My dear hetero menfolk, whether you’re sharing an apartment with your sister, a female roommate, or have just taken the momentous decision to move in with your partner, sharing your space with a woman generally means giving up your space. At first you may think, “Ummm, no friend Bobo, it means we’ll be sharing our space, some space for my things and some for hers.”
Think again. Women have a lot of things, and have very particular ideas as to how spaces ought to work. There simply isn’t enough room for the two of you and your possessions. If your female roomie doesn’t like your stuff, or sees no inherent value in it, it will be consigned to your room/study, the basement/garage or the rubbish tip.
I’m not trying to paint myself as the definitive authority on female behaviour. In fact, I’ve been told that I exude a certain masculine energy, a statement that makes perfect sense since I’m a Libra.a But I’m still a woman, and I have plenty of female friends, most of whom are more feminine than I am, and couple that are not. I have a good general idea of some typical female habits and traits, as well as some atypical ones. With this comes a certain familiarity with the terrain that makes up the womanly space, and the reasoning behind it. Again, I’ll emphasise the generality of this knowledge—I’m not saying that every woman is going to be this way, own these accoutrements, do these things, and be quite as rigorous about it, but I’m quite certain that a lot of them might.
A caveat before I continue: this is not an essay on gender theory. If you want to be academic about it, these observations are all the product of centuries of socialised gender roles that are at the root of what we now think of as male and female behavioural norms. I’m not going to go into that. It’s not that it isn’t a fascinating topic, it’s just that I selfishly wanted to write something that was entertaining to read because I want to be popular.
Part the First – “Counter Space”
Whether her hair is long or short, you can bank on one thing—women will own plenty of hair-related possessions. There’s the blow-drier and its diffuser; at least two round brushes in different sizes and one flat brush, a wide toothed comb and a teasing comb; the straightener; the curling iron; the curlers; dozens of clips, some of which are to be worn in public, and some of which are just to be used to keep different sections of hair separate while she laboriously blow dries it. She may not own every item on the list, but she’ll have a few of them.
A very bare bones kit owned by some bitch whose hair is probably really manageable. Yes, I am jealous.
Then of course there are the ubiquitous elastic bands (called hair-ties by some)—these come in varying widths and myriad colors. I personally prefer mine to be somewhat thicker in width and in colors that blend in with my hair, like brown or black.
Ever seen a sock-bun before? This will turn your boring ponytail into…
this amazing doughnut-looking thing!
No discussion of hair is complete without a nod to bobby pins. If you’ve spent a decent amount of time with any woman, you will have come across a bobby pin. You probably just had no idea what it was at the time. Bobby pins are very useful tools, used to help maintain the integrity of many a hair-do. Women will occasionally fashion their hair into some sort of elaborate design atop their heads using nothing but these pins to hold it in place. When not in use for incredible feats of engineering, they will be scattered all over the place. They can be found on the coffee table, the living room floor, the bedside table, and on the washbasin in the bathroom. If this random array of metallic slivers irks you, be a gent and collect them all, consolidating them in a small pile on the dresser drawer.
Onto hair products. Women generally love “products” and will use them for every single part of their body (see below). Their hair and scalp are no exception. There is an Arabic saying that loosely translates to “a woman’s hair is her crown.” Any woman who cares for her appearance will pay a great deal of attention to her hair, and that means maintaining its integrity: taming its frizz; trimming its split ends; covering its greys; cultivating its volume and shine; and ridding it of dandruff.
Pivotal items most women will have in their bathroom include shampoo and conditioner. Not just any old shampoo and conditioner though. Women scan the hair-care aisle of the drug store, much like a terminator robot sent from the future, to find exactly the right kind of hair products. And there’s plenty to choose from these days. Every single brand releases a product range catered to specific types of hair: women with dry, damaged or frizzy hair like to go for deeply moisturising products; those who complain that their hair is limp and greasy, lacking in body and shine, opt for volumising shampoos that don’t over-moisturize; if she’s recently dyed your hair and is afraid of the colour leaching out while she showers, colour-maintenance products are available by the shade; etc. Then there are organic shampoos, non-foaming shampoos, and about a hundred scents and compositions to choose from.
