Context: I am traveling for work in the Rockies. Somehow it is dry and 60 degrees colder than it is in the Northeast. Plus TSA wouldn’t let me bring my Aveeno. Desperation brings me to this Sephora, because my face is blotchy and peeling like a banana from the hotel lotion and the nearest Walgreens is a quarter mile away through what is basically polar vortex weather.
This place is overwhelming.
I can’t tell where anything is supposed to be. Also the color scheme is intimidating. Do I belong here? Then again, does anyone really belong anywhere?
A nice lady asks if I’m looking for something in particular. Lotions?, I say declaratively but with the question mark.
She leads me through the aisles as if she actually wants to help me. You know, like a pal. It makes me very uncomfortable. I think I’ve been living in the Northeast for too long.
She brings me to the L’Occitane shelf and offers to walk me through the different lotions. She even brings out new little samples from a hidden drawer under the shelf. My mind is blown. Where did that drawer come from. Better yet, where did it go?
Where do we all go?
She places a little jar in my hand. The jar is beautiful. If I was a jar, I’d want to look just like this jar. I would be smooth and pleasantly weighty and fit just right in my own tiny palm.
The jar is 1.7 oz.
It costs $34.
Oh, there must be a mistake, I think to myself. This must be the sample size for the larger jar. That larger jar costs $34, right? Where’s that larger jar? I wonder. I know, it must be in the hidden drawer.
And then I realize: no, this tiny jar really is $34 of lotion.
I’m not going to be here that long, I think to myself. Why don’t I put this tiny jar back and reach for one of those even tinier tubes?
The tube costs $28.
I am now in a crisis. I needed lotion and then came here and then this nice lady placed a tiny jar of lotion in my hand. If I put this back on the shelf and don’t buy anything, will I be rejecting that nice lady’s help? Even worse, will I be denying myself my own needs?
Because, by this point, I have convinced myself that I need this lotion. It has 25% shea butter in it and I’ve heard that stuff is great for your skin. Shouldn’t I let myself splurge on this lotion? Think of all the opportunities, all the shea butters I’ve turned down because of the vulgarity that is money.
Down with capitalism, up with shea butter.
As I wait to be rung up at the register, I am ushered through a tiny hallway of perfumes. Ten different sample size, about four squirts each, for $25. What a deal, I think to myself. If only perfume didn’t make me break out I would buy it. Because, like the tiny jar of lotion, I am now imagining what it would be like to be such a tiny delicate spritzer.
I pay the $34. The cashier seems almost insulted I didn’t buy more. I feel ashamed. The couple in front of me bought multiple bags worth of stuff. Why can’t I be so carefree as they are? I think. I bet they don’t deny themselves shea butter.
I am now sitting at the airport on my way back home. My face is no longer peeling, the red jagged cracks in my hands have closed. A tiny $34 jar of lotion sits in my bag. It serves as a memento of my trip through Sephora. A strange journey through the Twilight Zone that I am too afraid to repeat. A frail human such as myself cannot traverse such spaces so wantonly. I fear it’ll tempt the spirits. I fear I may become lost.
A tiny $34 jar of lotion sits in my bag.
I cannot tell if it is my trophy or I am its.