“Try some of this hand creme, ma’am. It’ll make your hands nice and smooth.” I was headed for the mall exit, eager to get home, when I turned my head toward the voice and saw a young woman with long, wispy black curls beckoning me over to her kiosk. I usually respond to mall hucksters with a polite ”no thanks” but for some reason I took the sample she squirted into the little paper cup and rubbed it on my hands. It smelled good. In a charming foreign accent she asked, “Isn’t that nice?” Maybe it was the accent that kept me from walking away. “What do you use on your nails?” she asked. “Just clear polish,” I answered, feeling myself getting drawn in.
“Well, look what I have here. Try this.” She took one of my fingers and proceeded to buff one of my fingernails with something that looked like a small blackboard eraser and then she said, “See how smooth? Now we put on a little tiny dab of this oil and look how shiny they are without nail polish! Everything natural.” I’d been wanting to ditch my smelly nail polish routine so I was intrigued with this product she was hawking. She said just for me she would let me have a special deal – two for the price of one. Didn’t I have someone I needed a Christmas present for? she asked, whipping out a tantalizingly lovely gift box with the products nestled inside. I decided to purchase it.
Before I knew it, she had me sitting on a stool at the counter and was applying some miracle crème guaranteed to smooth out my fine lines and wrinkles. Another thing I’d been meaning to investigate–with my 50th high school reunion looming. Girlfriends had told me about expensive potions and lotions that they swore made their face look and feel years younger. I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend money on something so frivolous. My inner girly-girl, however, kept the idea circling. It just wasn’t high on my totem pole of priorities.
“Are you married or still happy?” she cracked, smiling her don’t-even-try-to-resist-my-charisma smile. “Still happy,” I replied. “I’ve been happy for 28 years. But I have a boyfriend. He’s younger than me.” Big mistake. Now she really had something to work with.
I learned her name was “Adi.” Accent on 2nd syllable. “It means jewel,” she said, whipping the curly wisps away from her eyes with a toss of her head. She was from Israel. Now she was applying some white stuff on the skin above my upper lip– where the fine lines liked to hang out. They actually smoothed out right before my eyes. “See the difference?” she said. The stuff really worked.
“Okay, I’m going to give you a deal because it’s a Jewish holiday and I like you,” she said with twinkling eyes, as she proceeded to whack off half the regular price. She had this little way of accentuating her irresistible “deals” by winking, and clicking her tongue against her palate twice, sort of like a rider might do to get a horse going. I felt like I was at a Middle Eastern bazaar, not a suburban mall. ”
And, I give you this facial mask made of mud from the Dead Sea,” she said as she proceeded to apply some black gunk to the inside of one of my wrists. “And how do you think you remove it?” she asked. “I give you a clue – it has iron in it. If you guess, you get it for half price!” “A magnet?” I asked. “Yes!” she answered. Then she pulled out a shiny little magnet, held it close to the mud and peeled it off. “Try it on your neck,” she encouraged. I obediently put some on my neck and then peeled it off with the magnet, almost like a man shaving. It was fun. I scrutinized my neck in the mirror she held up. The little wrinkles seemed to still be there, but I thought maybe they looked a little less wrinkley.
“Have you ever been to Israel?” she asked. “No.” I answered. “You should visit. It’s beautiful.” Adi was from Haifa and had served in the Israeli military, was going back to visit after the holidays. I learned that she peddled her wares in New Zealand, too.
She was willing to throw in some face soap, also from the Dead Sea and a couple tubes of body lotion. All for the one-time-only price of $$$. “And I’ll throw in a free facial. And you get it all in a fancy bag!”
“You owe it to yourself,” she said. “You have to take care of yourself. I bet you’ve never done anything really nice for yourself, have you?” She had me there. No perms, hair color, manicures, pedicures, wax jobs. I considered myself the natural type. But maybe it was time to up the ante a little. Join the ranks of the beautified.
I decided to take the whole kit and caboodle and dedicate myself to turning back the clock. I would dutifully apply the eye creme and use the soap and shave off the mud and smooth out the wrinkles. It was a year’s supply, she promised. And I had a Christmas gift for my daughter to boot.
I left the mall with my fancy bag full of beauty bootie, fighting off buyer’s remorse, and wondering how many starving people I could have fed…