Wednesday, March 5, 2014

ashes, dust...and clinique

I had a half-psychotic twitch monster on my lap at church this afternoon. I was doing everything I could to pay attention to the priest's Ash Wednesday sermon as he was floating concepts like repentance and sacrifice at us like godly little birdies flitting out to lucky revelers.

I'm sure other parishioners were busy making self-sacrificial plans for the next 40 days like good Episcopalians.

My concentration had been shot the moment I shlepped my three youngest through the doors by the backs of their coats and saw the church nursery dark and abandoned like the tomb on day five.  I had to shove the three amigos into a pew with those pitiful excuses for "kid's bags" that hold nothing more than old office scratch paper and broken colored pencils with no lead.

Thanks, guys. That really helps keep them occupied after the first "All of this stuff is broken!" wail.

So instead of thinking Ash-y thoughts about what good I could put back in the world, I did my best and pretty much spent the service pondering the atrocious breakout on my forehead.

Where had it come from? Was it noticeable? Did anyone else find it odd that I was plum in the middle of being 35 and I still broke out like a kid? Would the ashes make the red less noticeable? More noticeable?

Then I got in the spirit of the day and thought about the priest.

Did he hesitate whenever a forehead appeared in front of him with a comedone the size of his face? What was the protocol? Ashes to the right of the whitehead? To the left? Man up and run your ash-heavy thumb right across the damn thing and pretend you don't notice?

Believe me, I notice things like that.

Back when I first stepped foot off the boat in Alaska (it's true, you take a ferry most times), I had a brand new MFA under my belt and zero employers interested in hiring me. It was fantastic. So much so that when Nordstrom called about an off-chance online application I'd submitted, I jumped at the chance to work at their Clinique counter.

They gave me some color cards, a ridiculous lab coat, a few free makeup samples to obsess over at home and an hourly sales goal to make before setting me free to torment the downstairs shoppers.

I wasn't a terrible consultant and within a month I'd beaten all the girls at my counter and had even put to shame a couple of the coiffed, stick-up-their-arse Lancome girls. (Take that, $80 serum freaks!)

Mostly I sold gallons of that atrocious yellow moisturizer that I wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole these days (hello, mineral oil!) and bars upon bars of that awful soap that dried up in the little dish the moment you took it out of the plastic.

But another part of my job was zeee actual applying of zeee makeup. Like, on the public's face.

In my mind, beauty queens and Rocky Horror Picture Show actors would be lining up for a spot in my chair, like they did at the Mac counter.

The best I ever got was a couple prom court nominees but that was only because Lancome and Mac were double booked and nobody wanted to go to the Estee Lauder counter because it smelled bad (awful, awful ancient lady perfumes).

But mostly I dealt with teenagers and really old women with lots of money and time on their hands. The teenagers wanted cover up for their ravaged skin and there was nothing short of compound joint that would help them at that point. Gobs of concealer really only highlighted the acne worse, but they weren't interested in hearing about the whole "wash your face" or at the very least "zip this toner across your forehead before bed."

The other girls were pros and would dab the product all over the erupted skin using the sensitive skin on their fingertips.

dab dab dab...swipe.

 I made the manager buy me those extra-long medical swabs because the more distance between me and a weeping white head, the better. I did my best.

poke poke poke...switch. grimace. repeat.

If the young ones were hormonal, the older ones were bitter and demanding of every single serum, cream, and sandblaster I could fit on the counter.

"Make me younger," they'd demand.

Without the Tardis nearby, there wasn't much I could do but make them look extra greasy and shiny with 19 layers of anti-aging product applied by kitchen sponge.

Other people's faces aren't my thing.

My career at the makeup counter was short lived and as far as I'm concerned, removed me from all priestly aspirations from that day forward.

And as for my priest?

Pure professional. Straight down the middle without a wince or a shudder.

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this is part of "forty stories." a fun little lent challenge where i show up and write a story (of any nature, i guess) on internet paper. 

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