What’s Worse?

By CJ Vallis

Art by Nanci Li @nlianderthal


Im compiling a list. I want to ask the woman beside me in a black plastic cape, Whats worse than a hairdressing appointment?

But her head is full of alfoil strips. Shes glued to OK! magazine, and deaf to the background buzz, the whirr of clippers and 1000-watt hair dryer, to water sloshing down an acrylic wash basin. Not in a conversational mood.

I would like her as a friend. That strong profile, her big nose and jutting chin. Shes got a diamond stud above her lip which looks like an ironic beauty spot. I lean over to see what celebrity gossip shes cramming.

Ah, Kim Kardashianphotoshopped!I blurt. No way shed fit those pants after giving birthI say a bit louder.

Diamond Stud clocks me, Yeah, right,exchanges a smile with the skinny hairdresser via the mirror, and returns to Kardashian gossip.

Im an idiot.

Skinny checks her foils. Big night out?

Sort of.

Professional as pie, she turns to me, Well get you started in a tic.

Both head out back for a ciggie. Goodie-goodie me doesn’t smoke. They leave me with the mirror, mirror on the wall. I don’t ask who’s the fairest of them all. I am no wicked queen, no Angelina Jolie. Even with my long, frizzy hair hanging over it, you can see the scald on my left cheek that runs down my neck.

Young Diamonds purple-streaked silver hair, on the other hand, is an experiment rather than a chore. She sits in New Canterbury Salon, as if its an art gallery, rather than a shop to get your hair dressed and done,while I feel like a lobster in a tank about to be boiled again.

The mirror reminds me Im of little or no interest to Diamond. I am scar tissue. Bet I could surprise her. Make a joke of whats worse: Pap smear, dental check-up or a hairdressing appointment?

Id tell her. At least the doctor wont ask about your weekend over your open cervix. Of course, its awkward when a doctor inserts a cold metal speculum and says, “Almost done, just a few more seconds while we take a swab.” Your scrapings are on a slide and on their way to a lab just as soon as you pull up your undies.

Diamond would agree a pap smear once every three years is easier than a six-monthly dental checkup. All that poking around your teeth, sucking out saliva, making gums bleed. The reminders to floss. Plus if you get a tooth drilled and filled, you have to get a loan or extend your credit card limit.

No, shell think Im a loon.

I get a text from my sister Deborah. Both Diamond and Skinny rush back to check their phones. See? Im in demand, even if the message is: “Where are you? Im at the RPA.”

Sorry forgot.” Out of sisterly duty, I also text, “Next time? Im at home,” then add another item to my worst-ever list. Birth Centre information evening. What gave Deborah the idea Id be a useful support person? Me? Holding her hand, rubbing her back, and coaching her breathing? Ill never push a babys bowling-ball head through my canal, or tear my lips for its delivery. Not with this face. Deborah is better off with laughing gas.

A laugh would help now. Skinny gets down to business. Bleach and toner bite into my scalp. This will take ages, much longer than a pap test and dental appointment combined. Still, Ive escaped the RPA.

Im not supposed to say, How about that article. About Kim checking her vagina with a mirror after leaving hospital For a moment, Ive disordered their worlds. Their faces twitch to attentionI, person-of-no-interest is talking about a Kardashian orifice. “Weird how she says its more beautiful than beforehand.

Diamond inspects my face. Im tempted to ask if she thinks I’m a freak. Or to follow up with, “By the way, hows your vagina hanging?”

Finally, she smiles. She so had a Caesar.

Thats better.