The air is accented with the scent of cooking onions, ripe fruit and the impenetrable local dialect. I am in Ballarò. Scooters brush past my legs, hot and smelling of petrol. I could buy whatever I wanted here: electric fans, coffee machines, knock off watches, shower heads. As well as fresh fish, fruit, vegetables and dried goods. Dirty hands wrap onions in paper, throw fish guts into boxes on the floor and take cash happily.
But I have discovered another side to this market. One that isn’t obvious. Nor is it mentioned in the guidebooks. Or at least not the ones I have seen. A hidden world. Yes. You have guessed it. The world of eyebrow management.
With the sun beating down sunglasses were – don’t forget we are in Italy – obligatory. Having jumped wholeheartedly into this aspect of Italian culture my sunglasses were large and dark. I am essentially just a chin and a big head of hair these days.
The young guy – perhaps the grandson of the two old fellers who run the vegetable stall – approached, asking what I wanted. For a while I was engrossed in what sort of tomatoes I should buy and then I looked up. And it dawned on me. He tended to his eyebrows more carefully that I. Wow. Thank heavens for the ridiculous sunglasses. The blood drained from my face as I realised I am letting myself go. Past 30 and not giving a damn. My cheeks burned. My bushy brows tingled. I paid and left, heart a flutter. My eyebrows would have fluttered too, and for once I was grateful for Palermo’s heavy, breezeless air.
While walking home I took stock. I saw that in fact all of the young men in the area had immaculate brows. Shamed, I threw myself into the nearest cosmetics shop and bought some tweezers. A new regime, I promised myself. A new beginning. Let the youth of Ballarò be my style guide from now on!
Needless to say, the new tweezers are still unwrapped, sitting by my sink. I am 30 and don’t give a damn. And I have soup to make.