Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Saving Face

I went for a facial today at Bliss using a gift certificate given to me by a friend. The Blissworld experience was a far cry from my horrendous massage at Essential Therapy last weekend. For one, no one interrupted my treatment demanding $13 to continue, as if we were playing a game of Buck Hunter in a sticky-floored dive bar that reeked of stale beer. Also, the showers didn't smell like mildew.

I've been getting Bliss facials for years now; they are the only ones I like. Almost without fail, the estheticians are women from a former Soviet Republic. Facials, at least the "extraction" part, can hurt, and the sharpness of Russian-tinged English is the perfect prerequisite for providing such a service. The providers' speech patterns are just so... authoritative. It's almost as if they enjoy hurting you, like real-life analogs to Steve Martin's character in Little Shop of Horrors, only with facials instead of dentistry.

I relaxed in the waiting room, nibbling on two ultra-mini pieces of a chocolate chip blondie and sipping lemon-infused water. Julia (probably Yulia, right?) fetched me right on time. When we arrived to the treatment room, Yulia smiled and asked if I had just had a massage.

No, I replied.

She looked confused. You didn't just have a massage before this? she asked again.

I shook my head. She looked quizzically at me, her eyes floating up for a brief moment to my hair, which was pulled back into its usual elegant bun messy clip arrangement. My hair was dirty. So dirty, in fact, that it might have looked like I just spent an hour getting my head massaged with essential oils. Only no, no. It was just dirty. From not washing it.

These days when I go in for a "personal care" service, I always wonder if I should volunteer that I am the mother of a young baby in order to explain why my toenails are claw-like or my leg hair is two and a half inches long, for example. I try to gauge whether the person in question would care or understand. Like, if I said, 'Oh, I have a baby at home,' and someone nodded knowingly, that would be okay. But if I then had to explain further, in the face of a blank stare, that this means showering is a luxury I can only sometimes afford, well, it starts to get a bit rambling and awkward. The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

What products do you use on your face? Yulia asked as she examined my skin. I desperately wanted to cry out, I swear I wash my face! The reason I have a huge zit on my chin is because it's always covered with slimy, saliva-drenched baby hands!

Bliss estheticians are notorious for up-selling. The $120 basic facial is not enough, you see, to correct all your glaring deficiencies. Truthfully, Yulia was not as pushy as some, and for that I was thankful. Her pitch was an enzyme peel to get rid of the dead skin and "all those blackheads" that I didn't even realize I had.

If only she knew that an enzyme peel is powerless against slimy baby hands. I declined without explanation. She shrugged. I had guessed right -- Yulia wouldn't have cared about the baby hands.

As she began cleansing my face, my thoughts strayed to the beautiful woman waiting for the elevator with me downstairs. She was carrying her baby in an Ergo, effortlessly it seemed, as opposed to looking uncomfortable and sweaty like I usually do. Her clothing was stylish and her hair was brushed. She even had makeup on.

How does she look like that, I wondered? I was happy to be wearing a necklace and a new skort from Athleta. (I had already gone down the tankini road; skorts were just a matter of time.)

The truth is, even before I had Henry I wasn't that fashionable or put together. I mean, don't get me wrong -- I wouldn't have been caught dead in a skort or a tankini. But it wasn't like I was rocking Christian Louboutins up and down the avenues. In a bid to discover my hidden hipster, I recently bought a pair of funky-ish glasses by a French designer called Lafont (I had to take my glasses off to look for that information). I immediately regretted the purchase. There is no hipster in here; I just look silly.

Part of me thinks it's time to get over myself. I'm the mom of a young baby; there should be no shame in wearing a skort and Birkenstocks (yes! I bought them!) or having messy hair. On the other hand, there are some really thin, graceful, stylish mommies out there. I could be one of them, couldn't I?

Well, not today in any case. After the facial was over, I used what little time I had left to wash my hair in the clean, quiet shower. I put my rockin' skort outfit back on and rushed out...into the pouring rain. And because I'm never prepared for the weather, I arrived home to the sitter looking like a semi-drowned rat. But at least I hadn't apologized to anyone about my appearance.