Sunday, March 27, 2005

Smithers, That Monkey Will Be Needing Most Of Your Skin

We were celebrating two things: DK's birthday, and the day we met 20 years ago. It's easy to remember the dates, because they are the same. Neither of us can ever quite remember what day in early May three years later we actually got married -- the third ? the fifth ? -- but we know we can always count on my sister-in-law, the family archivist, to remind us.

We were having dinner at a trendy little Italian joint in Watertown Square. I, as usual, was having a low-grade spleen attack. As DK went off to the men's room I looked around. Lots of couples our age eating overpriced food. Drinking wine. Flushed, thick, well-dressed, happy, successful people. My brain was, apparantly, in judgemental overdrive. It spends a lot of time there. The man at the next table was holding forth about the issues of the day, the pundits of the day. The woman with him was making small sounds of assent. His voice was just a little too loud. He had a lot of opinions. I was glad when DK returned.

As we were finishing, DK announced, "And there's a CVS right next door !"

"Yeah, so ?" I replied.

"We can get some Kleenex !" he said with ironic mock-excitement.

"Great," I said. DK keeps better track than I do of our paper products.

I wondered whether the loud man was reciprocally eavesdropping on our scintillating exchange. Twenty years of relationship had led to this point: Kleenex. Earlier we'd speculated on how our lives would have turned out if we hand't met. Speculating like that gives me vertigo. Is there an idler speculation ?

So we went out into the cold, spring night and, two doors down, entered the over-bright pharmacy.

"Isn't this great ?" he said, knowing that I was about to say something about lying down in an aisle, weeping and rending my garments at the sheer ugliness of it all.

"Uh, no," I said, reaching into a round, wire bin of books. What was that, anyway -- a bin of books ? No shelves ? They were all romance novels. Bodice rippers.

We made our way toward the rear of the store, through aisle upon aisle of Easter baskets and Easter candy. A very old man passed us, pushing a heaping shopping cart. I could not help notice it contained both Depends and Kotex. DK grabbed two boxes of generic Kleenex, and headed to checkout.

"I'll be over here," I muttered, hoping that I coud find some "here" that was less unsavory than where he was.

I found myself in Cosmetics.

I don't use cosmetics. Never have, never will. That's not quite accurate. I wore lipstick in a junior high play, to the high school prom -- yes, I went to the prom, mirabile dictu -- and to my first wedding. That's it. I have no working knowledge of cosmetics. My cosmetic vocabulary is very limited. Foundation, eye liner, mascara, rouge, lipstick. Powder. Perfume. Compact. That's it. A cosmetological vocabulary circa 1950's.

So when I found myself in the "skin care" aisle, I found a quasi-anthropological (would that be gynecological?) interest kindling as I read the labels on a dizzying array of bottles and jars. I took out a small pad of paper and began taking notes.

I had no idea that one could do so many things to skin. I had no idea I'd been so neglecting mine ! What do I do to my skin ?

Well, I wash it. Then dry it.

What functions had I neglected ? Decrinkling, ultrahydrating, illuminating, firming, reactivating, supporting, exfoliating, concealing, age-diminishing, pampering, fortifying, regenerating, pore-clarifying ...

DK approached.

"What are you doing ?"

"Taking notes. Look at all these things ! There's even a bottle of stuff to prepare your face for doing these other things to it !"

He chuckled and pointed to the bottom shelf. "Corn Husker's Lotion ! That's great stuff !!!"

I looked. There it was, right beside "Zim's Crack Cream" and "Bag Balm."

Bag balm. That sounded about right.

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