I wasn’t aware of impending maxed-out debit-card-itis when I blithely entered ULTA, an exclusive, fun, one-stop-make-up shopping venue. I walked straight in, through the sleek glass and chrome doors, made a sharp right toward Bare Minerals, Smashbox, Laura Gellar, Tarte, Urban Decay, Benefit, Too Faced, Trance, and others I’d never heard of.
Something happens to me when I shop in Hunt Valley, an exclusive Baltimore suburb, sporting upscale boutiques and salons. I feel prosperous and self-indugent, and spend more money than I should. It would behoove me to limit my time there. In my defense, since my hair stylist moved to a salon in this location, I have no choice but to frequent Hunt Valley every six weeks or so. The problem is, after a long, luxuriant shampoo, head massage, cut and blow-dry; my very core screams for high-end cosmetics. Screams.
On this occasion, however; I made the lethal mistake of saying ‘yes’ to The. Dreaded. Makeover. Deep within the throes of The Dreaded Makeover, where makeup is removed in public and every pore, wrinkle, undereye shadow and unfortunately-placed facial hair is laid bare; one is as emotionally vulnerable as one gets. If one is a woman, that is.
The chirpy, bright and perfectly-made-up cosmetician made a few inquiries, matched my skin tone, told me I had beautiful skin, and why did I ever think I should wear the totally heavy and inappropriate makeup that I had on when I came in? Whatever possessed me to assume – who lied to me – to assess my skin as deserving such a heavy blanket of makeup that (gasp) actually covers it?
I am thinking, isn’t that what makeup is supposed to do? No? When did things change?
By the time she finishes talking, I am convinced, perched uncomfortably on the high, black-and-chrome stool in front of a large mirror; that I should never wear makeup again, and if I do, it should be transparent.
“Oh my goodness!” she gushes when my makeup is removed. “I prefer this face to the one you had on when you walked in! I really do!” I am vulnerable, naked-faced, uncertain. So I mumble something asinine like, “You really think so?”
Who is she kidding, and what has possessed me to believe her?
Her hands blur as she chooses various brands of makeup, whisks the lids off, plucks a brush (synthetic, she whispers…you must have a synthetic brush for this makeup) off her counter. I resist looking in the mirror, because, no matter what she says, there remains a pesky and unavoidable detail that smacks me in the face when I look at my reflection: reality. Somehow my image sans makeup and her rhapsodic compliments do not jive. I shrug and tell myself we are always our worst critics.
This is the power of The Dreaded Makeover. Geared to lure the unsuspecting – the aged, the plain, the pimpled, the makeup-impaired – into a gossamer unreality filled with airbrushed images, synthetic brushes and skin that glows with model-esque radiance. When one is under the influence of a silver-tongued, synthetic-brush-wielding cosmetician; trapped on the stool, dependent upon her makeup choices and end result (because, after all, one has to walk out and face the music afterwards); one is seduced into believing that her overpriced makeup is the answer to one’s quest for fulfillment in life. A blessing from above that has turned once-sallow skin tone to a healthy, bronzed summer day. How can I ever hope to survive without it? Well, the answer, from my enlightened perspective on the black-and-chrome stool, is very clear. I cannot, of course.
And, I have to admit, when she hands me the mirror after dibbing and dabbing me with multiple brushes; I do look pretty good. We spend several minutes appreciating her efforts, my face, and various makeup products.
By this time, I am in such a dither over the compliments and attention, I purchase one of everything plus the brushes. I even hug her and tease that I feel so encouraged I should do a makeover ever week! I feel feminine and radiant as I walk to the counter to pay, like a tiny sun goddess has graced my face and her golden radiance blesses everyone that has the good fortune to look upon my countenance.
After I see the bill, the golden rays slip behind the clouds of my darkening expression. The total reflects what the savvy cosmetician has been trained to do…use gushing flattery to sell the most expensive products available. I bet she got an incredible commission.
As I leave ULTA, everyone waves a cheery good-bye. They are acting like my new best friends. And they should, after I spent that much money on makeup!
My new face and I, after sticker shock recedes, have an intense chat on the way home and decide it was worth it.