Souvenirs from the other side of the moon

On pure impulse, I accompanied a colleague who went to a 5th Avenue cosmetics store. She was going to get a make over and freebies were also available for a friend. Since the person she really wanted to invite was out of town, I ended up being R’s “+1”.

Stanley, the poor man who ended up with me, must’ve been scandalized. He asked me what I did usually, and I said nothing. Rapidly revising his standards, he asked if I at least used a moisturizer, and I said sure – he asked me to name names, and I couldn’t. Stanley was a good sport though, and proceeded to cover my face with 16 layers (I counted) of stuff. He patiently described what each product was supposed to do, what was the best way to apply it, and so on. One of the many layers of stuff (apologies to those who understand these things – to me, it’s just “stuff”, some smelt nice, others not) had vitamins A, C and E. I almost said out loud, “oh, just like the 14th street subway station!” – but was too scared to open my mouth, or my eyes…

He complemented me on my “healthy skin”, and once on the length of my eyelashes. It was obvious that Stanley was a trooper and could work with whatever horrors fate threw his way. At one point, he used some whitish stuff to cover what he politely called a “blemish”. Is that the PC term we’re using for pimples now? I wondered what the point was – unless you put on enough layers to raise the rest of your face to the same height as your, er, “blemish”, the damn thing’s still going to stick out, isn’t it?

Meanwhile R was also getting her own face done, and making what looked like great chit-chat with her er, person. I am terrible at making chit chat with hair dressers and well, anyone in the “beauty” industry really. I make great chit chat with the security guard who checks my back-pack at the Donnell Library, with the lady who gives me my free newspaper at the subway and so on. But put me in front of a professional beautician, and I freeze. My attitude veers between abject guilt (“I am so very sorry to present my sorry, shabby hair / face / self before you”) and a sense of determined entitlement (“Your whole industry depends on people like me who don’t exfoliate enough or at all, so I refuse to let myself be intimidated by you!”).

In the absence of chatter, Stanley was able to finish in about 20-25 minutes. I thought about this friend of a friend, who allegedly wakes up an hour early every morning to blow dry her hair. I only recently discovered that there’s more to “blow dry” than mere blowing and drying – so I realize what this friend of a friend does is quite elaborate. An hour earlier? If I had that kind of time, I’d automatically start staying up an hour later at nights to read or watch an extra movie. I mentally calculated how long it might take me to do what a professional like Stanley was able to in 25 minutes – probably an hour. Maybe after 10+ years of practice, I could get down to his time (he mentioned he’d been doing this for 13 years) – but by then, I’ll be older and will need to put in more time to conceal random wrinkles and other “blemishes”.

I realized why women who deeply care about their looks don’t care about books or many of the other things I care about – it’s not because they’re not interested. It’s because they don’t have the time. If I were to ever take up this ‘looking good’ thing, I would have to overhaul my entire way of life – when I wake up, when I go to bed, what sort of things I carry around with me, what sort of container I carry these things in (the powers that be in the fashion industry will never allow ‘water proof backpack’ to become the “it” accessory) – everything I have or do now will have to go, to be replaced with an entirely different set of things.

At any rate, Stanley was done. He asked me how I though I looked, and I felt obliged to tell him I thought I looked great! And I suppose I did. (It lasted less than half an hour, as I ended up eating most of my make up – no I didn’t lick my face, but did have to eat lunch.) He asked me if I had questions, and both of us knew that there was no way I was going to buy all of the stuff he showed me, let alone ask him for pointers about how to go back home and become a DIY-beauty. I did buy a couple of things – some soap with beads in it (“to exfoliate”), because soap is something even I can use. And some eye thingamajiggy, as an attempt to convince Stanley and myself that without being overambitious, I would at least give this beauty thing my best shot.

So much for an afternoon’s venture to the bright side of the moon. It is too scary to consider a permanent relocation, but I feel adventurous enough from having had the guts to make that brief visit. And I have souvenirs to prove I did go there.


5 comments so far

  1. roots on

    heh, you are a laugh and a half.

  2. DoZ on

    Roots: Thank you!

  3. […] part of the world you hail from. My idea of pampering myself consists of washing my face with some fancy soap I purchased a few months ago. But my gut told me that this wouldn’t satisfy the massage-lady. So […]

  4. Vaishnavi on


    Have just discovered your blog and you’re a girl after my own heart. I feel like I’ve discovered a long lost friend, cliched as that might sound. It’s uncanny how much I was nodding along to the posts I read, in agreement and total understanding, that is. Wish u were in Chennai! Would’ve loved to meet u up 🙂

  5. booksmovieslife on

    Vaishnavi: thank you!

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