Friday, April 26, 2013

The Mary Kay Syndrome

Now, let me begin by saying that I love Mary Kay cosmetics. In fact, people often comment on how few wrinkles I have, and I attribute that to beginning to use the skin care products in my early twenties. And it was a Mary Kay lady who kindly whispered to me that I had stray makeup brush hairs on my face before I spoke publicly at a book signing last week.

And yet when I think of Mary Kay, it is with mixed feelings. First of all, the last group “facial” I attended where the products were demonstrated, one of the hostess’s chairs broke beneath me. (It’s pretty hard to keep applying cream with your ring finger and saying, “lightly, lightly,” when you have just demolished an antique.)

But even more memorable was the time that I was traveling cross-country for a speaking engagement, a trip that required several plane changes. On the last flight was a group of well-dressed and pleasantly boisterous women. Upon deplaning, I went into the airport’s ladies’ room to try to comb my hair and make myself presentable – since I’d left home at 3:30 a.m., I wanted to freshen up a bit before seeing the conference organizer who was meeting me at the gate. 

As I leaned and peered into the mirror and put some mascara on my bleary eyes, the group of women came into the bathroom. I didn’t pay them too much attention until one, a delegate I guess, came up beside me.
“I’m a Mary Kay representative, and I have products that can help you with that,” she said, handing me a business card. Then she and all the other ladies flounced (yes, they really did) out of the bathroom, leaving the other women in the bathroom looking at me –who felt about as attractive as an airsick bag.

So why am I telling these stories? Perhaps as a morality tale. What stung so much, what made me walk out of that bathroom feeling drab and inadequate, was the public way in which the spokeswoman, a stranger to me, showed me my faults. I can just imagine her giving a knowing wink to her compatriots, and them congratulating each other on a great sales opportunity captured and another ignorant person now fully informed.

The morality tale is that the Internet is also a public place. It’s true that readers and writers often see the flaws of writers, and are often anxious to point them out.

Let’s leave the snipping and criticizing to people who don’t even pretend to be Christians. The Bible way to show someone his or her fault is privately—and with humility.

Lest you fall, and break more than a chair yourself.

PS and by the way: This post wasn't provoked by anyone saying anything cruel to me about my writing (at least, not lately.) I've just observed that writers and readers sometimes are not constructive in their comments, especially on Facebook. Have you noticed that, too? 


Latayne C Scott said...

I think perhaps it's because the Internet allows people to think their actions and words can have maximum impact on the recipient and minimum blowback on themselves.

Have any of you read this article? "Pictures of people who mock me" has some of the same sense:

Patti Hill said...

I HAVE seen these pictures, and my heart broke. Of all people, Christians have the best reason to be generous--our undeserved salvation. I liked how Bonnie said it months ago, too, that we must all recognize that as artists we offer our the time.

I'm judging a writing contest just now. I will try my hardest to be the Mary Kay lady that informed you about the makeup brush hairs (is there a makeup brush that doesn't shed?) rather than the self-appointed expert of the airport bathroom.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

So, so, so true! I am so weary of the way people speak (or comment) to one another. Especially among other Christians. Why is it that we're more concerned with being RIGHT than being LOVING?

Latayne C Scott said...

Thank you, Patti, and I know I can trust you. And Susie, there are so many ways that people are accessible to us privately that I just don't understand why some feel a need to excoriate publicly.

Jennifer Major said...

I LOVED this!!!
On my mission trips to Bolivia, by day 3, we ALL look awful But we love it, because, well, we ALL look awful. It's quite liberating to share a baby wipe to clean the road dust off your face and brag as to who was most filthy.
But words are so cruel. And so terribly permanent. I try so hard to NOT EVER say anything I'd have to retract or recant.

My friend and I went to a Mary Kay demo, it was umm, sorta creepy. Then when we sat in the hot tub, which was quite a plus in a Northern Ontario winter, the nice lady screamed "My patch is gone!!" Her hormone patch came off in the hot tub. The rest of the evening had that same level of awkward.

Cherry Odelberg said...

What a thoughtful post. (Unfortunately, the flouncing Mary Kay ladies reminded me of tract-pushing Christian witnessing.)
To be exhorted when what you really need is a hug or a shoulder to lean on - just for a moment - drains what little energy is left.
May I be about the business of loving and filling the well for others rather than pulling the plug.

Latayne C Scott said...

Jennifer, your mission trip experience reminds me of backpacking trips I took. We all smelled like smoke and sweat and nobody cared.

Cherry, you are so right about how we as Christians are tempted to witness in just the peremptory way the lady tried to make me over. :)

Megan Sayer said...

Latayne your post is reminding me of two quite different stories of my own. The first was when a "friend" asked me to act as a make-up model for her for a beauty therapy course assignment. She chose me, she said, because she "wanted a challenge", then completely stuffed it up. I still remember the humiliation of sitting in that chair looking like an alien, having my friend and her teacher pick apart the problems of my face like it was an inanimate object, as if I wasn't inside there listening.
The second thing it brought to mind was the time my photography lecturer said "you never really finish an artwork. You just get to the point where you have to let go of it and put it on the wall".
Books ARE personal, incredibly personal, but doesn't there come a time when we just have to let go, and "put them on the wall"? Now I'm not sure of the things said out there, my Facebook is different to yours obviously. And now I'm wondering whether the experiences I had in university, of having my most personal work ripped apart in front of (and by) my peers has toughened me up more than I realised?
I don't know.
Is there a place for honest criticism and discussion in this modern-day Christian marketplace? Or am I just not hearing the horrible things people are really saying?

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Oooo, Megan, that friend had no idea what she was talking about. I think you are stunning.

Megan Sayer said...

Awww, thanks Suze. And right back atcha xxx

Jenny said...

What is the appropriate way to leave a book review when you haven't enjoyed a book? I don't want to crush an author, but it seems that a book I recently read was reviewed by 15 of the author's friends, because each gave the book a 5-star review. No negatives were to be found. Yet the book's writing is clearly amateurish. Do I warn other readers away, do I simply let it go, do I kindly take issue with the other reviewers' opinions?