The Third Third

Skin Deep, And . . .

  As if we didn’t have enough to worry about:  war, famine, weather, healthcare, politics, and (my husband’s favorite) the meaning of life, I returned to Texas from Oxford this week to the news that women our age are, apparently, supposed to be deeply concerned not only about the wrinkling of our faces, but also about the unsightly discoloration caused by sun and, obviously, age this spring.  How do I know this?  I received three (!) different sets of samples for new “brightening” treatments in the month’s backlog of mail; and every catalog and magazine except The Economist heralded the promise of these same cosmetic advances across multiple-page advertising spreads.  This new problem (call it “uneven skin tone”) caught me totally unawares, but probably only because I had come from what the BBC weather folks call “dreadfully dreary” days in England to sunshine in Dallas, and already I felt -- and therefore thought I looked -- brighter.  Without cosmetic intervention.  For a moment, though, I actually felt compelled to study the options:  Which should I buy next time? --  moisturizing face wash, toning face wash, gentle foaming face wash, or brightening face wash?  Ditto night cream, eye cream, daily moisturizer, toners, and more? And what about the concealers, which heretofore I have used with abandon under my eyes, in the creases from my nose to my chin and on that odd spot on the left cheek?  Are they so yesterday?  As for my makeup itself -- wouldn’t it be enough to just buy a, say, brighter shade? When I dug out from under the mountains of mail and emerged from my jet-lagged stupor a few days later, however, my more rational consumer self took over and said, “What a crock!”  I tossed the catalogues (“Yellow is the new neutral!!”? Really?!!!), most of the magazines, and all the samples; it was my personal deep cleansing.  Then I remembered the story the estranged husband of a dear friend had told me years ago.  When she turned 40, my friend had decided she needed to invest in a new skin care regimen, available only at Neiman Marcus, he said, to ward off all incipient signs of aging. Their current marital problems, he continued, all seemed to stem from the fact that the new products simply didn’t work.  His wife still felt -- and felt she looked -- 40, and she was depressed. It was a ludicrous proposition.  Had he looked in the mirror himself, he would have seen the reason for their marital discord:  he hadn’t held a job for 18 months and actually seemed to rather enjoy living the high life on her insufficient salary.  But I didn’t go into that -- and eventually they reconciled.  He saved me a fortune, however, because before he told his tale I had wondered if all the skin care marketing was addressed to me because I (everyone?) really needed all those products at 40.  Was it something I had missed, coming from Ohio and a mother whose makeup consisted of one drug store lipstick (red), something someone raised as a Southern girl would have known? But no -- now I knew -- or had good reason to believe -- it wouldn’t work anyway; I could stick with my soap and sunscreen.  (Whew.)  I have noticed, though, that the marketing continues unabated, planting seeds of fear and insecurity among even the strongest-willed women among us in this powerful consumer demographic.  Sometimes I fall for the pitch and wonder:   Would I really look better if something lessened “the appearance of wrinkles” in my face?  Is “uneven skin tone” ugly?  If 60 is the new 40, shouldn’t my skin look younger? It’s ridiculous.  And maddening.  As if our appearance, literally skin-deep, is what matters. As if that’s what we should be worried about.  At our age.  At any age.   As for the new peach lipstick colors, however, they are absolutely luscious!
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