ETCETERA / Home thoughts

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The Independent Culture
THIS WEEK I opened an exciting pot of skin cream which I felt sure was going to change my life. It was a tiny little silver pot; inside was a perfect pink dollop of caviare souffle moisturising mousse. I hadn't bought it for myself: it had been sent to the office in a large silver box, as a free sample, and it looked very expensive. No one here knew why we'd been sent the cream, but I took it home and saved it for a rainy day.

In a puritanical sort of way I thought I ought to use up my old moisturiser - a boring bottle of nondescript white lotion, with no exotic ingredients in it at all. Eventually it was all gone, and I could begin my new look with the new cream. And I did get a new look: a bright, lobster-red, rashy look. My face did not take to the caviare souffle moisturising mousse. It revolted.

My sister takes a robust view of these matters. She just washes her face with unscented soap and then puts on a bit of E45 cream. I tend to take the same minimalist approach, with the occasional wild detour into the unknown when I become irrationally convinced that I have found a new lotion or potion that will transform me.

I didn't give any of this much thought in my twenties, but now I'm 32 it seems more pressing. In fact I may be returning to my adolescence, when I spent a great deal of time with my friends discussing the subject of skin and skin cream. We used to read Jackie, which recommended a punishing day-long regime to prepare for that big Saturday night date. I remember it well: first, have a bracing shower; shave legs, shave armpits ('Yuk, who wants a hairy girlfriend]'). Second, apply face-mask on freshly washed face. While face-mask is drying, drink cleansing cup of hot water and lemon juice. Then remove face-mask, apply toner, spot cream and moisturiser. Then put slices of cucumber on eyes and retire to bath filled with perfumed bubbles for that all-over fragrance. Get out of bath; remove cucumber; apply talc and deodorant (v important). Finally, apply foundation, blusher, eye-shadow, mascara, lipstick. Get dressed (cheesecloth shirt, padded teen Wonderbra, flared Chelsea Girl jeans, platform shoes). Go out with dishy hunk who looks like David Essex and says, 'Darling, you look so beautiful]'

I followed all these steps, but there was rarely a dishy hunk awaiting me. Occasionally there might be a sweaty 15-year-old boy. Usually there was no boy at all. So I stayed at home with my friends, all of us moisturised and clean-shaven and perfumed, and watched Morecambe & Wise on the telly.

Which brings me back to the caviare souffle moisturising mousse. Even if it didn't give me a rash, I know, deep down, that it can't change my life. I applied it on a Saturday morning, and on Saturday night guess what I was doing? Watching telly.