Eyes Wide Shut: Arbonne

I admit it — I went to an Arbonne open house and despite myself, bought a couple of beauty products.  And now, buyer’s remorse.  Not because I don’t like the moisturizers (they’re OK, if on the expensive side), but because for the second time in my life, I knowingly participated in a multilevel marketing scheme with questionable practices.  The first was Young Living — and I no longer buy that company’s essential oils after I (belatedly) researched founder Gary Young’s background (see also this article by Eva F. Briggs, M.D., and this white paper on Rain Drop Therapy).  While I remain sceptical of many claims made by aromatherapy practitioners, I do continue to use some oils (from other sources) because I love the way they smell.  I am just not under any illusions that the oils will help my GERD or my hyperlipidemia or make meaningful contributions to my immune system, and I certainly don’t feel the need to further enrich the coffers of a scam artist.

And then there is Arbonne International.  I knew when I bought the moisturizers that I was paying for  beautiful packaging and slick marketing materials, and that I was supporting a tightly-run multilevel marketing empire.  I also knew that the products, like anything else from other cosmetic companies, were not necessarily going to be any better than a drugstore purchase; I had learned that much during my dermatology rotation.   The cosmetics industry and the consumer play this game: they tell you how great their products are, and you suspend disbelief just long enough to hope that product X, Y, or Z (or preferably, all three in synergy) may in fact hold back or even reverse (!) time.  I too play this game every now and then when, in a fit of deluded optimism, I buy creams that are supposed to reduce liver spots and other signs of aging.  What disturbed me about Arbonne was the sales pitch at the second gathering I attended as a favor to a good friend.  The consultant was not aggressive — she did not need to be, for we were a receptive audience and she was the perfect “face” for Arbonne: tall, gorgeous, and fit.  But three things stood out from her presentation, and they offended my sense of fair play:

1. “Look what mineral oil does to your face!”  This is followed by the  demonstration of a saltine cracker hardening after immersion in mineral oil . . . .  As if human skin were anything like a saltine cracker!

2. “Mineral oil is carcinogenic!”  Well, yes, but the studies were for minimally processed mineral oil, not for food or cosmetic-grade mineral oil.  Show me a good study.

3. “Other companies use guano — you know what guano is, right? — in their mascara!”  I have not found guano as an ingredient in any of the major mascara brands, and needless to say, the Arbonne consultant did not have one of those “other” mascaras around to prove her point.

Meanwhile, I have two bottles of moisturizer that will probably do what they are supposed to do; pity they are from a company that seems to be somewhat ethically challenged.  “Sunk cost,” DH would say.

April Readings: Virginia Woolf

I come to Virginia Woolf very late; I suspect she is one of those writers who might be unintelligible until one has had a bit of living.

I read To the Lighthouse almost thirty years ago as a freshman.  It did not leave an impression — but then, I don’t remember too many works from that voluminous reading list for the year-long  “Great Works of Western Civilization” course.  I still have some of those books, but not the ones I actually liked — Rules of St. Benedict and St. Augustine’s Confessions, for example — though I still have Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling (and all the amazingly inane marginal notes I made) but not Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents. Just as well, I suppose.

About a month ago, I came across Susan Sellers’ Vanessa and Virginia, and I am immeasurably grateful that my re-encounter with Virginia Woolf came from such a literate writer.  First person, present tense, short sentences: I admire anyone who can make that combination work — but then, Susan Sellers is a professor of English . . . .  So now, here I am, wading through Hermione Lee’s biography of Woolf, a pleasurable and a painful read.  I imagine Virginia Woolf, a middle-class Victorian, never entirely successful at divesting herself of all those social and cultural and familial things she was born with and carried with her all her life.  And if you can’t ever make for yourself a true “room of one’s own,” then what is left?

Will Continue to Run for Dessert

This morning I was whining about how I just didn’t feel like running — and then I got this back:

Lab Results, 2010

Pretty decent for a menopausal woman, I think.

I do this, I do that, I live without a sense of what “live” or “life” is about.  These are things I should have gotten out of my system at 2 in the morning in the middle of winter at Frost Amphitheater, sharing a beer and a sleeping bag with a guy named Dave who wanted to see if he could feel what it was like to hang off the end of the Milky Way.  It was OK then, the not knowing the answer; I want to feel that way again.  It is not that life is not worth living — it is that I think life might be over-rated.

In the meantime, I take my meds, I do my bit to keep my body in reasonable shape, and I keep wondering, “Why bother?”  What if it really is just so that I can keep eating dessert?