Today, while looking for a last-minute addition of small-portioned luxury to accompany the gift I bought for my lovely mother, I found myself standing in front of a cosmetics counter in a fancy department store, utterly bewildered.
I wear makeup. I'm often too lazy to bother with it, but I enjoy it when I do. I imagine myself to be relatively proficient with the various tubes, brushes, pigments, creams. But there is something stunning about a cosmetics counter. Unless you're armed with a specific desire (extremely specific: brand, hue, price, texture), the possible choices, the infinite stretches of tiny, shining containers filled with mysterious and minute variations on the same arsenal, turn themselves into a labyrinth.
Which is why I was standing and staring blankly at a glass case full of glass bottles when a stout man in a gray suit arrived behind me.
"Hello, dear," he said. "Is there anything I can help you with?" He was short, but very wide, and the separate pieces of his suit were all exactly the same color.
"Well..." He reached forward, possibly at random, and plucked a very small, silver tube off the counter. "This will give you perfect lips." He smiled and his teeth popped apart with the effort.
I've never been particularly concerned about my lips, never been dissatisfied with their lip-ness.
"This, my dear, will smooth them. It will brush away any dead cells, rejuvenate the color to a nice, fresh pink. It has apple extract in it, you see." He unscrewed the silver cap, squeezed a small dab of white cream onto my finger. "Just put that on, dear, just put that on." He pulled a magnifying mirror across the counter and gestured at it.
His face was very large behind mine. I put the cream on my lips, because what else are you supposed to do when it's already on your finger? It smelled like a weak, artificial coconut and was extremely slippery. It did make my lips smoother and pinker, as most any lip balm will do when you first put it on.
"Very nice, dear, isn't it? Very nice. You see, the reason it's so efficacious is the human growth hormone it contains. Yes! Isn't that wonderful? Human growth hormone! It's what we all need when we get older, isn't it? Oh, yes. It's like the fountain of youth, you know."
I'm not sure what else he said. I was too busy walking, very quickly, to another counter where I could see the blessed white tuft of tissues just waiting to be torn free.