Like many women, I am a multitasker. It's fun to see how many things we can do at the same time without dropping the ball. So there I was, on a work call, while shopping for my daughter Emily's school supplies at my beloved local Target (pronounced Tar-jay). It was one of those calls we've probably all experienced where there are lots of people on the phone and you are afraid to change your coordinates for fear of losing the connection. So you stay put. I have had to do this a lot -- usually in the car where all there is to do is wipe the dust off the dashboard or clean out the glove compartment.
But this was great. Here, I could wander up and down the aisles of Target wondering if there was anything else I "needed," while maintaining the illusion that I was still listening intently. Suddenly I found myself in an aisle I had never wandered through before: skin care. I am a little over 40 -- okay, maybe a little more than a little, but not that much -- and for several years now I have smeared, dabbed, misted, and slathered myself with all the high-priced creams, lotions, and potions promising "younger looking skin." Whenever I would see a cream that promised to take away my dark circles, care for my fine lines, and prevent wrinkles, I didn't care how much it would cost me. But there I was in Target, looking through all the jars claiming the very same results at pretty close to bargain basement prices, and I decided to add amateur scientist to my list of professional pursuits. I asked myself (as I was still listening attentively to the content of my conference call), "I wonder if these creams could do the trick as well or better as the expensive stuff?" Imagine, I thought, what I could do with all the money I could save. So I bought the same kinds of creams and lotions as the expensive ones I have and decided to devote myself for 2 weeks to this exercise.
On Labor Day I went to a party and ran into Arianna. The sun was blazing and I was squinting as we talked and then she interrupted me and said, "Your eyes look so great, what are you doing?" Aha! I told her about my experiment, and then -- feeling the need to make this somehow more than just about wrinkle creams (God forbid I should seem superficial or frivolous) -- I said that I felt I had learned an important lesson. That even as strong, independent women, we are still susceptible to the snake charmer that is the high-end department store cosmetic saleswoman. We stand there at the counter, staring at this perfect 22-year-old telling us that this cream or that ampoule is the secret to looking like her, and we buy it: literally and figuratively. Who are we kidding? I decided that this was like a grown-up Aesop's Fable: Things are not always what they are advertised to be. Perhaps, more often than not, that jar of cream -- without all the fanfare -- is just as capable of delivering the goods as the one that comes with all the glitz. And in a time when things are rarely what they seem, I liked having this concrete reminder -- even if only in the small world of cosmetic comparisons.
Now don't get me wrong. I am not saying that those pricey ablutions don't work. They do. But I will now proclaim for all my girlfriends (and any guy friends who are interested) that there is another world out there capable of delivering the same results -- and even a little better -- for a fraction of the cost. I have already begun to earmark some of the money I know I will be saving: Some will go to winning back the House and the Senate in 2006. Some will go to our daughter's college fund, and whatever is left over I will save, just in case I am lured back in by that 22-year-old at the cosmetics counter at Saks.