My grandmother never used a facial cream of any sort and, at her passing at age 96, her face wore only the normal road map of life experience. In her mid-70s, my mom is only just beginning to look ‘mature.’
Last week on vacation in Carmel, I walked past a shop in which a man stood in the doorway behind a big bowl featuring a sign that read “Enjoy a Free Sample.” I thought it was a candy shop until I saw the beautiful jeweled soaps in the window and did a hard about-face. He smiled and handed me and my mom each an envelope of facial moisturizer. He asked, “Would you also like to sample our eye cream?” Well, why not?
He invited me to follow him. Uh oh…
Alejandro, a charming 29-year-old Argentinian, warned me not to fall in love with him, though I was free to fall in love with the products. I pointed to Guy through the open door and promised we were safe on the falling in love front. I mentioned charming?
He gently smoothed the tiniest spot of cream at the outside corner of one eye, oh so faintly dabbing at the sensitive under-eye skin. He fanned my face with a black Spanish lace fan and told me to let him know when the lotion penetrated the eye muscle. At first it felt cold and I felt confused—what would I feel? And then I felt it, a sensation akin to the tingle of peppermint lip balm.
He added just a drop of another cream on top of that and then showed me a mirror: I gasped at the noticeable difference between the lotioned left eye and the untreated right eye. I’ve never in my life seen a beauty product work so instantly. The poster behind Alejandro promised that this cream would be better than Botox—and it was.
To even things up Alejandro treated the other eye and explained that if I purchased these two creams, to be used just once a week at bedtime, I would receive a daily eye cream free. When I asked if the creams could do anything about the loose skin under my chin, he laughed, his salesman’s face cracking just a bit. What was my concern?
Truthfully, I haven’t been concerned about my eyes but I’ve been aware of that chin since Teen was in 1st grade. Reading a book side-by-side, he looked up at me and asked, “What’s that?”
Confused, I asked what he meant. He stabbed his little finger below my chin and exclaimed, “That! I don’t have one, do I?” Great. Thanks, kid. So let’s add that insecurity to the list.
Alejandro slathered another cream on my chin and neck. This was one felt wet, slimy even, but as he applied it, my smooth-talking salesman stumbled on his words. He confessed that I have beautiful skin, not one wrinkle (pretty good as I nudge my way toward 50…). He admitted that purchasing and using these creams now would not be restorative so much as preventative.
Then the one-two punch: the free-with-purchase eye cream would be a savings of $350! The two weekly creams would cost $500, but I would receive $850 in products. Sounds like a deal, right? Or a scam. Or, simply, like really expensive beauty products to soothe the insecurities of aging. The sales pitch continued: since I would use the creams only once a week, they would last a full year. $500 for a year’s worth of weekly lotion meant they cost only about $35-40 per month.
Except I’m not sure I spend more than $40 a year on lotion; $35-40 per month for facial cream would absolutely amount to an extravagant splurge.
Still, I waffled. If a product works, maybe it’s worth the splurge?
The kids confirmed that my eyes did, in fact, look different while Guy laughed at my new insecurity. No way were we going to spend $500 on lotions I hadn’t known I might need.
I valued Guy’s confirmation that, for me, for now, this wasn’t a worthy indulgence. And yet, for the rest of the day, I felt like I’d lost out. I wondered how Alejandro had seen me: did he see an edging-towards-50 woman, a woman of mature age? Or did he see the Me I see, young at heart and still young in face? Do I look older than I think I look? Would he have been able to accurately guess my age?
I had to work hard to silence the new crazy voices in my head. What does it matter how a stranger-salesman sees me? What does it matter even if I do look my age? While I may feel younger than I am, I’m also grateful for the lessons learned in my 20s, 30s, and now 40s. Aging is not a problem. Being needlessly insecure about aging would be a problem.
I didn’t lose out; rather, I gained a new insight, and it didn’t cost me a penny.