Earlier this week I had my 50th birthday, a major milestone. So naturally, my thoughts have lingered on the topics on which one dwells at such junctures. I am thinking of the roads not taken, and the one that stretches ahead. I am thinking of friendship, of love, and of loss. I am contemplating mortality, my own and that of those I love. And of course, I am thinking about eye cream.
I have known for many years that eye cream is a central concern at life's trickier passes. When I was in my 20s, I ran a drop-in center for homeless women in Santa Monica, California. Our clients were women who in previous, less sensitive times might have been called "bag ladies;" they suffered from chronic mental illness, and largely untreated, they lived on the streets. In our center they could get a couple of meals, do their laundry, take a nap, take a shower. The Neutrogena company had a major distribution center not far from the shelter, and they were generous in-kind donors. We were delighted to receive boxes of soap, shampoo, and occasionally sunscreen--items that were enormously useful to the women we served.
And then one day, we opened a shipment from Neutrogena to find dozens of boxes of....eye cream.
I and the other staff, all in our callow 20's, thought this was the most absurd thing we'd ever seen. What did homeless women need with eye cream? But I will tell you: the stuff flew off of our shelves. For months -- maybe years -- afterwards, women would come in and ask, "Do you have any more of that eye cream?"
And now, decades later, I totally get it. I show my age in many ways, and for the most part it doesn't much bother me. But the one persistent annoyance involves the dark circles under my eyes. In the past two months I have been asked by no fewer than four different people how I got the shiner(s). Now, I am quite the klutz, and I am frequently beset by bruises whose provenance I promptly forget. I could tell you that I bruise easily, and it's true, in the sense that it is easy for me to bump into things, at which point I bruise in the usual way. But mishaps that cause black eyes tend to be memorable; and I can assure you that the only things that have slammed into my face are the 50 years I've spent on this planet.
I actually started to think about this pet beauty peeve a few months back, around Thanksgiving; and on a trip to Walgreen's I found this fine item for about $13:
This lovely stuff promised to CORRECT my dark circles -- with GRAPEFRUIT. Of course! So I bought it, and immediately began using it religiously, twice a day, as part of my morning and evening ablutions.
It was after about a month of this diligent eye care activity that I got my first two black eye inquiries.
No problem, I thought: obviously, I just haven't thrown enough money at this yet. The Sephora website kindly presented me with a plethora of options, plus a holiday-season coupon:
Turns out you can spend a LOT of money on eye cream. I selected a middle-of-the road product -- more than the $13 from Walgreens, but still a few bucks less per tube than my age, a totally arbitrary but somehow reasonable-sounding standard:
A few weeks later: black eye inquiries three and four.
I do have Plan C at the ready. On a recent trip to New York City, I found this flashy stuff at an over-the-top cosmetics emporium called Ricky's:
I know for a fact that it is going to revolutionize my entire face, because the saleswoman told me it would. Also because it was really expensive: $69!! More than I've ever paid for a cosmetic item before in my life. "And there's a three or four month supply in there!" said that highly reliable saleswoman. $23 a month to lose my perennial black eyes -- I'd do that! Especially for my birthday. So I did.
When I brought it home and read the instructions, I learned that this box does include an adequate supply for 12 treatments. But the recommended usage is two or three treatments a week -- the higher number to be used for particularly troublesome cases (say, people who are, I don't know.....over 50). So my $69 has really just subsidized a one-month supply.
Of course, I have not tried the GlamGlow yet. Because I want it to last.
It may in fact be the case that my solution will be found not in eye cream, but in lighting. My eyes definitely have more of an injured vibe in harsher light, or in light that casts shadows from overhead. In softer, warmer light, my dark circles really aren't all that noticeable. So perhaps I will simply carry a personal lighting system with me, to ensure that I am flatteringly illuminated, wherever I go. Certainly a more economical solution than the $69-per-month approach.
And maybe I can add a filter that will obscure my gray hairs.