While in Hangzhou last weekend for a Chinese friend’s wedding, my Chinese husband John took me to a beauty salon on the West side of the city.
I wanted my hair washed and blow dried, just like I had told John days before over the phone. “I can’t seem to wash the oil out of my scalp,” I sighed. Had I chosen the wrong shampoo? Or was it that darned trickle of water from the showerhead at my Chinese inlaws home, which never seemed strong enough for a woman cursed with an oily scalp? I couldn’t tell anymore, but I did know one thing: “I desperately need a good wash.”
When we walked in, I knew we would ask for a good wash, that one must-have service of every beauty salon in China.
Suddenly, as my husband scanned the service list behind the counter, he gave me this funny, admiring smile, a smile that I have come to know over the years. I’ve seen it every time I returned home from the beauty salon to unveil my latest haircut, or whenever I’ve modeled a new piece of clothing or jewelry that John just adored. When he flashed that smile this time, I had a feeling he wouldn’t let this visit go with just a wash and blow-dry. “Why don’t you get some makeup done while you’re here?”
I cocked my head at John. “Makeup?”
“Nothing too heavy. Just something light, to make you look pretty.”
Makeup? Sure, we were attending a friend’s wedding this evening. But Chinese weddings are notoriously casual jeans and T-shirt affairs that never demanded formality, or especially a professional makeup session.
Then it occurred to me. That night, John and his middle school classmates had planned a reunion night out after the wedding at a karaoke bar. More than a week ago, John had mentioned it in passing: “I think my classmates are coming to the wedding just to see you.” It reminded me of something Susan, a fellow yangxifu, once said about what Chinese men want in a wife:
“depending on his level of vanity, he’ll want a wife who ‘presents well’ outwardly: pretty, well-educated (though not above him), and with good career prospects.”
“Is this about vanity?” I asked John, the “vanity” being that he wanted his wife – who everyone longed to see – to look as gorgeous as possible.
John blushed a little as he grinned at my question. “Vanity,” he confessed.
It may have been his vanity that started it, but my own vanity went along with him. So what if I hardly wear makeup? This woman will never pass up an opportunity for extra pampering at the salon. 😉
Has your husband ever asked you to do something in the name of vanity? Or, husbands, have you ever had your wife look more beautiful because of your own vanity?