Kteer Jeune (Very Young)
by Natalie Naccache-Mourad
"Leave a girl without food or water, but don't deprive her of her make up, hair and
nails", states Lydia, a beautician at Papillon Rouge beauty salon in Moussaitbeh,
Originally famed for its wars and cuisine, Lebanon now has the reputation of having
the most beautiful women per capita in the world. The phrase "Kteer Jeune" means
"very young" in Arabic and French a theme which runs through the story. Both
languages are very prominent in Lebanon, emphasising the post-colonialism of the
country which is present everywhere. Females are brought up from a young age
influenced by their mothers, having beauty parties, teenagers and women having
regular beauty appointments. Every street in Beirut is populated with beauty salons,
which are not seen as pampering sessions, but a way of life in Lebanon, even for the
busiest of mothers and the poorest of people in society.
Maya Hilal, founder and owner of Spa-Tacular Salon and Spa, which opened
in July 2009, aims her business at children aged five and up. The idea was inspired by
her daughters' visits to the hairdressers, "it was a very bad experience, the place was
dull, there was no colour. So I thought, why don't I just do a place specifically for
them?" Hilal explained she was supplying a social demand and creating a cheerful
place for children "It's nice during holidays, during weekends, it's a pampering thing,
and a hygiene thing. It's the way you bring up your kids".
The First National Bank in Lebanon offers plastic surgery loans to women who are
under the age of 64 and employed - making plastic surgery accessible to almost every
one. Dr Paul Yazbeck, a practicing plastic surgeon in Beirut specialising in ears, nose
and throat, knew he wanted to become a plastic surgeon at the age of nine. When
asked if Arab women are increasingly losing their features, he stated they had no
distinct facial characteristics anyway. Lydia, of Papillon Rouge explained, "This
scheme benefits everyone, the bank because there are so many people willing, the
women benefit, and so do the doctors! Nowadays, if people want to go into a
successful career, they're advised to become a plastic surgeon".
With an increasing number of female teenagers undergoing Rhinoplasty operations,
Carine Halaby, 17, fell into the craze, "everyone did it this summer, they came back
to school with band aids on their nose. So I said ok, I hate my nose too, it's ok if I did
it, it's not a big deal". Her mother Diana, commented, "you have a lot of pressure here,
and I don't think we're happy, you have to follow the majority, it's a lack of
personality some people have. When I travel abroad, I don't care, I get into my shorts
and t-shirt, and I feel so happy, but here in Lebanon, I care, and I don't know why".
Samia Makarem, 71, does yoga exercises everyday and eats healthily - although she
admits she has a sweet tooth - and has never dyed her hair. She was recently
pressured by her daughter to undergo Botox injections above her eyelids because "she
frowned too much at people".
As Lebanese women grow older, these social expectations do not change. Maya Hilal
states, "I'm not encouraging anything, the new generation is in anyway, no matter
what we do, they are born much more aware, much more alert, and much more grown
up so whatever we do, we're not going to slow anything down".