Imagine that those are shampoo and conditioner bottles in Arnold’s arms, not a dismembered robot and an artillery gun.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. Level 2 is the post-shower hair maintenance routine. This requires treatments such as leave-in conditioners; deep-moisturizing hair treatments; smoothing sprays for frizz-free blow dries; mousse or balm for perfect curls; dry shampoo for those days when her hair is greasy but she doesn’t have time for a proper wash; gel for the wet look; and wax for manipulating shorter hair. If a woman does more advanced things with her hair, such as setting it in whimsical up-dos a massive can of hairspray is a must.
But let’s not lose sight of the forest for the trees—the thing you will notice the most with respect to this particular aspect of living with a woman, is the hair itself. Like your beloved family pet, women shed, some in more abundance than others. You’ll mainly notice this in the bathroom. It’ll be all over the tub, in the soap, on the walls, and on the floor. The shower drain will clog about every five months and on clearing it you’ll find a sickening bolus comprised of soap scum and hair. If you take a close look at her brushes, you’ll see that a thick film of hair coats the interstices between the bristles. She probably really enjoys yanking out that vast quantity of hair every few months and balling it up to create a hairy tumbleweed. I know I do.
A magnificent hairy ball.
As I mentioned above, women are very partial to “products.” To illustrate, an anecdote: a friend was went off on a short holiday to Italy with her boyfriend. As they were packing to go home, he decided he could kick back after chucking his clothes into his carry-on. Dismayed, she pointed to the bathroom and said, “honey, we’re not done yet, there’s still all our toiletries to put away.” He forthwith took her into the bathroom to conduct a survey of their respective possessions. The tally came to 22 various toiletry-related items for her against two of his—his toothbrush and the toothpaste they’d been using. To be fair, he had piggybacked on her shampoo and shower gel, but the jury’s out as to whether or not he had used her conditioner, face wash, and oil-free moisturiser.
I have one girlfriend that’s the total opposite. Her main transgression against womanhood, and herself, is her refusal to use moisturiser after washing her face—and she has incredibly dry skin. I call it a “transgression” because this lax facial care routine has gone on so long that her skin is flaking. I constantly beseech her to get on the moisturiser train, or use a facial cleanser that’s gentler on her face. She admits that I may be right and that she should take better care of her skin as she ages, and yet she persists in her careless, dry-skinned ways.
Straight men that happen to use my bathroom often express wonder at the number of toiletries and related items I possess. These include a ridiculous-looking shower cap, a foot-smoothing device, a colourful loofah, a razor, an exfoliating facial cleanser, shower gel (which doubles as shaving cream for me), shampoo, conditioner, an intensely moisturising over-night leave-in hair treatment, a feminine hygiene gel b and bar soap. If a guy were to open the bathroom cabinet, he’d find about 37 more items, not to mention two bags about to burst at the seems with makeup. And I consider myself pretty tame on the product dependency front.
My sister’s main weakness is the skin-care sector. Her skin is sensitive and prone to breakouts, as such she’s particularly careful about it. This means regular facials (the lucky goose!). Facials with a skilled practitioner at a nice spa can set you back quite a bit. But even worse, when you come out of there glowing like an angel, there is a lot of incentive to buy whatever product your skin therapist happens to be pushing that week. Some of these turn out to be great, others are bogus; they’re all rather expensive. Without fail, my sister always returns from her appointments with a fancy new vial of anti-oxidizing serum or brightening gel to tuck into her bathroom cabinet. I spend about a fifth of what she spends on face care, and yet in my bathroom cabinet I currently have (and in my defense, use): a gentle daily cream cleanser; day cream (with sun protection); a “brightening” roll-on eye gel; night cream; a “regenerating” eye gel for the evenings; an acid-based exfoliating/hydrating cream; and a tea-tree oil blemish stick. There is a slew of other face care products in my cabinet that I’ve retired for various reasons, but don’t have the heart to throw away yet. The pay-off? This painstaking routine has kept my skin soft and largely zit free, and I am very happy about it.
Then of course, there are lotions—hand lotions, cuticle creams, foot lotions, body lotions. Some men use lotions too I’ve gathered, but probably not in the same obsessive fashion that lotion-loving women do.c There’s more to add to the list—various masks and facial treatments; deodorant (of course) makeup remover; cotton pads; Q-tips; nail polish remover; sanitary pads; tampons; panty liners…even my mind is a little boggled by this inventory.
