Ursula owns a beauty salon. It’s a successful business, and she’s proud to have built it up from nothing into something that not only pays her a good wage, but pays for two other full-time employees as well. She’s not only good at massage and painting nails – although she is good at those things – she’s also a gifted saleswoman.
She remembers everything about her clients’ relationships. She knows who’s on Tinder, who’s been with their partner for years but isn’t yet married, who’s recently had a baby, who has a crush on the lifeguard at the local pool.
Does she exploit that knowledge?
She prefers to think of it as doing her customers a favour.
She usually brings it up when they’re in a vulnerable position – just waking up from having drifted off during a back and shoulder massage, or as she has their hand in hers, gently rubbing in hand cream before she paints their nails a delicate pink.
‘How’s your boyfriend?’ she asks, slyly, or ‘Is your husband well?’ The response is almost always the same – muted mutterings about how things could be worse, could be better.
And then she prefers to be direct. ‘When did you last get waxed?’ she asks. ‘He’d like that, wouldn’t he, if you went home all clean and smooth? What a nice treat for him!’
Her clients wonder how she knows that it’s been ages, or even never. That the best they ever do is a quick swipe of an old Gillette razor on a Sunday evening.
‘I have a spare half an hour now, if you have time,’ she says, and it works, well, probably 80% of the time.
It works because they look at her, with her neat chignon and her false lashes, and her white starched dress, and they imagine her immaculate underneath, too.
Which is untrue. Ursula has never waxed in her life.