I have a suggestion for department store cosmetic counters: Get rid of your employees. I’d go there so much more often, and I think most other women would too. There’s no one standing in the produce section of the grocery store saying, “Oh, you’re buying a peach? Then you need peach yogurt, peach jam, and peach pie too. Otherwise there’s no point. Do you exfoliate?” In the cracker aisle, there’s no one holding a clipboard and frowning, “Oh, you’re buying Wheat Thins? Did you know we have Triscuits? And Ritz? You seem like more of a Wheatables type. And with your complexion…”

But at a department store, you can’t walk by a toxic wasteland of perfume on your way to look at shoes without being accosted by someone asking if you’d like to smell like buttercups in the breeze or lilacs in the spring or Jessica Simpson, post-divorce. You can’t let your eyes rest for even a nanosecond on any products by Prescriptives or Lancome without the woman behind the counter all but demanding to know what you’ve been using on your skin thus far and why it’s taken you so long to arrive at your senses and come to her for help. Sshh, don’t worry, it’ll be okay now. You’re safe.

I wanted to buy something at Clinique today only slightly more than I didn’t want to deal with the people at the Clinique counter. They may be the worst ones of all. What number skin products do you use? You don’t know? You don’t use clarifying toner? When did you stop caring?

First of all, the labcoats. The coat doesn’t make you seem like a doctor or scientist. Come to think of it, when I was in grad school I worked at a local hospital a couple mornings a week checking the hearing of newborn babies, and they used to make me throw a labcoat over my jeans. You’d be amazed at how many freshly minted parents are more than happy to let you wheel their new baby away and poke them for a few minutes when you look like…well, a Clinique salesperson.

Second of all, the withering size-up. “Hi,” I said. Cheerfully enough, I think. “I’d like such-and-such.”

“Such-and-such. Certainly.” Pause. “Have you considered any of our redness-correcting products?”

“No thank you. Just the such-and-such.”

“Certainly. If you’re interested in a sample of this redness-correcting product…” And suddenly there’s a Q-tip being offered up in front of me with a dab of, presumably, redness-correcting product on the end of it.

“No thank you.”

She wasn’t the first non-doctor to diagnose me with rosacea, which cosmetics counterpeople talk about like it’s AIDS. “Oh. You must have ROSACEA. I know of some lovely hospices, dear.” Never mind the fact that my dermatologist has reacted to my wondering whether or not I show signs of it with, “Eh, probably not.” (Ahem, rosacea, that is.) These are the same non-doctors who also try to frantically ply me with self-tanner so that no one else has to be subjected to the glowing orb of whiteness that is my skin. So do I have damaged skin that requires your product so that I look healthier or do I require the appearance of damaged skin so as to look healthier? Make-up your mind, ladies.

Why do these women have the ability to make any of us feel even the tiniest iota of insecurity? I’ve rarely seen one who didn’t make me think, “So THAT’S what frosted blue eyeliner/incorrect tanning lotion application/roots on top of roots look like.”

The woman next to me said she was interested in a particular foundation. A doctor slash scientist said to her, “You’re not wearing any makeup now, right?” The woman was clearly in work clothes, probably in her 40s, and responded with an obviously deflated, “Uh…no…not really that much.”

Back to my own personal beauty technician. “Come back if you ever want to check out our redness-correcting products.”

I checked to make sure I had everything I needed before I walked away. There’s nothing like tossing some retail bitch a stony glare as you retreat and then having to shuffle back and say, “Yeah, hi. I think I was supposed to get a gift with purchase?”

It just kept coming. This faucet could not be shut off. “We really have some fabulous options. I swear by them.”

People, she had a lazy eye. Do you think that I ever, in a million years, would’ve suggested to her that she try glasses? Because I swear by them.


9 Responses to “Counterterrorism”

  1. 1 -R- April 1, 2009 at 7:34 am

    Yes, what is with the lab coats! I have never understood that.

    Also, when I was in the hospital with the baby, I probably would have let anyone take him from the room for any reason. I was just SO TIRED. I think that’s why the hospital puts little lo jack ankle bracelets on babies.

  2. 2 courtney April 1, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Hee. I hate those people too. I wonder what their training is like? “First ask the customer if you can help them, then curtly comment on what is surely their biggest insecurity, and be sure to make it sound like they will spend their life as an ugly troll if they don’t immediately buy our product.” I feel like a lot of the girls I went to high school with would probably be great at that.

  3. 3 Stefanie April 1, 2009 at 9:02 am

    I’m pretty sure those women are the reason online cosmetic shopping was invented.

  4. 4 Kristen April 1, 2009 at 9:23 am

    I have been using dried-out Prescriptives mascara for three weeks now for this very reason. Methinkgs I’d rather have a root canal.

  5. 5 Alice April 1, 2009 at 10:53 am

    I didn’t knew there were so many women besides me who would like to slink by the cosmetic counters unnoticed… even funnier was the comment by Stefanie. I was just shopping online last night, not only for moisterizer creams but better prices too! Maybe without all those glam lab coated sales ladies the prices could be lowered!

  6. 6 Greg April 4, 2009 at 8:45 am

    Ah, yet another thing I don’t have to worry about because I’m not a woman. The positives just keep coming. Although due to some of my recent eating habits, I may need to start looking into bras.

  7. 7 Stacey April 5, 2009 at 11:32 am

    My fiance once DATED a Clinique counter girl. Had I known that when we first met, it would have been a deal-breaker.

  8. 8 Allie April 6, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    You are so funny!

    I totally run by the counters whenever I have to go to the mall. There’s also some guy who’s out at a kiosk who seems dead set on putting lotion on my hands. It’s scary at the mall.

  9. 9 Red April 6, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    -R-, that’s true, I never factored in new mommy tiredness.

    Courtney, ha, totally.

    Stefanie, good point. What was I thinking, actually going to the store?

    Kristen, I could’ve grabbed you some new Prescriptives when I was there…we should probably send one person in at a time to buy in bulk…

    Alice, I need to start with the online spending, i think…

    Greg, so long as it’s not anti-aging serum (what is serum!) you’re good.

    Stacey, at least he eventually saw the error of his ways and traded up!

    Allie, thanks! ugh, a guy? What’s this world coming to?

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