Thoughts under a face mask

During my recent visit to America, I had what is now known as a ‘virgin experience’. No, not THAT kind but a ‘first’ in my life all the same. A facial. I had never had one, I confessed to my US BF (=American best  friend) when we were discussing beauty treatments and who had had what ‘done’ (aka plastic surgery). “Me? I have never even had a facial,” I said in a throw-away remark. US BF bounced across the room (metaphorically speaking) in shock and awe and stared at me as if  I had just announced I had never been to the dentist. “What?” she exclaimed, “are you serious?”

I nodded, slightly taken aback by her reaction. “I, uh, exfoliate and tone and do all that stuff at home.”

Now she looked as if I extracted my own teeth. “You can’t go on like this. You need help.” She picked up the phone and immediately connected with her beautician, who she had on speed dial. “Irina?” she said. “I have a friend here who needs immediate attention. Pause. US BF: “I know you’re booked up but… but… THIS WOMAN HAS NEVER HAD A FACIAL.” Another pause. “Yes, that’s right she is a virgin,” US BF continued with a giggle.  Then they both agreed I needed urgent attention and was booked in for that afternoon.

I was delivered to the salon half an hour later and was greeted by Irina, who, with a strong Russian accent, invited me into the treatment room, told me to strip to my waist, put on a towel and a head band, scrape my hair back and lie down on the couch. I nervously obeyed orders. Irina put out the light and switched on a spotlight and proceeded to examine my face. “What is this…stuff?” she asked,  scraping at my chin with a spatula, “some kind of self tan?”

“It’s a real suntan,” I said, knowing I had just confessed to a deadly sin. “I spend a lot of time outdoors, swimming and walking and so on.”

“A suntan?” Irina exclaimed with a shudder. “Have you never heard of sunblock?”

“Yes, of course,” I said, “I do put it on but, well, it could be that it comes off with sweat and water.”

“Uh, okay,” Irina mumbled. “You seem to have quite sallow skin though despite your fair hair. This is very strange.”

I felt like joking that I was an alien from outer space but, being slightly nervous of Russians wielding spatulas, I changed my mind. “I’m from Sweden and Scandinavians usually do have quite dark skin despite our fair hair.”

Irina was not impressed. “I’m going to peel off the dead skin,” she said, ” and then I will put on a hydrating mask and then apply a very strong Vitamin C lotion that will boost your cell renewal.”

Needless to say, the peeling off dead skin, followed by squeezing blackheads, was not a walk in the park. I endured it all without screaming out loud, of which I am quite proud. But after the suffering came the reward; the hydrating mask. When she had applied this, Irina dimmed the lights, put on classical music and left the room, telling me to relax for twenty minutes. “Go to sleep if you want,” she suggested.

The moment the door closed behind her, I felt my whole body slump in a kind of after-shock relaxation state. Not exactly falling asleep, I nevertheless went into some kind of meditation mode, where my mind drifted.  I felt as if I was floating and I went through all kinds of things I had experienced during the past few months. I started a conversation with myself, where the sensible part of me analyzed what the immature, impetuous, impulsive part had done and said and felt.  What I had written. What I had said to people. Decisions I had made.  People I had foolishly connected with online. Things that had troubled me and had been at the back of my mind were suddenly vivid and important and demanding to be dealt with. And I did. One by one, each issue was sorted, rejected or filed away in the right compartment.  As the last notes of the nocturne by Chopin faded away, I slowly woke up, feeling not only physically cleansed but mentally spring-cleaned, exfoliated, toned and ready to start afresh.

When Irina came back and finished off the treatment  I got off that couch, feeling as if I was stepping into a new, uncluttered life, reborn, stronger and ready to go out there and face the world again.

“Don’t forget to exfoliate,” Irina ordered, as I walked into the sunshine, my face glowing and my spirits soaring.

“Promise,” I said, feeling suddenly very fond of her. She had, after all, cleansed all of me.

Will I do it again? Will I spend what it would cost to have dinner in an expensive restaurant scraping dead skin off my face?  Definitively.  Life needs a good going over now and then.

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