Doesn’t flattery crack you up? The other day I went to my favorite skin care store, L’Occitane (said Lox-Ee-Tahn, according to their website), to resupply my daily, ridiculously expensive regimen. The regimen is one of my luxuries/vices. I don’t drink, smoke, or shop for fun–we all have to indulge in something, right? Also, they have a killer men’s shaving oil that my husband loves, and an aftershave lotion that doesn’t give me a headache when I approach said husband. So, good vibes all around.
I was lingering at the Divine line section. Divine is their most intense anti-aging line and comes in lovely golden yellow jars and bottles, like precious things that might have been printed on the wall above the vanity in a Barbie Dream House. Over the past couple of years, they’ve added some new options: a second eye cream, a moisturizer/mask, an oil. It’s a little confusing because a year or two ago, I had their best regimen, but now they’ve thrown in all these other things. Does that mean I no longer have the best? Perhaps not, but I like my regimen and it seems to work for me.
So, the nice young woman asked, “Do you use our Divine line? It will help make you the most radiant you can be.” I replied that, “Yes. I’ve been using it for years. What about this oil stuff? Do I need it?” “Well, do you feel like your skin is dry?” She peered at me, looking–I assume–deeply into my possibly moisture-starved pores. “I don’t think so. I mean, I use the Divine Extract and the Divine Cream, plus I have on your BB Cream. (BB cream is like a tinted moisturizer with SPF 15. It’s sold by many brands, but the L’Occitane version doesn’t make me break out.) Oh, my, did the poor thing become flustered! “Yes! I can tell because your skin is so radiant. So absolutely radiant.” Then she scampered over to a table to pick up a thing that looked like an electronic thermometer, then pressed the thing against my cheek and it made beeping noises. “This measures your moisture content.” Seconds later she said, “Forty-two,” as though that number would mean something to me. “But, seriously, you’re radiant.”
Um, no. Maybe fairly supple at most. The Virgin Mary was radiant. A Five-year-old presented with a giant, flaming birthday cake is radiant. Brides are radiant on their wedding day. I’m not radiant. I’m a 50-something woman who had a migraine at the time, a son who was VERY ready to leave the store, and a furrowed brow because, really, how much more moisturizing could a person possibly need? Radiant I was not, no matter how many times she used the word. I perhaps felt a little dewy from a combination of hot flashes and excellent moisturizer. But not radiant.
It was amusing, but also vaguely pleasant to be called radiant. Even if it was just part of a corporate script. Part of the magic of things like expensive moisturizers is an unspoken agreement: I’ll buy your fancy stuff, and you reflect back the image I want to see of myself. A simple transaction. Harmless deception all around. Mostly harmless, anyway, if it doesn’t go too far.
I’ve been thinking about ego a lot, lately. Separating out the real experience of the soul from the construct of the ego. Our ego serves as a protective exoskeleton. It likes to be stroked, and petted, and…moisturized. (Yeah, I went there.) The key is to not rely on the flattery to sustain the soul because the soul can’t even recognize it. If we rely too much on flattery, and require thick layers of it, the soul withers until we can no longer recognize it. Ego wins.
Occasional flattery is fun. Enjoy it, but don’t believe in it. You’ll know when someone is being genuine with you, and when someone is going too far over the top.
How do you feel about flattery? Have you ever thought someone went too far with it?
I usually do something writing-related on Wednesdays, but this week I have a special, bookish surprise on Thursday. Stay tuned!
March 14th Words
Journal: 300 words
Long fiction: 0 words
Short fiction: 200 words
Non-fiction: 0 words
Blog: 720 words
Exercise: (Drove home from spring break in Cincinnati)