Chroniques

“Take some time for yourself,” they said ! FML, New York self-care edition.

For weeks, people have been telling me nonstop that I work too much and that I HAVE TO “take some time for myself” and “get my self-care act together.” So, encouraged by my husband, my sisters, and my girlfriends, I plan a relaxing morning…“You’ll see, it’ll do you a crazy amount of good!” as they all said to me. I make an appointment for a facial treatment in order to refresh and rejuvenate the texture of my skin, which has been getting looser and weaker.

I’m delighted by the idea of spending an hour lying down in a pod with background music, whether it’s birds chirping in a tropical forest or a Buddha Bar CD (even though I think this elevator music has been over since 1998).

What I have in mind is to start with some injections. But as the black cat of life, even before trying it out I see myself developing an allergy to the product and ending up with half my face frozen. After which I’ll be perpetually confused for either a cyborg or Stallone’s mother. Look, it’ll teach me a lesson to no longer look like SJP, and maybe I’ll even be spotted in YouTube videos of the top 10 plastic surgery fails.

Victory is mine: I arrive on time. A woman quickly explains that she’ll be taking care of my pores. I settle in under a blanket and then she’s meticulously fiddling with my skin. Waiting for her analysis, I’m permitted some classical music.

While she assesses my skin, I feel exactly as if I’m undergoing a struggle session. I’m imagining all my wrinkles…sorry, I mean laugh lines…getting together and turning informant. From here I can see them betraying me, telling Indra in unison how many times I’ve “forgotten” to take my makeup off at night before going to bed, and if I have in fact put on my day cream. Like I have the time EVERY night to do this ritual that women’s magazines, actresses, and flight attendants always harp on about.

I come around when this expert tells me that I have incredible skin for my age. I don’t even want to think about what that means. Right after, she starts reeling off the forty-six thousand products that she plans to put on my mug, adding the price in the same breath. Don’t ask don’t tell! Luckily I’m already lying down. I’d faint otherwise.

Urged on by my laugh lines which are begging me to accept, I give the green light:
“Ok Indra, hit me.”
And before I know it, things are spreading and spreading until the grand finale, the application of the WOW mask.
“What is it?”
“A hardening mask. I’m going to spread it out with a brush all over your face. It’ll boost the radiance of your complexion. You’ll look incredible. It’s just going to sting a little.”

Two minutes later, feeling the hot liquid spread out and then immediately harden, I’d appreciate the moment if it weren’t stinging my eyes so much. I inform Indra who says several times that it’s normal.

“Are you sure because it’s burning more and more like a LOT. Jeez! It’s totally burning! Please help help! I feel something disintegrating in me!!!”

And that’s when I hear a giant:

“AHHHHH! Are you wearing contacts?”

“Yes!”

“Oh God! Oh God! Oh God! (Times about 15 in real life.) I forgot to ask you about that! How could I make such a mistake! I systematically ask all my clients.”

“Take the WOW off me faaaaast!”

I’m in a total panic over losing my eyes. (Such an exaggerator!) The woman wipes my eyes with a compress full of piping hot water. While she’s at it, she scalds my cheeks. She scrubs off the mask around my eyes. As soon as I’m liberated, I try to open them but, the horror! they’re stuck. Indra’s “ohs” are not at all reassuring. Self-care has become a nightmare. Take time for yourself, they told me. They must be joking! Well, guess what? If it’s only to leave with one eye, or blind, forget about it.

Groping my way forward, I head toward the sink and splash off as much as I can. After five minutes, I finally manage to peel off my contacts which have totally hardened due to the WOW. I already see myself feeling my way back home with my 20/800 vision when by I don’t know what miracle, I find an emergency pair of contacts at the bottom of my bag. Yes! I’m saved.

I decide to put an end to the self-care because I’m no longer into it and I get dressed. I head toward the register to pay a portion of the treatment (yes, in my dreams!). The girl at the desk lets me know that I need to pay full price:

“Uh…no, that won’t be possible.”

Then what follows is a long explanation for an equally long negotiation at the end of which we land on something more or less reasonable. I’m getting ready to go when the woman who schedules appointments asks me for Indra’s tip.

“Hold on, the only Tips I’m thinking of is the joint in the 19th arrondissement with the best shrimp-substitute gratin. Not even in her wildest dreams would I give a dime to your colleague.”

“It’s obligatory.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. It’s not at all obligatory.”

And we’re off again for an explanation/negotiation sudden death round.

I emerge from there cranky as can be and hail a cab to drop off my books, ordered that same morning, at a hotel. Yes, I’m a messenger, mail woman, writer, columnist, and sweeper of bedrooms and living rooms, I’m juggling a lot though not trying to stand out like an actual juggler. I head toward a sort of store that’s part of the hotel, drop off my books and ask the man working there to give me an envelope.

“Sure, that’ll be 11 dollars.”

“Sorry? I didn’t understand. I am Frensh that why.”

“If you want me to give you an envelope, you need to pay $11.”

“I still don’t understand why.”

“You need to pay me for the service I’m doing you.”

“I’m sorry, you’re trying to get yourself $11 because the woman staying at the hotel asked you to give me a simple envelope? But that’s insane! Soon you’ll start asking me to pay for the oxygen I’m breathing next to you.”

“That’s New York!”

“That’s NONSENSE! WHAT! THIEF! GIVE ME THE ENVELOPE SO I CAN GET OUT OF HERE!”


Not one for scandal, I start screaming like a crazy lady !  I yell so loud that my favorite Ali Express vendor in China most definitely hears me. After summoning his boss and even the hotel manager, there’s nothing I can do: New Policy. All services must be compensated.

I go home, totally drained, thinking to myself that it’s a jungle out there, and money is its king. Hello Junes! Welcome to the world of capitalism. So nice of you to join us!  The one time I try to take care of myself “like I was told,” I realize that it’s exhausted me more than anything. But there are good days and bad days. Shouldn’t generalize based on today.

Except I realize that for me, real relaxation in this world comes from nourishing myself with my passions: writing, reading, breathing in the smell of my children, preparing a great meal for the KOM (King of Morocco), being under the duvet with a cappuccino full to the brim with whipped cream, watching TV! And does that make me a woman who just lets herself go, who doesn’t take care of herself…No, I don’t think so–it just makes me Woman 2.0.

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