I was at Hypercity the other day, with spouse in tow, himself doing the manly task of pushing laden trolley down aisles, while I chucked in as much as I could grab from the shelves into said trolley. When the groceries for the month were done with, I stopped at the cosmetic counters, there was a product I wanted to try out, given I had heard rave reviews about it. Tiny salesperson, immaculately made up, rubbed two different shades on the inner side of my wrist when I was uncertain as to which shade I should pick up. Psst, I must admit, all these years of being a make up junkie, and I still have no clue whatsoever about what is my perfect skin match and if I don’t look like the white rice flour effect of Ram Lila players, I consider my foundation shopping a success.
“This one,” she said, rubbing the shade into my skin, “Is a perfect match for your skin tone. But this one,” she added rubbing a second shade next to it, her tone grave, “Will make you look fairer.” I looked at her with my best Medusa gaze, but it glanced off her carapace and fell to the floor. The husband stepped back involuntarily, having recognised that look and wanting no part of being within its sweep.
“Take the second one,” she said authoritatively, “It will make you look fairer.” I frothed at the mouth for a split second, and almost launched into a diatribe about how I had no desire to look fairer, that my duskier skin tone was fabulous, thank you very much and we needed to stop hawking products with the make you look fairer spiel. I caught the pleading look from the spouse who was probably exhausted pushing laden trolley and had no patience to wait through me throwing another temper tantrum. So I smiled politely, and opted for the one which was a perfect match for my skin tone. I had no desire, I told her through gritted teeth and a tight rictus smile, to look fairer than I was. She gave me a confused look and went off to get the bill made. I couldn’t blame her. She had probably learnt through experience that women were looking for products that made them look fairer when applied. I told her, as gently as I could, on paying, that perhaps not everyone is looking to be fairer, and sometimes all we are looking for is something that will even out our patchwork quilt skin into an even tone. She nodded, but bravely continued, “You should have taken the other shade, this one will make you look dark.” I stopped short of finding handy pillar and banging my head on it, and the spouse swiftly maneuvered me out of inflicting any damage to self.
The next aisle I went to, I tried to pick up a packet of sanitary napkins. Here you think I would have been left in peace to decide what product of what length/ size/perfumed/unperfumed/absorbency I could choose to absorb my menstrual fluids. Apparently not. A salesperson loomed up and took a long look at the packet I was about to drop into the trolley. “Don’t take that one,” she declared, picking it out of the trolley and substituting it with another one, albeit from the same brand. “Take this, it is extra large, it will absorb more.” If there was an available wall I would have banged my head on it. Also, it was the kind of Mother Earth Swallow Me Now moment that one hopes one never has when random stranger discussed what industrial strength of sanitary napkin you should be using, because obviously you just look like a woman who bleeds obscene amounts and needs XL sanitary napkins. The husband whisked the trolley out of the aisle with lightning speed and I followed red faced, embarrassed and checking my reflection in the mirror to check whether I had ‘PCOD sufferer, bleeds by the bucketfuls’, stamped on my forehead.
Next time I visit the supermarket, I’m going to be prepared. I’m going to sprint down the aisle and pick up sanitary napkins the moment I see the aisle clear of all well meaning store attendants, and when I go to buy foundation type products, am going to state upfront, I don’t want to look fairer, no. What would have been truly appalling, I’m consoling myself, is if someone came up to me and tried to hawk me some extra strength long lasting Deo. You know.