Through the lens, lightly
There’s a reason why I don’t like visiting ‘beauty’ stores, those glimmering, shimmering spaces that have aisles smelling of Chanel No 5 and stockpiles of pretty cosmetics and skincare products, each brand vying with the other to make its presence felt. There are also these beauty custodians — sales people with their pitches — who make you feel you’re in dire need of a makeover. I find these places too stifling… You cannot even browse or say “just looking” without a retinue of impossibly made-up women making you feel you’re something the cat just dragged in, and that you need to shop to get back in the groove. Consequently, I end up with a pile of shopping that I’m basically hustled into buying, which I never use and they wither away in some dank corner of my dresser.
The other day, someone insisted I enter one of these stores at the Mall of the Emirates; she wanted to go on a beauty shopping spree, and I was collateral damage. And soon enough, I was gaslit into buying a ‘primer’ that I probably don’t need. A saleswoman caught me staring at it — and I wasn’t staring at it with an intent to buy, I was admiring the shape of its tube.
“Yes, this will be perfect for you,” she gushed, immediately pouring a portion from a tester on the back of my hand and ‘blending’ it, while I wondered — wordlessly — how she knew what would be perfect for me.
“Right! What will it do to me?”
“You apply it — on your face — before you apply your foundation…”
“But I don’t usually apply foundation…”
“Yes, sure, but when you do… this holds your foundation together.”
It’s foundation on my face, I wanted to say, not a baby on a hammock, why would I want it to “hold together” — but I didn’t and instead fell in line with the idea of impulse purchase. Then the salesperson wanted to know if I needed a compact. Actually, I did, my last — mostly unused — one expired long back, and having a compact in your bag is a sort of vanity project for me. So I said yes.
Another woman joined her and together they started brushing my face with powder. Two shades seemed right for me, they pointed out, which is why they were applying shade number 1 on my left cheek and shade number 2 on my right. At the end of it, they made me face the mirror, and said, “There, they look so good on you, which one do you like more?”
They both looked exactly the same, but I decided to be left-leaning.
“Great choice,” they both exclaimed. I have a feeling they’d have said the same thing if I’d chosen to be a rightist.
And then, since I was on a roll, I decided to throw caution to the winds and buy some other stuff so that no one judged me for being a believer in beauty lies within.
The expedition took me back to the time when I visited India at the end of December. On the flight from Delhi to Calcutta, I suddenly realised I’d forgotten to pack my bottle of ‘tinted sunscreen’; I’d purchased it with a lot of fanfare, apparently it has some magical properties that make you look — and feel — like the Queen of Sheba. I needed that facelift for the New Year’s lunch outing we had planned at some posh place, so I had to find a substitute pronto. My dad lives in a place called Salt Lake, a sleepy township on the fringes of the city, quite close to the airport, and while I was en route to his place, I asked my friend who had gallantly offered to pick me up from the airport and drop me home, if we could stop at a general store close by. I remember, back in the day, my mother and aunt would buy all their cosmetics from a general store along with detergent and safety pins. Since this was 2022, maybe general stores had upped their beauty quotient.
I walked inside a store that looked promising, and asked the portly gent at the counter if they had ‘tinted suncreen’.
“Tinted? Sunscreen?” he struggled like it was an oxymoron. “Sorry, I don’t know what that means.”
Read the full article here