Ettie Newlands

I should never have taken the soap sample from the girl.

She was hawking cosmetics outside a shoppe in Charleston. It was a ‘shoppe’ as opposed to a ‘shop’ because shoppes are more expensive.

My husband and I were early for Jim Rogers’ play, “Geriatric Monologues” which was about aging.

The girl urged me to come inside where she’d wrap the soap. That was my second mistake.

In two seconds, I was sitting in a plush, white leather swivel chair while a kid whose face was tighter than a double sheet on a queen-sized bed was telling me he was going to “fix the puffy bags under my eyes.”

Before I knew what was happening, the skin under my right eye felt like it was cemented to the back of my head, and the kid – he was about 20, had the expected Croatian accent, and was wearing more jewelry than all the women on my block own.

He held up a mirror and asked me if I could see a difference between my right non-puffy, non-baggy eye and the puffy, baggy left one.

I did see a difference. The right one had gunk under it. I told him what he wanted to know though – after all, he was just doing his job and it was my own fault for taking the soap sample in the first place – and I thanked him as I extricated myself from the plush white leather swivel chair.

But noooo, Croatian man/child was not finished.

He told me I could have non-baggy, non-puffy eyes in six weeks just by purchasing this $600 product. And, because I was special, and because it appeared to be somewhat of an emergency, I could have it today only for $400, plus the other products in the emergency kit which would bring it back to $600.

Being the good person that I still was, I asked him for his card and said I’d think about it.

But he was still not finished and threw his last hook at me.

“Doesn’t your wrinkled neck bother you?” I heard as I started walking out.

OK, I was done. I’d had it. The good person I was 10 minutes before was nowhere to be found.

I spun around on one ample leg, put a hand on one zaftig hip and said, in my outside voice, “You want to know if my neck bothers me? Sonny,” I began, realizing as I did, that I don’t even call my own son ‘Sonny,’ “This is the way a 72-year-old neck looks.

“And when you’ve stuck your neck out a time or two for what matters in life instead of spending your time ripping off little old ladies, your neck may look like this too.

“And this is the way 72-year-old eyes look. And when your eyes have seen what my eyes have seen, your bags and puffs will be medals of honor.

“So no, my neck doesn’t bother me. You bother me.”

I left, wiped the gunk off my baggy, puffy eye, and let my husband tell me how youthful my eyes and neck are.

The play, by the way, was wonderful. And so were the old people around us, puffy eyes and wrinkled necks included.

As we were leaving the play, the woman behind me touched my shoulder and said, “Be careful on the steps, Sweetie, they’re steep.”

I loved her.

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