While I was diligently working to make my face fit to be seen at a swanky restaurant, my husband became impatient. I don’t know why. I had been in the bathroom only for an hour and a half. When he reminded me that we were in danger of losing our restaurant reservation, I cracked open the bathroom door and assured him that I’d only need another ten minutes. Fifteen, max.
“What’s all this stuff on the counter?” he asked, surveying the gaggle of jars, vials, squeeze tubes and bottles. Frankly, it looked like a science experiment gone wrong.
“It’s my new skin care line, and each product must be applied in exactly the right order for best results,” I said. “They say that if I faithfully apply every potion every day for at least six months, results will be immediate.”
Within twenty minutes, my face lay hidden under more layers than King Tut. I don’t know if the concoctions had really erased any fine lines and signs of aging, but someone would have had to sandblast through all the levels of emollients on my kisser to find them. Following the instructions, I had focused like a cosmetic surgeon’s laser beam on which creams to dab, which to gently apply in clockwise circles (never counter-clockwise!), which to spray and then let dry for exactly four minutes, and which to pat all over, not neglecting the neck area. Since these laboratory masterpieces were sumptuously priced, I gasped in horror after accidentally shooting a wad of the Anti-Wrinkle, Anti-Gravity Rejuvenating Night Reform Alpha Lipoic Serum in the sink instead of on my hand. That mistake alone must have cost me ten bucks.
How did I get suckered into this in the first place? I’m blaming it all on my neighbor Joline. I happened to walk by her house the day she launched her distributorship of EuroChump, the “revolutionary” new patented skin care system. I tried to hurry past her house, she spotted me while she was tying balloons on her front porch, and didn’t I want to come in for some free samples?
Two hours later, in a fog, I, too, was a EuroChump distributor. Like someone snatched into a Scientology temple, I was forced to study the EuroChump catechism in Joline’s living room, and only an hour later I was convinced that only an imbecile would ever apply a finishing moisturizer containing almond extract before applying the anti-gravity environmental shield recovery serum. These products were to women’s skin care what the Pentagon’s missile defense shield was to national security, namely, costly and unproven buffers against enemy incursions.
I had sensed peril immediately after entering Joline’s house, and silently warned myself, “Don’t buy! Don’t buy!” I closed my eyes and conjured visions of my most recent bank statement, revealing punishing overdraft charges. But Joline swore on her great-uncle Silvio’s grave that EuroChump would combat signs of aging, rejuvenate my skin, render Botox treatments a thing of the past, and lower my cholesterol. I thought of the substantial inventory of other skin care wares fossilizing in my medicine cabinet. They, too, had all promised the fountain of eternal skin youth. But a look in the mirror proved that their dealers were simply cads and liars. I was still older! And I still looked it!
Under these cruel circumstances, could it hurt just to look at what EuroChump had to offer? I reached out for a tester tube of an inviting-looking cream, but Joline swatted away my hand.
“Our anti-aging products are over here,” she instructed me, determined not to sell me anything designed for women who might still get carded when buying liquor.
I tried not to take it personally that the names of each anti-aging product in the EuroChump line began with the letters “Re,” a prefix that means, “Do over.” These included a “Reconstruction” gelee, as if my face had survived the Battle of Gettysburg. Other products “renewed,” “recovered,” “repaired,” “reactivated,” “rejuvenated,” “reformed,” and “restored.” This didn’t sound like a beauty line; it sounded like a public works project.
This wasn’t all. For more serious cases of dermatological neglect, EuroChump hustled another line called “Repent,” which, if you bought the entire set of 18 products, would probably require you to “Refinance.” Naturally (since all EuroChump products were completely natural), these offerings were “gelees,” not gels, and “crèmes,” not creams, because EuroChump was whipped up in some lab in Switzerland, a nation that excels only in the creation of skin care products, timepieces, chocolate (the better to make your face break out, requiring more skin care potions), and secret bank accounts (the better to hide all the vats of currency rolling into the coffers of companies such as EuroChump). I never understood why skin care and make-up that sounds French has always had so much cache. After all, can’t America also produce exotic ingredients such as cucumber fruit extract and cellulose gum?
After splurging so recklessly to upgrade my dermis, I was dutiful in following EuroChump’s day care and night care routines. I hoped that my face could tell time, since it needed to respond differently to the night “crème” applied at 11:00 P.M. versus how it was to behave upon receiving the day moisturizer at 7:00 A.M. It must have worked, since I began to receive compliments on my face.
“You’re looking radiant today,” a friend remarked. Was she envious? I could only hope. My hairdresser—hard to please in this area—complimented my complexion as “absolutely dewy.” About time someone noticed my reconstructed, rejuvenated, repaired, rehydrated and refinanced skin!
So far, I cannot regret my indulgence of the EuroChump line, but how in the world can I afford to also upgrade all my old fossilizing make-up? I know! I’ll have my own EuroChump house party, since I am a distributor. Look for the balloons tied to my front porch, and bring a credit card.
(This column adapted from the essay “EuroChump,” published in The Women’s Daily Irony Supplement, available in both paperback and Kindle editions.)