Monday, May 16, 2016

Facing Facts

Amanda likes to say that the only thing that distinguishes men from women is a bottle of very good moisturizer.
            Of course, it’s the kind of provocative statement that gets up the nose of hardened feminists like Saffy who once replied if that was true, we’d all be gay. “And not in a good way, either,” she added in a dark tone. No one bothered to reply because frankly, it’s not the kind of thing you can really reply to, is it?
            Not that Amanda will be sidetracked from her very distinct point of view. In the world according to Amanda, if more men got in touch with their feminine sides, there would, for starters, be a lot less wars. And step one to this involves skincare.
            “If men took more care of their faces, the world would be a much safer place,” Amanda said recently.
            The buzz of Chomp Chomp seemed to drop a few notches in volume. Sharyn looked up her very good grilled chicken wings, the heat steaming up her thick spectacles. Her eyes swiveled from Saffy to me. I was careful to concentrate on my mee rebus.
            “Issit?” she said finally.
            “Yes, absolutely,” Amanda said, pleased at the audience participation. “Have you noticed that all the world leaders who are busy bombing each other all have really bad skin? I mean, look at Putin! The worst skin, ever!”
            Sharyn turned to me, puzzled. “The restaurant?”
            “Pu-tin, Sharyn,” I said. “Not Pu-tien!”
            Sharyn turned pink. “Aiyah, sorry lah, I very suaku! I fail geography in school.”
            Saffy held up a finger as she struggled to finish chewing her grilled sambal stingray. Finally, she swallowed. “That,” she said, licking her lips, “that is the silliest thing I’ve ever heard in my life! I read somewhere that modern cosmetics is really very bad for your skin!”
            So, here’s the thing about Saffy. The woman has an arts degree from the University of Western Australia, but she could run rings around anyone in a debate. Especially someone from Harvard. It can seem like she’s talking to you about totally the same thing, but really, it’s not till days later you realize that with just one sentence, she has so completely derailed the conversation into a parallel universe, you didn’t even know it had happened.
            Which is how Amanda began the conversation about the role ugly men play in global destruction, but then found herself spending the rest of the evening talking about the merits of organic versus non-organic moisturisers.
            It is also how Amanda, never one to have particularly strong convictions, has spent the past couple of days experimenting with alternative facial treatments.
            “You know, Saffy,” she said last night, her face smeared with shiny goo, “I really think you might be onto something with your crazy-assed theory about commercial products!”
            “I can’t even look at you, right now,” Saffy said, staring down at her phone, her fingers flying across her screen as she texted. “You look like you’ve just finished shooting a scene from a badly made por…”
            “It’s raw aloe vera!” Amanda interrupted stiffly. “It’s supposed to be full of minerals and proteins. I read somewhere that it tightens the skin to make it look like you’ve had a very good face-lift! I can feel my skin tightening as we speak.”
            My phone vibrated. I tapped on the screen to see a WhatsApp message from Saffy. “OMG! I wish I hadnt said anyting about de stupid moisturizer!”
            This morning, I woke up to the sound of clinking bottles. I heard Saffy’s bedroom door open. “What are you doing?”
            “I’m clearing out all my cleansers, toners, serums and moisturisers!” came Amanda’s muffled reply. “I’ve been up all night reading about the horrible chemicals that goes into them. From today, I’m going all natural! I can’t believe I spent so much money on this stuff!”
            “You’re throwing that away?” Saffy said, her voice rising. “But you paid $300 for it!”
            “What’s the point if it’s going to make me sick? I mean, look at my skin. One session with raw aloe vera and I’m glowing! I have never achieved this result with La Mer!”
            Saffy later told me that when Amanda wasn’t looking, she rescued all the discarded bottles of lotions and potions from the bin. “It’s like she just threw away a thousand bucks worth of stuff! What a waste!”
            “What are you going to do with it? I thought you only used soap and water?” I asked.
            “I’m giving it all to Sharyn. God knows she could do with some help. She looks exactly like a man these days!”


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