“You, you there. I have something just for you,” a slender man called to me as he skipped across the tradeshow floor and slipped two silver packets in my hand.
I laughed as he ushered me into his booth. “What’s your name?” he asked, smiling.
I said my name, and he repeated, “Amanda, that’s so lovely.”
I thought I’d listen to him and then excuse myself. “Here, sit. Sit,” he was gesturing to a chair. I sat down, and he immediately scooted his stool, which was slightly higher than my chair, forward. His legs were too close, tucked between my feet. I leaned back in my chair.
“Amanda, I tell you what I’m a gonna do,” he spoke fast and softly, his accent a mix of French and Italian. He was slight of build, but the way he leaned in, I felt small.
“I’m a-gonna put a special serum on your eyes. This serum is going to make you not see any lines, and the collagen will start building. You like that? You want those lines and dark circles to be less? Do you?”
He was holding a mirror in one hand and spreading a cold gel around my eyes with the other. His face was so close as he leaned in. He picked up a fan and held it about a foot from my face, the air moving my hair.
I was frozen. There were people on all sides of me. I didn’t want to be there anymore, but I felt like I couldn’t leave.
“I’m a-going to show you your face, do you want to see yourself looking more beautiful, Amanda? I’ll show you.” He moved the mirror in front of my face. He covered the side of my face that he hadn’t treated. “You see this skin beneath your eye, you see how much lighter and tighter?” I nodded. “Do you?” I said, “Yes.” He uncovered my other eye, “You are seeing the darkness, yes? The tired face?” I nodded.
It struck me that the fatigue on my face, the lines rooted between my eyebrows, the hollows in my cheeks are things that I struggle with, but I also cherish them. It’s an ongoing, unpredictable battle. Something clicked as he worked to pit me against my own face. I was laying bare everything I’ve lived, particularly the last 16 years. Pregnancy sticks, Lowe’s receipts, betrayals, IVs and sick tummies, make up sex, all the swells of joy and heartache that have thrashed and cradled me.
“Ok, I tell you what I gonna do, I fix the other eye. Then I’m going to give you a gift, this serum, which is for two years. Yes? It’s a two-year supply I give you a second, and then it’s four years, and it’s only $16 a month. Then you not gonna have to hate what you see.”
I cleared my throat, still leaning back because of his angle leaning in over me. “I just, thank you. But I need to think about it. I’ll go talk to my husband.”
His face tensed, and he began to sneer, before tipping his head in toward me. “Amanda, you know he’s just going to say no. You have to make this decision.” He put his hand near my face, “These lines on the sides of your mouth, you don’t like them, am I right, Amanda? You don’t like this. I can fix that too. So listen, how you going to do this? Let me see your ID.”
I shook my head. “No, I am not buying anything right now. I’ll talk to my husband.” He shook his head at me, angry. Another man walked over. I thought it was because he saw my discomfort. “Your other customer came back. She wants to buy things. I need you back.”
The guy turned back to me, still wedged between my feet. “What? What do you want? I’ll add another box. Right? You don’t want to look like old Amanda, do you?”
I swung my left leg high over his knee like a hurdle and turned on my right foot. I tossed the packets on the seat.
“No, thank you. I’m fine like this.”
His nostrils flared, and he turned away from me, consequently saying nothing but effectively communicating that he was discarding me. I sped through the crowded aisle of the tradeshow until I turned a corner, where I stopped and licked my fingers, angrily wiping the cream off of my face.
I was shaking. The exchange was echoing in my head, and I was angrier with each breath. I had used “talking to my husband” as a way to get out; in reality, Sean would never do anything but encourage me to do or not do whatever I feel I need.
Do I imagine away my eleven lines sometimes? You bet!
Would I consider “treatment?” A solid, maybe!
Will I do it to be a different me? Nope.
Sitting in the chair I let that man reduce me to an empty shell. I’m sure this happens every day, and it makes for high sales. I just never imagined that I could fall into the trap. The truth is I thought I was stronger than that.
I’m looking at myself with more honesty. I care about my skin, and I have no shame about wanting to feel my best. However, skincare and self-love are not mutually exclusive. There is no place for hate or contempt in how we see ourselves or in how we talk to ourselves. I hadn’t truly understood that until someone tried to make me say that I hated myself.
Don’t be tricked; you are precious.