The cozy cocoon-like bed and waterfall music are almost enough to lull me into believing this facial will be different.
Maybe my skin care regiment is finally working. While not onerous, it still costs me money I would prefer to spend on things I care about, like chocolate sea salt gelato, and the ten minutes I spend cleansing, toning and exfoliating cuts into time that could be better spent with Orange is the New Black. Surely, these sacrifices are producing glowing results.
You can convince yourself of anything in that dark room of serenity.
The esthetician bounces in, looking like she went to cosmetology school fresh out of kindergarten. My hopes sag like the skin around my eyes, because the only thing that’s worse than getting lectured about your skin is getting lectured by someone half your age.
She places a cloth over my eyes that does nothing to block the blinding glare of the spotlight she switches on to study her canvas. She audibly gasps, sucking in her breath like she has just revealed a lizard on her table instead of a human.
Have you ever heard of sunscreen, she asks. I try not to grit my teeth because the microscope picks up on those things, and answer that yes, I use SPF 50 every day. Yes, I reapply, and yes, I use it in the winter and in thunderstorms.
She continues to batter me with the onslaught of questions that every esthetician uses, like a script, to get to the bottom of how my skin can be so dry, dull and dehydrated. I answer dutifully, hoping that maybe this time, together, we will determine the magical solution to my flakey woes.
She asks about the products I use (professional, hawked on me by my last esthetician), whether I exfoliate (three times a week, naturally), if I use hydration masks (honey, I could write the book), whether I drink coffee (is nothing sacred?), how much water I drink (buckets, on account of my coffee habit), if my diet is healthy (Gwyneth has nothing on me), how often I get facials (I enjoy this inquisition so much I should come weekly instead of once a decade), and whether I exercise (I’m known to do the odd marathon or triathlon).
She was stymied – and in fact, getting a little panicky – until she hit on the exercise thing, saying all of that salt is very drying, and perhaps I should think twice about that, or else carry a toner with me to spritz on my face mid-run. When I went to pay my bill, there it was, the toner she recommended I carry in my running belt, alongside my bear spray and water bottle. I demurred, and in that moment learned the concept of being comfortable in your own skin, parched though it may be.
Cosmetology schools should offer courses in diplomacy. Jesus, some people have dry skin, it’s not a crime against humanity.
The good things about kids is they tell me when I have pancake batter on my behind, or food stuck in my teeth.
The bad thing is they tend to tell me these things at inopportune moments, like when I’m talking to someone famous or one of those annoyingly perfect mothers. Okay, so I rarely meet famous people, but I do talk to other vitally important people from time to time who make me nervous, such as our mail woman and the school principal.
The other bad news, for me, is the list of things that they need to point out is growing exponentially longer by the day.
It used to be all diaper/bottle related stuff, then for a time embarrassing clothing gaffe’s like wearing my pants backwards and my shirts inside out. But lately it’s become more sliding-into-old-age related, like grey roots and wrinkles.
In the beginning of motherhood, in those blissful days before they could talk, they pointed out my shortfalls by pointing and laughing. Now it has progressed to eye rolls and comments like these:
“Mom, did you spill white paint in your hair?” means it’s time to buy one of those hair dying kits that promises to cover even the stubbornest of greys.
“Look at all of those wrinkles on your face – you look so old!” means it’s time… Well, there is nothing I can do about this since I’m averse to needles generally, so it just means I’m getting older (but wiser, I hasten to add.)
“Can you please not talk to me in public when you’re wearing that!” means it might be time to lose the tie-dye, and so on.
(Just when I was becoming confident in my own skin, and those voices, inner and otherwise, calling me a loser or dweeb have finally faded, along come come my own children to knock me down a notch or ten. Funny that.)
I’m not very observant, so it is helpful in a way. In fact, it’s making me step up my game, especially to spare myself the embarrassment when they point out my flaws in public, as they clearly enjoy doing.
Now I’m scrutinizing myself a bit more carefully each morning, in an effort to beat them at this perverse game. But I’m horrified and a bit perplexed by the things I’m finding.
For example this morning, when I tried to brush a wayward eyelash off my chin, I found it was actually attached, and therefore a chin lash. Others might refer to it as a whisker. After my shock, I found I had new sympathy for the way those little pigs taunt the big bad wolf. Apparently, I’m growing a beard on my chinny chin chin.
The bright side of this situation (as unbelievable as it is that there is a bright side) is that I discovered this myself, in the privacy of my own rear view mirror, before they alerted the neighbourhood.
Whether to pluck it or bleach it is up in the air, but one thing is for sure: I will deal with it before they get home from school.
As crowds of college kids congregate around the pool, my daughter asks me, “Why do boys wear underwear underneath their swimsuits?” That is an excellent question, I reply, as I notice every one of the boys has the waistband of their underwear showing above their swimsuits. We ponder their decision to prioritize coolness over comfort, surely having a bunch of wet cotton between your legs can’t feel great.
They look like babies, these kids, yet surely they must be in university, I don’t see any parents hovering around. It looks like they all grew a foot overnight, and are getting acquainted with their new height, stooping to accommodate themselves. If I squint, the large group morphs into versions of each other, the same person save for different coloured swim trunks. They carry blue plastic cups around the pool, likely filled with more alcohol than mix, liquid courage.
Families are interspersed amongst the kids, as invisible to them here as we would be if we stumbled into one of their frat parties. As we keep a watchful eye on our children, guarding against the recurring nightmare of drowning, we keep one eye on the partying college kids, remembering what it was like to be on spring break. What it was like to be totally self-absorbed, before responsibility descended.
While in university, people were always telling you, “Enjoy it while it lasts,” and we would laugh and agree, but inwardly think that life would always be this good. We could control our destiny and make it wonderful. Youthfulness is a state of mind. Pass the baby oil, please, our skin is as invincible as we are.
Life will inevitably deal these kids hands of worries and cares, they will one day be more concerned about things like interest rates and health care, but they are oblivious at this point. They laugh, cavort, and play-fight like puppies, as they discuss which bar they will try to get into tonight.
I bite my tongue to refrain from telling them what we are all thinking, it is futile. No matter what their GPA’s, they cannot fathom what the weight of the world might feel like on their shoulders, when not a single burden is on their horizon.
Our experienced eyes know that it will happen to them just the same, as sure as we are sitting here.