The slender, young woman had just given me a one-hour massage. My mind and body were euphorically relaxed and I wanted to go home, make a pot of chai, and extend the life-is-good feeling that I had paid for.
But now, as I put away my credit card, the young woman wanted to sell me "renewing" eye cream. She held forth an open sample and began to blabber on about its benefits. She said it would smooth out my wrinkles. She said it would get rid of my dark circles. Finally, with great enthusiasm, she said it was made by a company that was, like, totally committed to doing everything organic, and she handed me the company's 48-page printed booklet.
I have never used eye cream, and was doubtful any product -- whether the highest-end cosmetic or engine oil -- could stop this advance of nature. Our outermost skin, the epidermis, is composed of dead cells, sloughed off every 48 days and replaced by a new army of dead cells whose job description includes protecting us from the environment. The epidermis keeps out germs. It keeps out moisture. This is why if you bob for an apple, your face won't absorb the bucket of water.
So, how could a dab of cream, applied under my middle-aged eyes, renew these particular skin cells so that they appeared to belong to a teenager?
Did I want to start with a small sample? the young woman asked me. And I said yes for three reasons. Primarily, I wanted her to stop talking; every sales-oriented sentence she spoke eroded my massage-induced tranquility. But I also liked the smell and feel of the cream (it was light yellow and had a whipped texture), and I wanted to see for myself if eye cream was all that.
Back home, I begin to dab on the product as instructed. I did this faithfully twice a day for one month, under my right eye only.
The definition of renew is "to make new, fresh, or strong again." There is usually something in our lives, besides youthful appearance, that we wish to renew: a relationship with a parent, child, or spouse; our commitment to an activity that nurtures us; our physical strength.
In late December, the sun makes its annual promise of renewal. Each day, it stays above the horizon roughly one minute longer here in the Midwest. Sixty seconds may not sound like much, but it is; it's a reminder to be patient in fallow times.
Renewing anything meaningful is never as easy as screwing open a lid. If it was, the age lines and dark circles under my right eye would have been minimized after one month of faithfully applying the refreshing-smelling cream. I would look younger -- at least one half of me would. Instead, the areas around my two eyes remained identical.
The one thing that was renewed: my suspicion of anti-aging claims.