The main lesson here is that in any given household, the females of the house will most likely dominate the counter and shelf-spaces of the bathroom. And yes, all these things are absolutely pivotal and no, we won’t throw them out. d
Makeup and Perfume
Makeup. Makeup. Makeup.
Makeup is the bogeyman of the male/female divide. Most men claim to prefer it when women don’t wear makeup. These men understand nothing about what makeup does. What these no-makeup proponents in fact find appealing is a technique of makeup application called the “natural look.” This look generally consists of earth tones around the eyes, if any eye shadow is to be used at all; parsimonious lipstick application in natural hues; subtle mascara and just a touch of eyeliner, if any. Of course, no makeup application routine is complete without a dab of concealer around the eyes and on blemishes and a dash of blush. To be in any way convincing, all this is to be done in an understated fashion. To nay-sayers, all I can say is: unless she is an extremely well-rested, well-hydrated raw-foodist with flawless skin and excellent genes, past a certain age a woman can’t leave the house without makeup and not risk looking like a zombie. It’s tragic, but largely true. e
By the time most women who are inclined to wear makeup—and not all do—reach their mid-twenties, they will have accumulated a sizeable makeup kit, some components of which they use on a daily basis, some of which are collecting dust. To wit: various makeup brushes and blush brushes—these come in different sizes and shapes to fulfil various vital functions; multiple mascara wands; eyeliners in various colours and formats, i.e. liquid versus powder versus pencils; an eyebrow pencil if her eyebrows are light or patchy; eye shadows, in about a dozen colours, some garish, some not so much; foundation(s), primer, concealer and a matting powder; blush and bronzer; lipsticks and lip glosses in about nine different shades; and possibly a small collection of favourite nail varnishes.
For some women, makeup is a lot of fun. They enjoy the dramatic transformation that a bit of time, focus, and pigmentation can create. They’ll try out new products and looks and often watch makeup tutorials online. It takes skill to pull more dramatic looks off and not look like a hooker or an extra in a Tim Burton film. Other women think it’s a hassle and have no patience for it. But little containers containing makeup products and brushes and whatnot are something you’ll come across in any woman’s abode. Woe betide him that happens to throw one of these away should he decide to be proactive about housework. I have eye shadows handed down to me by my mom eight years ago—and I still use them on occasion. Check before you chuck, and never begrudge your lady friend those extra five minutes in front of the mirror getting her liquid eyeliner flicks just right.
Perfume is another divisive issue. Being Arab, I come from a culture where the use of perfumes and colognes by either sex is widespread, and walking out of the house sans parfum, particularly if you happen to be all dressed up, just feels wrong. But these olfactory enhancements, particularly the more artificial or saccharine ones, niggle at many a nose. Arabs are the number one offender at over-doing it when applying perfume, assaulting noses in elevators all over the globe. Sorry, World. But I really do love a subtle floral or herbal scent, and can’t really leave the apartment without spraying a favourite perfume in the air and walking through the mist.
Most women—those with allergies and sensitivities aside—will own several perfumes or scents, and will have either selected them with care or received them as gifts. They too take up a chunk of counter-space. But there may be some square footage left over for your deo-spray.
It’s a lot, right? Women spend a lot of money on these things and they take up pretty much all the space in the bathroom and on the tops of dressers in bedrooms. But that’s the mysterious reason as to why it is that women feel, look, and smell so damn good. Where does all your stuff go? You will most likely be assigned a tasteful, canvas-lined wicker basket for your toiletries, to be tucked under the bathroom sink.
- I’m going to have to get into my fascination with the zodiac in a little more depth later. Just know that it is there and I am somewhat mildly ashamed of it but not really. (back)
- Something my “fake-y” handbag friend turned me onto, introducing it to me as “pussy shampoo.” (back)
- In fact, men use lotions to moisturise their face, which is so wrong on so many levels. (back)
- One couple I know that live in a pretty spacious 2-bedroom flat in Canada Water (London, Zone 2 I think) have split the bathrooms in the flat—one for her, and one for him. Makes sense I guess. (back)
- Not really. I’ve begun to feel that way about myself, but I know plenty of women who only wear makeup occasionally, and they don’t look like they’re fit to join the ranks of the walking dead. Please note: often exaggerate my opinions and make sweeping generalisations when I write for comic effect. (back)