When I was in high school, in home ec class (though by that time the name has been changed to the more PC Family and Consumer Sciences), we had lessons in hair, nails, and make-up. Clearly, the name of the class was the only thing that had changed, the spirit remained firmly stuck in the 1950s. Because I did not care for make-up, and hate having a fuss made of me, my friends thought it was hilarious to volunteer me to be the “model” for both the make-up day, and the hair day. In order to prepare for the make-up demonstration, I had to go to the local Mary Kay lady’s house, and sit through two hours of learning how to put on make-up “the Mary Kay way,” then I had to repeat the whole process in front of the class, and spend the remainder of the day feeling like I was wearing a mask and worrying that I was touching my face too much.
This town’s Mary Kay lady was no-nonsense. She was savvy, all business, and wore a blazer that was decorated with all kinds of epaulets like a military jacket. She also managed to lobby to have putting on make-up, and doing your nails turned into a two-day lesson for our class–the hair lady only got one. Since that time, I’ve been forced to go to a dozen Mary Kay parties where a bunch of girls sit around a long table, wash their faces, put on make-up, and then marvel at how shiny our nails are, or how amazing this concealer is. I half get swept up in the fervor too, but have never actually bought anything.
In college, Baby-Having Best Friend duped me into going to a Mary Kay party with the promise of a free meal and drinks afterward (really a surefire way to get me to do something unpleasant). She had been guilted into going by the woman who would soon become her sister-in-law, and she wanted moral support. What neither of us realized was that this was more of a recruitment session than it was a typical Mary Kay party. Sure, we’d all be putting on make-up together, and gawking at the “new holiday colors,” but after that, we’d all be forced to sit through a lecture about how amazing Mary Kay is, and how much money we can make, and how we’d be foolish not to take this opportunity. I looked around the room, and listened to the figures that these women were quoting as to how much product each of us would have to move in order to get the good life this presenter was assuring us we could all have, and it just didn’t add up, there aren’t enough consumers to make this scheme into the get-a-pink-cadillac-retire-early-in-the-Caymans life we were promised.
Despite the hard sell, and the groupthink, I did not become a Mary Kay lady that day, but I did write a satirical screenplay about the experience, so it wasn’t a total loss. I’ve managed to avoid parties of this kind almost successfully since this one (except the Pampered Chef party that the same friend suckered me into going to, again, promising free food), but now it seems even by avoiding these parties, I’m still not able to avoid the stuff.
My mother’s sister used to have some job, I don’t really know the name of her position, but she worked in a clinic in Philadelphia doing brain scans on kids. She got laid off, unfortunately, but rebounded with a new job as a Creative Memories salesperson! This meant that my graduation present was a big blank book to put photos in, a bunch of funky stickers, a pair of wacky scissors, and her brochure for when I needed new supplies. It also meant that at every family event, she would put together a picture college decorated with funky stickers, and pictures cut in cool shapes with wacky scissors! I was not happy.
I’ve been invited to Lia Sophia jewelry parties, Party Light candle parties (I’m sorry, what the hell do you do at a candle party?), numerous Pampered Chef parties; and when I refuse invitations to every single one, catalogs still magically appear, and get passed around at work. Even at stupid Pepsi, when they expressly told us in our week-long training that they do not allow people to solicit on work property (the only thing I heard during training that made me happy), I still got the hard sell from more than one eager woman.
Currently, at my work, there is a whole setup in the staff room from someone (no idea who) selling Wildtree Natural Foods. There are brochures, samples, a giant crock pot that had I-don’t-know-what in it, and the promise of a party on Saturday! I understand that people need to make money, I get that, but when you start selling stuff like this, I can’t help but feel like you’re just begging your friends, family, and co-workers for money in exchange for something that no one really wants or needs. Also, soliciting co-workers, and having parties and your place of employment is just tacky and inappropriate. I don’t like feeling like a cheap or mean person when I refuse this stuff, but I always do. I’m trying to get over it.