The Cosmetology Temp

Mercury is in retrograde and Mars has been up Uranus for months. Nothing has gone right. I couldn’t outrun the PowerPoint presentation or the mounting debt. My relationship of equals with the seemingly lovely Hamish had disintegrated to tenants-in-common. And when I couldn’t keep up my end, I was issued an eviction notice from the apartment and relationship.

So I moved in with my maternal Polish grandmother, took on her last name of Kandinsky, and registered myself as a temp.

My first assignment was as a cosmetic counter dolly at a prestigious department store. At 5’10 and unruly red hair (thanks to my Irish father) I looked like a female impersonator in a dental hygienists uniform.

There were more models there than a Victoria’s Secret catalogue, all with legs that went from here to eternity. Cecilia was one such specimen. Despite the fact that Cecilia was raised on a farm, she sounded more like Charles Dance than Dolly Parton. I suspect the voice was part of the training to get her into any country’s Next Top Model. We struck up a conversation one afternoon as we were wrapping “Easter cleansing packs” when she casually asked what we were celebrating at Easter.I explained that it was the death of Christ. She followed up by asking what we celebrated at Christmas, to which I replied, the birth of Christ. Cecelia paused, looked up from the mountain of red cellophane and said “Didn’t last very long did he?”

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One of my least favourite parts of the job was the lunchtime shift. They would only ask the taller models, and me to stand at the front of the counter and accost the olfactory senses of the poor unsuspecting shoppers. I think this was a strategic ploy on the counter manager because we could descend on the customers from a greater height thereby enabling maximum contact with the offending scent. We used to rotate the perfume of the day from bug spray with a hint of lemon, to sea spray and patchouli

Another of my key performance indicators was to perform a minimum of eight facials per week. I used to enjoy these as many of the clients who booked in were my regulars who would shamelessly take advantage of the ‘buy two products get a free facial’ offer. This one morning however, I wasn’t giving a facial to one of my regulars but to an immaculately preserved 50 something year old introduced herself as Mrs Carlton. As I waited for Mrs Carlton’s essence of hibiscus mask to set, I began working on her free hand massage with our signature Chinese silk and Himalayan sugar crystal balm, when she looked up at my name badge and said “You’re Russian aren’t you? My daughter-in-law is Russian, so I know what Russian women look like.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I wasn’t Russian. I was tempted thought to humble brag my cosmetology pedigree to by confessing to Mrs Carlton that I was, in fact, the granddaughter of Estee Lauder and Max Factor.

The myriad women, who made it to my counter regardless of age or race, were all seduced by the promise of enhanced beauty in a bottle, serum or balm. And so was Tom. I absolutely adored him. An account manager for large multinational advertising agency by day and by night, cabaret performer known as Miss Allegra. Tom came in one afternoon looking resplendent in his multi-coloured vertically stripped pants. He had more plumage than a peacock. Tom patiently entertained himself smothering cream on his face as I finished up with a customer. With half his face still covered in the thick cream, he greeted me with an effervescent “So darl, how long before the cream starts to take effect, I have a hot date tonight?’ To which I replied, “Not sure Tom, you’ve just smeared bust firming gel all over your face.”

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