Attack of the Cotton Ball

cosmetics makeup brushes and powder dust explosion
Photo by Marcelo Moreira on

The white blob came toward me like a short-range missile launched with pinpoint precision, apparently targeted straight at my left cheekbone. Its approach was so clandestine, so swift, that it had already obscured my vision before I even realized I was in smack in the middle of harm’s way.

Propelled by a petite Italian man’s arm, the enormous, wet cotton ball landed on my cheek with a spinny, swirly motion. I tried to recoil, regroup, retaliate, but it was too late.

“Can I take off your makeup?” the pushy Italian asked.

“What? You just did!” I said with a blend of shock and confusion.

“Ah, yes, beautiful lady, I want to show you ways to be even more beautiful.”

Sweet Mother of Mercy. I was a victim of a full-scale, makeup-kiosk mall assault.

“I don’t…I can’t…I have a conference call.” I was speaking in fragments, unable to form my thoughts into a coherent sentence. It was true, by the way, I did have a conference call in five mere minutes. I had quickly popped into the mall to make an exchange. It was a simple errand. Make the swap and hop into the car just in time to get briefed on a new writing assignment. That’s one of the perks of freelancing — my office goes wherever I go.

But somehow today’s should’ve-been-simple errand had gone awry. Instead of finding myself on the way to my quiet auto office, I found myself standing in the middle of the mall at the wrong end of a cotton ball. Isn’t there a law against that? I mean we can’t just run around willy-nilly, stripping people of their personal property, can we? Tinted moisturizer isn’t free you know.                                              

But back to my predicament. I know what you’re thinking — it’s not like he was holding me hostage with a deadly weapon. It was a cotton ball, for heaven’s sake. But this is where being raised with good, old-fashion Southern etiquette can be a genuine handicap. In other words, I was polite. Maybe even nice.

Had I been raised someplace else, like the Bronx for example, this story would’ve had a totally different storyline. A girl from the Bronx would’ve put that pesky salesman in his place, given him a piece of her mind and made it to her conference call on time. (Without having to sprint through the mall like she was trying to get away with a purse full of stolen jewelry, might I add.) No, the chutzpah-rich Bronx girl would’ve ended up with an apology and a complimentary bag of organic mineral powder as compensation for being mistaken as a sweet southern pushover.

But seeing as how I’ve never even stepped foot in the Bronx, I stood there, not interrupting his spiel because, well, that would be rude. He was talking ninety miles an hour as he cotton-balled my whole face then came at me with an enormous, poofy makeup brush. I was now being flogged in the face with some concoction of powder that would make me glowing, luminous and radiant. I felt like a car going through the automatic car wash. As the dust settled and he continued his pitch, I panicked, remembering my call. So I decided to pay my own ransom.

“How much is it?” I asked. Worked like a charm — he stopped his pitch in mid sentence to announce the price. It was either the amount of money or the gobs of mineral powder I had just inhaled, but something made me cough. He took this as a sign that I was a woman to be reckoned with, so he instinctively lowered the price. I shook my head again and waved my hand in front of my face still trying to clear the powder fog that was dangerously close to penetrating my contacts. Without even knowing it, I was driving a hard bargain.                                       

I won’t tell you the price I ended up paying, because my husband will likely read this some day. But it was significantly less than the original price AND, thanks to my coughing and flailing, I got a fancy makeup brush for free. Even still, it was ridiculous, and I walked away shaking my head and marveling at what had transpired in less than four minutes. I’ve rehearsed all the shoulda, coulda, woulda scenarios. But at the end of the day, I had a dent in my wallet, a blurry face full of mineral powder and the regret of knowing that sometimes I can be flat-out gumption challenged.

It’s been a while since the incident. I have the powder and the fancy brush in my drawer with a bunch of other products I don’t use. Occasionally it catches my eye. I’ve never once applied it. Not that I don’t want to be radiant or luminous, but because it reminds me that sometimes being too nice pays — for other people, that is.