Yesterday, around lunchtime, I decided I needed a treat. This thought occurs to me from time to time, and when it does, I usually just take a half-hour break from work and go down to the local nail salon for a $10 chair massage. But yesterday, my need was greater than usual, and for various reasons, a massage was not in the cards. I decided to splurge. I decided to get a facial.
I almost never get facials. (I think the last one I had was a gift from a relative, right after the birth of my son, twelve years ago.) I have what facialists like to call "problem skin," which I inherited, along with my wry wit, from my English and Irish ancestresses. Facialists generally treat this mess with instruments of torture that leave my face red and irritated, worse off than when I started. I also usually get talked into buying all kinds of expensive miracle products, which I use for about a week before ditching them and replacing them with a bar of soap from the supermarket.
But yesterday, I wanted to be fawned over. I wanted to lie on a table, with aromatherapy candles burning and Enya playing in the background, while some beauty expert with an exotic accent tended to my every dermatological need. I deserved it; it had been a rough couple of weeks. I called the spa down the road, and they agreed to fit me in at 12:30.
I drove a mile in the pouring rain to the spa, where I was escorted into a darkened room that smelled vaguely of sandalwood. "You take off shirt and bra," commanded Susan, the facial lady. "You put things in closet. You put towel over you and lie on table face up. I be back."
I complied. Susan returned, pulled my hair back off my face, and shone a bright light on me. Her tongue began to click.
"This terrible," she said.
Terrible seemed like an extreme word, but I didn't say anything. I breathed in the sandalwood-scented steam and waited for the pampering to begin.
"You skin. Very bad. Very, very bad. No facial for you."
"No facial. You need Green Peel."
"Yes. Your skin very bad. Why you no take care of your skin?"
Now she was getting accusatory. "I have bigger things to worry about than my skin," I told her.
"Nothing more important than healthy skin. Very important. I give you Green Peel. Your face better next week. Then you come back, I fix you broken caterpillars."
"Yes, but not today. Today you get Green Peel."
Whatever. If it would make my very, very bad skin look better, and take my mind off the obviously less important things I'd been worrying about, then I'd do it. "Okay. Green Peel it is."
She sniffed smugly and began the process. She covered my face with a cold cream and then tissued it off. She repeated this several times. Then she scrubbed my face with something that smelled good. Then she covered my eyes with cotton pads and applied a mask. While the mask dried, she massaged my neck and shoulders. She took the mask off with warm water and a soft cloth. I was very happy.
When she was finished, she asked, "You go anywhere today? After this?"
"No," I said. "Just home."
"You face very red next few days. Then begin to peel a little. New fresh skin underneath. Much better. I give you cream to protect face from sun while peeling. Very important. I put cream on now. You no take off. Go straight home."
She applied the protective cream to my face and then instructed me to get up when I was ready, get dressed, and meet her outside by the register. She turned on the light on her way out.
I stood up and put my clothes back on. I looked in the mirror.
The cream on my face was green.
Like Frankenstein. Like Oscar the Grouch. There were two bald circles around my eyes, and the rest of my face was hallelujah green.
I picked up a towel and wiped it off. I then brushed my hair, picked up my purse, and headed for the register.
Susan took one look at me and started to shriek. "No! You take off cream! No no no!"
"I - I'm sorry," I said. "It was green."
"BUT VERY DANGEROUS! Your skin sensitive to sun! Need protective cream!" She hustled out from behind the register and approached me, her tongue clicking out of control.
I gestured toward the window. The rain was coming down in buckets. I could not see the sidewalk outside. "I don't think the sun is too much of a danger today," I said. "I'll be fine. What do I owe you?" I took out my wallet.
"YOU NO UNDERSTAND! You face! Very dangerous! You need! I put it back on." She pushed me down into a chair and squirted more green lotion onto her hand.
This woman was insane. "I understand. But I CANNOT PICK MY CHILDREN UP FROM SCHOOL WITH A GREEN FACE. I will run into someone I know. THIS IS A SMALL TOWN. My car is parked a block and a half away. I need to walk down the main street to get to it. Someone will see me."
She didn't listen. She slathered me with green cream again.
I sighed and paid her a sum I can't disclose, because my husband reads this blog. She handed me a plastic bag filled with miracle products, including green cream, which she instructed me to apply several times a day for the next week.
So, if you saw me yesterday afternoon, walking down the street in the rain looking like a green-faced freak, be assured that it was not a dread disease or early Halloween. It was just an expensive, poorly-thought-out attempt to improve my very, very bad skin, and to take my mind off the pettier concerns of life.
Next time, maybe a pedicure.