Here's one of the problems with being retired, semi-retired, about-to-be retired, "redundant" as the Brits say, just plain old: Your skin starts feeling like cardboard and looks like one of those topographical maps we made out of starch in grade school. There are unexpected peaks, pores clogged since 1973, and valleys in which you could lose a war.
But still. . .we want to look good.
Another problem with being retired are the odd job opportunities that arise from nowhere. Recently my husband came home with a new idea. We could (together!?!) sell a brand new miraculous skin-care product that promises to make everybody look younger in the first five days. After a month? Positively virginal. Skin, as smooth as a baby's.
My husband Mike was introduced to this new product at the coffee shop by Hannah, a young woman from Hawaii. She was wearing the same kind of Frye boots he remembered an old girlfriend wearing in high school. She must have seen Mike as a golden opportunity to expand her market share, and leant him free dispensers of both the night cream and the day cream and a magazine that promoted the cause. "Just try it," she said.
"How much does it cost?" I asked when he brought the vials home.
"Well, if you buy it every month for a year, you get two months free," he said.
"First you have to wash your face. Really, she told me these stories about her mom's eyelids falling down. They were so droopy and the doctor thought she would need surgery. Then she started using this product and her whole face tightened up. She looks younger—and she can see. No need for surgery. Her daughter showed me the before and after pictures."
Oh, you're probably scoffing, "I tried all that stuff before. Nothing really works." I scoff along, even as I apply "four firm squeezes" from the black night-time bottle (which looks like it was designed by Apple). The next morning, as instructed: four squeezes from the daytime bottle.
I have serious doubts about youth-enhancing skin products. I do believe that a clean face, a good diet, regular exercise and plastic surgery can sometimes make you look younger. But I'm skeptical of "miracle" claims. Dr. Michael O'Donoghue, a dermatologist with the Franciscan Health Alliance, shares my cynicism. "It's an $8 billion business, this anti-aging thing," he says. "Most of it is scientifically unsound."
But I was getting pressure from the home front and was dutifully applying the break-through magic every morning and every night. My husband and I were looking at each other more closely than we had in years.
The next step in his pursuit of a new career for both of us involved a wine and cheese party. It was not a big party—Hannah, her neighbor woman and us—and I felt kind of sorry for this pretty, new mom, stuck in frigid Northwest Indiana while her husband worked an engineering job in the Dunes. She gave us a run-down on the person-to-person marketing scheme through which this product was being sold. We watched a video about the founding of the company, the discovery of the secret formula. There was hardly any talk of the cream's efficacy.
Meanwhile, gentle readers, I am sitting there sipping wine, eating little rosemary crackers with double-cream cheese, and honestly, I am glowing. My friend Colleen told me last week at a dinner party. "Glowing." My skin has never looked or felt better. I do not want to go to an island/vacation convention and meet new people. I do not want a car. I do not want to sell this product to my friends. I don't even want to get rich.
I just want some more of this stuff. I want it now and I want it bad.
More about expensive potions, why I needn't buy any and what's probably in it, next time, when dermatologists and researchers check in.