Forget the lesbian business. What is really disturbing about Ana Brnabic is that she wears no lipstick or eyeliner.
I feel sorry for Serbian MPs. Yes, you heard it right. I do feel sorry for them.
No wonder President Aleksandar Vucic had a hard time apparently, convincing MPs from his Progressive Party to vote in Ana Brnabic as Prime Minister.
It is bad enough for them that she is a woman. It’s even worse that she apparently feels no physical attraction for that hairy mythical beast, the Serbian Male.
It’s even worse, again – if it’s possible to get any worse – that she disobeys Serbian Woman’s Rule No 1 – she wears absolutely no makeup.
To those who have never lived in Serbia, as I did for seven years, I must explain.
Just as in Saudi Arabia, no woman is allowed to leave the house without a guardian, in Serbia, no woman is allowed out of the house with a full coating of foundation, lipstick and eyeliner.
I know this from personal experience, having shared a flat in Belgrade in the 1990s for three years with Type A (the standard variety) Serbian Woman called Milica.
Not only did Milica never leave the house without her armour plating, no living soul even inside the house saw her without it on, either.
Each day, somewhere before dawn, drugged with sleep, I would hear the bathroom door close and the shower faucet being turned on.
That was just the start of an hour-long ordeal of washing, scrubbing and painting, at the end of which she would emerge, amid clouds of steam, looking triumphant, glamorous and ready for the world.
Ah, you say, that is because she had to: she was an airhostess or the front manager for a high-end hotel.
Well, no, actually, she had a very modest sales job in some obscure corner of Belgrade. I very much doubt her colleagues’ opinions on the subject were the real motive for this regime.
Ah, well, you say, she relaxed at the weekends, right?
Wrong! Despite the fact that Milica’s weekends seemed to involve nothing more exciting than taking a bus to Obrenovac to see her parents, grandparents – and give various ailing aunts tonics, back massages and reflexology – I never saw her get on that bus looking any less immaculate than she did from Monday to Friday.
Ah well, you say, she was extreme – a freak. Not at all. I can’t say I never ever met a Serbian woman without makeup; the women in the markets didn’t seem to bother with it – but I can say I met very few.
I was also struck by how determinedly they maintained standards in this department even in the most extreme situations.
This struck me especially after a family of refugees from the Knin area moved into the flat next door. They had literally fled Croatia with a couple of suitcases and, a day or two after they arrived, Milica and I went round with a cake by way of commiseration.
The mother was delighted by our humble gesture. “My daughters will love this!” I recall her saying. “And where are they?” I asked. “In the bathroom – doing their makeup,” she answered.
“Fine, we’ll wait till they come out,” I continued. “Oh, I wouldn’t bother doing that!” the mother rejoined. “They’ll be in there for hours.”
I was astonished – it seemed kind of beside the point to me – putting on makeup. Why? Who for?
But Milica nodded knowingly, pleased to see the sacred rules of Serbian womanhood being upheld, even now.
I left Serbia many years ago and lost contact with Milica. But I imagine, if she’s been watching the news, that the lipstick and eyeliner-free appearance of her new PM has filled her with dismay.
As for me, I feel I don’t know Serbia any more. A Serbian woman who doesn’t even know what Maybelline is – or care? What’s the world coming to?
By Marcus Tanner
(Balkan Insight, 22.06.2017)
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