Sunday, June 1, 2008

Portrait #11: Ukrainian Natural Beauty Enthusiast

I spent much of this evening rambling through Tyson's Corner Mall while my family caught a film. (My reasons may be petty, but I refuse to set foot in a cinema for now.) Tyson's Corner is basically the flagship temple to Materialism. Every store, every brand, every fashion, every new gadget is available in shining colour for dazzling prices in an impeccable ambiance. And it's all on display by the equally beguiling yet somehow diverse clientele.

Since I had a couple of hours, when a woman in a white labcoat, from one of the centre aisle kiosks, offered me some hand cream, I accepted and allowed her to begin her pitch. It went something like this: all of our products are completely natural and healthy, and when you use products from chemicals you are doing yourself huge damage, but it is nonetheless very important to use facial treatments. She then asked me something rather personal - I think it had to do with my cosmetic regimen - so I answered then asked her where she was from. She's Ukrainian and has only been in the country for two weeks.

Then she offered to demonstrate for me how her all-natural facial cream could make me look younger (should I have been offended?). It would diminish wrinkles and puffiness under my eyes. She picked up a rather frightful-looking device and proceeded to photograph the edge of my eye. Then she turned to her laptop, but she couldn't get my face to appear on the screen. As she fiddled, I asked her about the scent of the cream she'd given me: orange vanilla. Everything her company sells is all natural, she said: I just have to check the ingredients list, and if anything is unclear, she has a guide-to-her-products'-ingredients that will support her argument that it's all natural. I should check the ingredients of everything I put on my face, she insisted. And she asked me more details about my facial regimen and told me that Dead Sea mask is bad because it's not natural (huh?): instead she could offer me a mud scrub that came from real mud in Austria. Poor girl, if only she'd known how loyal I am to Middle Eastern Mud... for that was the proverbial nail on the coffin of a sale.

The photo never came up on her screen, so she proceeded to wet a cotton facial pad and put some soap on it. When she gestured to start washing the area around my eye in the middle of the centre of a posh mall on a Saturday night, I asked her to, well, to not wash my face. She asked why it bothered me, and I was at a loss for words. I wasn't ready to explain why yet still be polite. So she started explaining how important it is to wash my face, to which I explained that I had showered right before coming to the mall. She told me that our faces get dirty quickly with all the yuckiness in the air, and expostulated on all the natural ingredients in the soap she purported to use. I said that wasn't the problem. She asked me again why this bothered me, and I swallowed a comment about how I think my eyes really aren't that wrinkly or puffy.

Eventually she was convinced that she wouldn't be able to wash my face or do a miracle with my eye. I felt a bit sorry for her, only having arrived in the country two weeks ago and now desperate for a sale, or at least a real conversation. And she couldn't even get her computer to work. So once she gave up she asked me where I was from, and we chatted a bit about Brazil and about the Ukraine and about how she's here for only six months and she's here to work. And I must say, in only two weeks she has developed quite a passion for the cause of selling all-natural ingredients to the world's elite.

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