Jewish Journal


by Tiferet Peterseil

December 30, 2009 | 4:51 pm

How "natural" should beauty be?

The room is small, dimly lit by lavender scented candles whose glow adds to the warm cozy feeling engulfing me as the gentle harmony of nature’s sounds wafts through the—

“Okay, now please take off your clothes,” the woman gently, but firmly, commands. Uh oh, I’ve done it again, I tell myself. When they advertised, “Treat yourself to a new you. You’ll feel born again,” I didn’t know they meant it literally.

“What?” I turn to her, simultaneously looking around for the hidden camera.

“If you like, I’ll leave the room while you undress,” she says soothingly, a little grin spreading across her face. I suddenly imagine her as the co-star of a girl-on-girl x-rated film. But here’s one time I’m not looking to be a leading lady.

“Does everyone have to get naked for a facial?” I ask, reluctantly stripping.

“No. We give young actresses preferential treatment, so that later we can sell their pictures to the Paparazzi.”

I freeze, unsure if she’s kidding or not, and just in case make a dash for the paper-thin covers atop the treatment bed.

“Is this your first time?” she asks, amused.  I’m nervously hoping we’re both referring to the same thing.

I feel there are many milestones I’ve missed out on as a woman. “Getting Ready” is one of them. When my sisters and I are getting dressed for an event, I’m always embarrassed to say “ready” when only five minutes have passed. I can never quite figure out what I’m supposed to do for so long. Many are the times I’ve simply locked myself in the bathroom and read a good book while telling my family, “Don’t rush me, I’m putting on my face.” Yes, I know, a whole new dimension to “two-faced.” And nails – pedicure, manicure – if only people knew that my technique for applying nail polish is simply paint the whole toe, then wipe off the excess polish around the nail.
That’s why I came to this “Sima’s Super Spa!”. I wanted desperately to fulfill another right of passage into womanhood—The Facial.

“Yeah, this is my first facial,” I point out, making sure she knows what I’m here for. “How’d you know?” I ask curiously.

She pulls up a chair and starts talking to my feet.  “A lucky guess,” she says dryly, “and you’re lying down in the wrong direction. Head goes in here,” she points to where I have my toes safely curled in a little pillow hole, and I clumsily, switch directions (under the covers).

“Oops. I’m not so good at this,” I apologize. “I was traumatized when I was twelve. My Mom made me go to a nail torturer. My virgin cuticles were never the same. I couldn’t play piano for days, and my psychologist says I’m the first person he’s met with cuticle phobia – I see a manicurist and I sit on my hands.”

“So what made you decide to be so brave now?” she asks, reaching for what I’m sure are restraints.

“Well, I’ll be flying to the USA soon for a few auditions, and I figured I’ll indulge myself.”

Then she lights up. “Since we’re preparing you for close-ups of you face, I’d like to recommend a very unique treatment, geared especially for public figures in front of the camera. Even Angelina Jolie does it!” and she takes out a photograph of Angie walking out of a beauty salon with the caption “FACE OFF”, and a one liner explaining the exquisite facial treatment Angelina regularly goes through to look her best.

Staring at the clipping, I begin to worry that maybe she wasn’t kidding about selling pictures to the paparazzi.

The beautician winks at me, “See, there’s a reason Angie looks so young. But we can have you looking like that in no time.”

“But I am young. I even got carded last night.”

“That’s the worst. People who feel young. Don’t you know that the skin begins aging at 12 or 13? If you don’t take care of yourself you’ll be all wrinkles before your first facelift.”

Wrinkles? Facelift?  I wince, touching my face self-consciously. People have been telling me lately how much I look like my Grandmother. I look at the tabloid clipping again. Well. If it’s good enough for Angie…

“Okay,” I comply, “what do we do?”

“First we take this little brush with these metal bristles,” she demonstrates excitedly, caressing my arm with the steel fingers. “We move it along your face, which tightens it, and fills in the wrinkles. It’s called undulating the epidermis.”

“Umm, so is that at all related to Botox?”

She winks at me. “And for only 2000 shekels you can look like Angie’s younger sister. Ah, but what’s the price for beauty?”

That’s just what I was thinking. Whatever happened to that natural look?

“On second thought, my wrinkles give me character. Let’s just go with the regular facial.”

She sighs, only slightly disappointed. I’m glad because I wouldn’t want to get the person who’s changing my face angry. 

She begins with a “face scrub”, which seems to be a special foam mixed with gravel so that it scratches up your face nice and evenly. Then “peeling”, which believe it or not, really is designed to peel your face off. I think it would’ve been more humane to use a vegetable peeler. She then spends the next ten minutes rubbing in ‘special creams’—which all smell suspiciously like hair mousse.

Just when I’m sure I can relax again, because all this pain must be a sign that it’s almost over, out comes the magnifying glass. I let out a little yelp, remembering what my mother said about the dermatologists in her day who used a magnifying glass to squeeze out blackheads and pimples. Ugh! How primitive can you get?

And she promptly proceeds to pinch, squeeze, nip and pick my face. Black heads. Gone. Pimples (Not that I have any). Gone. Eyebrows. Gone. Face. Gone

“Is it supposed to burn so much?” I ask, trying to blow on my cheek.

“Shh…. It means it’s working. Now just lean back and enjoy the pampering,” she forces my eyelids shut. Maybe it is working, since I notice I can no longer blink voluntarily.

That’s when she puts a net around my face, and has me hold a strange metal rod.

“Just hold that, and don’t worry about a thing. It’s just to complete the electrical circuit.”

I force open my eyes and look at her. “Electrical –???“

Zap! I swear she giggled as my whole body convulsed in response to the “magnet” electrifying my face. Between the humming sound and the zapping sound, I begin empathizing with those mosquitoes we treat so unjustly.

“Okay, now we’re just about done, and it’s time for your face massage,” she says, smoothing down my long hair, which is so loaded with static it’s no longer touching the ground, but actually pointing towards the near wall.

True to form, she rubs a burning cream into what’s left of my original face, holding me down with her elbows. I get the disturbing sensation that someone’s just smeared a whole tube of mint toothpaste onto my face.

“How do you feel?” she asks, as she helps me sit up.

“Did you catch the license of the truck that hit me?” I say miserably. “Is the plastic surgeon still on this floor?” The witch laughs.

“Wow! You’re positively glowing!” she lies. “You look like a million dollars, if I dare to toot my own horn.” And she hands me a mirror.

I look at my reflection: Red, blotchy, with net marks scorched into my skin. Not to mention my hair is higher than Marge’s (of the Simpson’s).

“Will I ever be able to wink again?” I ask hopefully.

“I guess you are a little red,” she admits, lowering her voice. “But you know, our face is just the mirror of our soul. So you must be a very special person if your face is so sensitive.”

My soul isn’t sensitive, it’s just blushing, looking at my new face. However, I’m about to give her a piece of my “sensitive” mind, when she pre-empts me, saying, “Or maybe, you should’ve splurged for the Angelina Jolie treatment.”

I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to take the rich and famous treatment. When I think of it, I have to hand it to Angie—she’s got a hell-of-a-threshold for pain.

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