A few months after my son was born, a neighbour of ours alerted the Welcome Wagon, a representative of which arrived, breathless at my door with a package of samples and coupons, a clipboard for checking off my name and a tissue-paper lined basket full of tiny knitted hats from which (my son no longer an infant) I was to choose the biggest. Following that brief visit, a cosmetics company lady contacted me by e-mail to arrange a free pampering and a goddess-on-the-go makeup trial. I don’t know if you’ve ever felt this, but for me there are some words in the English language that make me cringe and the liberal use of pampering and goddess as applied to my post-pregnancy self, while still nursing and cooped up as winter dragged on outside, were some of those words. Vocabulary aside, I accepted.
The lady pulled up in an SUV and hauled out the equivalent of a carry-on suitcase from the back. She was short and wore a long faux leopard print coat that I hung on a wooden hanger in our entryway. She was middle age but fought it back with shiny eye shadow and a sharp burgundy hairstyle. We set up on the dining room table. She had a flimsy plastic tray with rounded indents where she squirted a bit of each of the skin-care products she wanted me to try. There was a three-in-one cleanser, and cream and a powder foundation applied with a cotton ball she had supplied. I looked at myself in the tiny plastic mirror angled upwards in front of me, attached to a plastic base with the flimsy tray insert. There was eye cream and then easy makeup in tones meant to compliment the colour of my eyes so that I end up having shiny eye shadow like hers and deep red lips and rosy cheekbones. She recited package deals from a laminated sheet in a chirpy voice like an awkward poem. I bought the powder foundation and a brush to apply it with.
While she put things away, we tried to talk and she asked if I’d be interested in selling products for this company founded to empower women. But I’m terrible at sales and being recruited made me sad. When she left I sent a selfie to my sister for laughs.
At the same time I got a little obsessed trying to figure out a skin care routine that was more sophisticated than the wash-with-bar-soap and hydrate-with-cream routine I’d followed since I was a teenager. I decided to buy the whole skin care package from a website I found called Paula’s Choice. It arrived in the mail with helpful numbered stickers you could apply to the assortment of bottles the kit included; cleanser, toner, exfoliant, retinol treatment, daytime moisturizer, night-time moisturizer and a mask to be applied weekly. I’ve come to like it, I’ve adopted this twice-daily routine and find it comforting now.
I’ve read about chic ladies who, à la française, pick cosmetics based on the pretty packaging, or others who inherit habits from fair-skinned mothers and deftly mix high-end products with common pharmacy store finds. Some women can make a hobby out of experimentation and others enjoy the advice they find in thick magazines – the ones I usually find intimidating. I envy those women their flair. So while I write about this solution I’ve found for myself, the ease and the confidence I feel using it, it’s like a secret happiness, a far too practical approach, the surrender of something of my je-ne-sais-quoi.