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BAH-BOM-BAH: Style as a form of self-expression by Melissa Nazareth

Over the past year, a schoolmate from Bahrain and I have rekindled our friendship and bonded over coffee, books, and lipsticks. During one of our conversations, we happened to discuss our cringe-worthy dress sense or lack thereof, as teenagers.

“My mum made me wear horse blankets,” she said, frowning. I, in turn, shared my plight of having had to, more often than not, wear a size bigger, thanks to my mum’s committed dislike towards ‘fitting’ clothes. Even when it came to grooming, we were encouraged to go au naturel. While our mums meant well, I remember feeling like the odd one out when my friends showed up with well-shaped eyebrows and legs as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Putting a #OOTD (as it’s now referred to) together was a task for me while the other girls and boys seemed to do it effortlessly. Over time, I developed a poor self-image despite being an emotionally well-balanced person. This continued well into early adulthood.

My mum made me wear horse blankets,” she said, frowning. I, in turn, shared my plight of having had to, more often than not, wear a size bigger, thanks to my mum’s committed dislike towards ‘fitting’ clothes.

Around the same time last year, I read about a beauty parlour in Bombay that caters to children – boys and girls. According to the tabloid, many parents host their kids’ birthday parties here as a one-off treat or bring their cubs here once in a while to relax and rejuvenate with manicures, pedicures, massages, hair styling and more, all using zero-chemical, herbal and natural products. The very next day, after the article was published, the said tabloid carried a string of letters to the editor stating why it’s wrong to allow children to root their self-esteem in grooming and styling treatments. I for one think this was a one-track mind reaction.

After all, inculcating the importance of being well-groomed and presentable doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive to raising emotionally well-balanced humans. In fact, grooming, like basic hygiene, is an important part of personality development. If my memory serves me right, there is a parlour in the same vein tucked away on the topmost floor of Ramli Mall in Bahrain. The idea is for mums and their little girls to enjoy some grooming time together.

I’m not saying that children must be dragged to a parlour or be taught A for Alexander McQueen, B for Bottega Veneta… but it’s important to stop labeling grooming and styling as corrupters of children’s minds.

Tom Ford said, ‘Dressing well is a form of good manners.’ Children are constantly, consciously or sub-consciously, exploring their individuality and looking for ways to express themselves. Who is to say that style isn’t a great platform for self-expression? Why must it not be encouraged? I’m not saying that children must be dragged to a parlour or be taught A for Alexander McQueen, B for Bottega Veneta… but it’s important to stop labeling grooming and styling as corrupters of children’s minds. Instead, these are lessons that must be introduced to young people in regulated doses. It took my friend and me 30 years to form our personal opinions on beauty and style, and every day we continue to unlearn and relearn. It’s hard work, looking fresh and fabulous. But hey, somebody’s got to do it!


Melissa Nazareth, Born in Bahrain, Melissa Nazareth lived on the island for three decades before moving to Bombay. Though miles away, she finds ways to connect to her first home. @melnazareth @melissanazareth

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