really sold on this beauty salon idea either.
It’s all very sad and the question always is how to bring the conversation back to a normal, more relaxed level. To interrupt, in the midst of her misery and say, ‘OK, back to treating of my face,’ might be jumping the gun.
So I tell her my age as fast as time flies. Also I'm not all that good with snot when I'm not an arm’s length away from the Wet Wipes.
The dreaded response doesn’t come. Nox laughs very loudly when I tell her my age. She says it’s still very young and that the state of my face in relation to my age is not that bad and then she prescribes a litany of creams on a piece of paper. I do find this most inconsistent, but I keep quiet (again), because why would you ruin the initial message.