While we were in Nashville, we visited Opry Mills Mall. We’d planned on eating at the Rainforest Cafe, but we went in the wrong door, and thus had to walk a gauntlet of kiosks on our way to the restaurant. I’m pretty adept at fending off the kiosk salespeople, despite the limited amount of time I’ve spent in malls in the past decade. I don’t straighten my hair because I don’t like to. I have skin and respiratory allergies, so I don’t use [insert beauty product here]. I don’t wear jewelry because I have small children who would rip it from my person, and possibly eat it. I don’t even take the proffered free samples most of the time; I thanks-but-no and keep walking.
I don’t know what made me slow down to take the hand cream from the skincare kiosk sales clerk. I was tired, and Anya was in awe of the whole mall experience and thus dragging her feet while gawking at everything, and boom! She got us. I was content to shove the packet of hand cream in my purse (along with the straightening cream packet thrust into my hand from another salesperson in another kiosk), but the clerk looked at my face — really looked at me — as I turned to murmur my gee-thanks-bye. “Oh!” she said. “I have something you will really like. An eye cream!” And she starts jabbering at me about how it’s like a face lift and pulls out this scary syringe-looking cream dispenser.
Stunned into speechlessness, I was working up a refusal when R and Kai dragged us away. Which is good, because when I caught my breath, what surfaced was anger.
Ignoring the fact that a) I’m not a face product person and b) the skin allergy story is actually the truth, I in no way wanted whatever snake oil she was peddling, all because of the way she was peddling it. She was content to sell me hand cream until she saw my face — and then she got excited! It could not have been more clear that she thought I looked old (or, to put a kinder face on it, tired) if she’d come right out and said those words.
Since neither of us got to finish saying what we wanted to say, I’ll put my piece here.
I’m over 40. Faces look like this if you live long enough. Especially if you’re tired. Which I am; I got less than 4 hours of sleep last night.
Two days ago, I got married. I handled almost everything about the ceremony and reception myself: I designed and printed the stationery, made the bouquets, decorated the venue, cooked all the food, baked the cake. My goal was to host a wedding and reception that was welcoming and personalized to both R and I as people and to us as a couple, so I skipped the wedding vendors in favor of an almost entirely DIY event. I then proceeded to socialize with — even hug! — all of our guests, even though I’m introverted as hell and so much social interaction drains me. We had a great time, and I enjoyed every bit of the wedding and reception, but I am running on fumes now.
Yesterday, I dragged myself out of bed and drove my family three hours to go on our first real family vacation. In a real hotel, with a pool and everything. My kids have never been in a pool bigger than a kiddie pool, so of course we went swimming. Only they can’t swim, and neither can I. Their father can; he was a lifeguard. But that’s 3 against 1.
We had fun, despite all that. But I can’t say I enjoyed the pool time. I was too busy trying to be in two places at once, and not drown in the process. It was tiring. Especially after the long drive, the long week, and all of the excitement of the weekend up til that point.
Also, like every mom these days, I have the internet on tap 24/7, ready to scare the daylights out of me. So when my son suddenly awakened at 3 a.m., coughing and choking, I was convinced it was dry drowning. Even after he fell back asleep, I sat up, holding him in a semi-upright position so he could breathe easier. I kept one hand on his chest to monitor his breathing while I Googled up a storm, trying to decide if I needed to take him to the emergency room, call his doctor, or just wait and see how he was when he woke up.
Once it was clear that he was fine, just suffering allergies or perhaps a minor cold, it was daylight. We’re only in town a couple of days; I didn’t want to waste one of them napping in the hotel. Instead, I poured some coffee down my throat and dragged myself out.
We spent this whole day at a children’s science museum. I have been dragged all over three stories of exhibits by each child individually and simultaneously. I’ve been made to climb higher than my acrophobia can smoothly handle, dragged into conversations with total strangers I wasn’t prepared to join, and subjected to a few heart-stopping moments in which I couldn’t locate one child or the other. They napped on the drive over here. I didn’t.
So yeah — I’m 43, and exhausted, and probably sporting the deluxe set of eye luggage. But I earned every bag and crease and line, so holster that syringe. If you’re lucky, someday your eyes will look like this, too, and you’ll understand that it’s a privilege, not a flaw.
But of course it wouldn’t have mattered a bit if I had said all this to her. She would still go on to accost the next not-twentysomething who walked past her kiosk. Hell, she’d have gone on to accost me, had I stood there long enough. It’s her job.
I learned something from the experience, though. I learned that the next time some pretty young thing tries to sell me something to make me look young enough to be my own kid, I’ll tell her “look, I earned this face” and keep walking.