It goes by many names, but whatever you call it, it is bound to leave you
feeling a bit more... special. Henna is an herbal dye derived from the leaves
of the henna plant (Lawsonia inermis). Applying henna to the hands and feet
is a tradition that goes back mellenia in many parts of the world, especially
the Middle East and South Asia. In recent years, henna (and commonly called mehendi in South Asian languages) gained popularity in the United States.
Key word here is herbal. Many people are skeptical about henna because
they may have had a bad experience at a theme park or the boardwalk. Unfortunately, that was most likely a chemical (synthetic) dye marketed as henna. Real henna is safe, and conversely, it has purported therapeautic effects, both for the person getting it done and the artist.
I've been doing henna for many years. Like, no seriously, many. In fact, my highschool yearbook's opening page was a picture of me skipping class to do henna on a friend. Good memories. I continued doing henna well into college and afterwards, where I monopolized on DC's many embassies and university events, and gained the not-so-creative moniker, the Henna Man. I became equally at home for large, outdoor events or intimate gatherings (like weddings and babyshowers). The henna cone became my travel buddy as I went around the world, and it helped me create many bonds with perfectly good strangers while waiting for late-night trains in remote hill stations. Yet, where and whenever I did henna, certain questions were always bound to be asked:
1) Do you do the same designs over and over?
I always tell people that my henna designs are like snowflakes - no two were ever the same. Sure, there are the usual paisleys and swirls, but the intricacies that go into them are always different, and the overall composition is dependent on the person's hands and my mood at the moment. The reason being henna is a therapeutic activity for me. I basically let myself unwind in the henna's vines and the palm's lines; many times telling stories or listening to them from my clients, details of which find itself entering the designs I do. Preset templates are just not my thing.
2) Can I get it done around my belly button?
3) You're a guy. Isn't it odd doing henna?
There were many aunties that giggled the first time they saw me do henna. Yet, they got over it as soon as their daughter's beautified hands or their own proved that art has no gender division. In fact, being one of the few guys doing henna was always a boon for me - in large events, people are attracted to oddities more so than to normalities. Plus... snowflakes.
4) Can I hire you?
Why yes, of course :)
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