I wanted to buy a bar of soap this week. I’ve had this soap before and I hadn’t really thought much about buying it.
I went into Debenhams and I went over to the really bright bit where they keep all the woman dressed like dentists. The ones wearing ALL OF THE make up.
I think what’s happened there, is that the companies have designed that area to look like a surgical theatre on a space ship, and then panicked that people won’t know they’re selling make up so have asked the representatives to use a bit of absolutely everything they have.
All the make up you can fit between your hair and your neck is on those women.
And it’s terrifying, because no matter how alright you thought you looked that day you walk in to Debenhams and immediately wish you had a thousand per cent more make up on to try and keep up.
I just shuffle through, wishing there was a sharpie or a yoghurt in my bag I could use to just cover up a few more bits.
So, I get to the woman and say, “Hello, can I have some soap please?” And then, she should be like, *reaching in a drawer, getting some soap, here you go madam you can have some soap*.
But then she asked me:
“What skin type do you have?”
I had NO IDEA what the answer to that question was, so I stood there staring at her, just trying to dredge up any words for the next bit of the conversation. I was trying to think of an answer that would sound right, but really what I was thinking was, “Huh, all these years I’ve been getting cross in yoga because I can’t do the mind clearing bit, and it would have been really easy if they’d paid a cosmetics lady to stand there and ask me questions about my own face.”
She asks the questions again, thinking I’ve answered and she’s missed it somehow.
And I’m still standing there, and then, just with a sort of totally blank mind I said…
“I’ve always been white.”
Not even “I’m white.” Which would be weird enough. But I’ve said, “I’ve always BEEN white.”
As though she’s accused me of having a very rare Michael Jackson type syndrome and I’ve gone - no, no - contrary to popular beliefs I’ve always ticked White-British at job interviews.
She is smile staring at me.
You know that thing where someone is quite clearly nervous of you but they’re still smiling?
Her head’s kind of on one side… it reminded me of… when I was at at primary school there was this kid who had a bit of a problem with pooping and he’d do it weird places.
And one time my teacher found he’d taken a poop in the Sticklebricks - which is the hardest toy to clean. It’s like waterboarding a hedgehog. And she did the smile like the dentist lady.
I was so mortified. The problem is, that fear that they’re going to make you feel insecure takes over because you don’t want to lie but you also don’t want to give them any space to try and sell you something else for your obviously awful face.
Normal skin, is what I want to shout at her. It’s just skin. It’s skin skin skin skin.
She tries a better line of questioning:
“How does your skin feel at the end of the day?”
Woman - I have no idea what to say to you at this point.
That’s like asking me what oxygen tasted like yesterday; it didn’t occur to me to consider.
What does my skin feel like at the end of the day… It feels like frigging skin!
Mostly it depends what I’ve done that day… if I’ve had a shower; it’s wet. If I’m in bed; it’s comfy. If I think about anything that’s been voted on or elected in the last two years; it’s crawling.
It’s skin… I’ve never really thought about what it feels like.
My thought process has now gone so far down a rabbit hole that I’m just STANDING THERE with this poor woman.
I look like a robot shutting down. Like it’s the scene in the film where the robot realises it’s not a human after all because it can’t answer any of these questions about human feelings.
And this woman is a professional, she is trying her best… She’s throwing out all her best lines “What’s your skin regime like currently?”
And this time, I at least know what not to say, I know you’re not meant to lean in with a really honest look and say “Well, depends if I’m visibly sticky…”
Do people really have skin regimes that last longer than it takes to read the magazine article that guilted you into getting one?
Regime is not a positive word… You never hear that a country has had “regime change” and think, “Oh good for you Korea - that bodes well.”
I don’t have a skin regime. But I can’t tell her I only even started taking my make up off before bed when I bought white pillow cases and I could get out of bed and leave my face in it.
There are no right answers because whatever you say, there’ll be a reason you need to buy something else…
I tried sort of mumbling something to her about moisturising whenever I can, missing the words “be arsed” off the end of that sentence and she perks up.
But then, you can see the sales pitch coming, she says…
“And, if you don’t moisturise… how does your skin feel? Does it feel tight?”
Instinctively, I want to say “No, it’s not tight at all.” It is the one thing I wear every day that I don’t look at my reflection and wish I wasn’t filling out quite so snugly.
My skin has always had my back, quite literally, in terms of making a note of where I’m expanding and modifying production to fit the order.
But then I don’t want to get the answer wrong and give her the impression that it’s baggy…
I’ve never looked at my skin and thought, “Ooh I wish that was a bit nearer.”
My skin has always felt as far away from me as I need it to be. It’s not overly clingy, but it’s not going away for long weekends without texting.
So, I don’t want to say “Yes” and have her tell me I that I need aqua-plumpus skinus youngus pro-b formula that Davina Macall swears by.
But, I don’t want to say, “no” and then have her eyebrows… I say eyebrows, have her drawings of eyebrows, shoot up because I’ve inadvertently wandered into a shop and declared myself a Caucasian leper who desperately needs the new Jennifer Aniston range of Pro-vitamin wastus moneyus that 84% of 12 teenagers described as “inedible”.
I don’t want any of it. I just want the bar of soap I have been using.
And I don’t want to be judged for not wanting it… I don’t want to have to pretend there’s a reason I’m not buying it today, or that I’ll think about it for another time, I want to be honest and say, “I thought I was doing bloody well buying the god damn soap in the first place and now you’re making me wish I’d just bought brown pillow cases and been done with it.”
In the end she showed me 3 bars of soap, I chose the colour I thought I recognised from the last one and she asked me to find someone else to pay.
I shat in the lipsticks on the way out.