In which an irresistible force meets an immoveable object

Get me with the physics reference! (Um, it is physics, right?)

Anyway, I was in London t’other weekend to go to see Electra at the Old Vic. I think Electra is a difficult play, because although the circumstances are terrible, Electra’s blinkered single-mindedness in pursuit of yet more horrendous crimes is unnerving. Kristin Scott-Thomas played her brilliantly, as a deeply emotionally disturbed and unstable woman wrought to high pitch. I imagine her Electra collapsing like a puppet with severed strings once the action is completed, inner motivation spent and with nothing to replace it. Now there’s a story that as far as I’m aware, no one has touched since Aeschylus. What happens next?

On the way to the theatre, I had to do some shopping due to a last minute invitation to a black tie dinner later in the week (this isn’t a humblebrag, it was a work thing and all the important people had dropped out so there were seats going spare on a table that had been paid for). Fortunately, I only needed shoes, and I only wanted cheap shoes because this is the first black tie event I’ve been to in about a hundred years. So, Oxford Street it was.

I managed not to fall down the rabbit hole of French Connection, which has suddenly grown up and had a ton of stuff in a delectable midnight blue that was pleading with me to take it home for happy ever afters. I hear it still, in my dreams. Somewhat unbelievably, I came away from the stores with only one pair of shoes, and then decided to walk to Green Park tube via New Bond Street.

All the shops there are so expensive that I don’t even aspire to shop in them. I view the whole street more like an art gallery, full of beautiful things that are so out of range I can simply admire them as objects. Also, it’s not as insanely busy as Oxford Street and it’s a handy cut through, so I was striding purposefully along when I was stopped by a free handout sample of a hugely expensive moisturizer. I’ve had samples before, it’s lovely stuff but I’d never contemplate buying it. What I did contemplate was following the salesman inside for a sample of the eye cream.

He embarked on the usual attempts to create rapport, and I had a few minutes to spare so I let him. It was the usual ‘Oh but you have such lovely skin, you don’t look your age, let me just pop a bit of eye cream on and honestly, you won’t believe the difference, now, while we’re waiting for that to work let me just show you our moisturizers. These are the only moisturizers in the world that are made with this unique ingredient that penetrates all the layers of your skin to your very soul and yes, that’s right, it moisturizes your soul so not only will you look amazing but you’ll be a better person too, I mean, that’s got to be worth it, hasn’t it, and oh look, the eye cream has worked, can you believe the difference, ooh, it’s knocked 10 years off that eye, I mean not that you needed it really, but let’s be honest, you do have a few crows’ feet and wrinkles, but if you used this eye cream and our moisturizer every day then they’d all be gone in 3 weeks…’

That boy was working it. The moisturizer and eye cream together were £400, which made me laugh out loud. I said I didn’t mind my crows’ feet and wrinkles, I was 43 so of course I had them and actually I didn’t want to be perfect I wanted to look like a normal person and in fact the pressure on women to look 20 all the time was ridiculous and misogynistic.

What if he was a magician and could say a magic word and all my wrinkles would be gone, just like that?

No.

No? Really? One magic word and they’d be gone? Seriously?

No. I like them. They’re fine, it’s not damage, it’s my life.

He didn’t really believe me but he moved on to the extra bit of the spiel for the stubborn ones. This is their entry level product, which is the facial scrub. This we tested on the back of my hand, and sure enough, it scrubbed off a layer of skin and pollution and the back of my hand was soft as anything. The facial scrub was £150, which I think is supposed to seem like a bargain after that £400 price tag, but didn’t. So I said no. (£400? I want it made by Clangers and personally flown in by the metal chicken, with dinner with the Soup Dragon thrown in.)

He didn’t miss a beat in dropping the price to £75 as an introductory offer, because it’s all about building a relationship, not making a sale. I said no, £75 is ridiculous for a facial scrub and maybe try me again in 10 years if I start feeling desperate. He went to get his business card, and possibly to have a chat with the manager and came back with an offer of £49, at which point the encounter tipped from amusing into brand damage.

I wasn’t going to buy it at any price. He’d halved the price and told me that was cost, so already admitted that the mark-up was huge. He then effectively halved it again, at which point he devalued the product entirely. I don’t believe they weren’t still making a handsome profit at two-thirds off the ticket price, which means that for all the hype it’s suddenly no different to my £10 Oil of Olay. Wrinkles versus snake oil? I’ll keep the wrinkles.

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6 thoughts on “In which an irresistible force meets an immoveable object

  1. Nancy | Roving Lemon's Big Adventure

    I believe Ben Goldacre has already conclusively demonstrated that all available evidence indicates that the best thing you can do for your skin is to slather it with a thick layer of vaseline. Compared to that, the Oil of Olay (which I also splurge for, as I find the vaseline slightly too disgusting) is already a luxury item.

  2. Bookgazing

    I liked Electra best viewed as a response play to Antigone and a way better early version of Ophelia’s story from Hamlet. In Antigone people are all ‘you’re too unbending and there will be consequences’ and in Hamlet Ophelia gets totally dicked about by Hamlet and goes unnecessarily mad (imagine if he’d just talked to her). In Electra the ‘Ophelia’ character controls Hamlet & the ‘Antigone’ character gets to not get walled up alive & just about escapes with her sanity. In that light it’s a big feminist triumph for women who go all out in the face of a world which tries to skew their viewpoint (it really is unacceptable that she’s expected to live quietly in the house of her father’s murderers).

    However, KST’s Electra was kind of… all on one level, I guess, for me. Kind of like Timothy Spall’s recent attempt at Turner where he picked up one characteristic (the grunt) and stuck with it all the way through. Her squirming was very distracting at times and her attempts to play comic lines straight and shouty as if people who are near the edge lose their, ability to inflect, was kind of odd.

  3. emilysbrainworks

    Another reason I always need you along when shopping: I absolutely hate those people who are determined to sell me something I don’t need at an outrageous price. You sound like you handle them beautifully (obviously because you go shopping more often than I do and have honed your skills in a way I never could).

  4. musingsfromthesofa Post author

    Jodie – Never thought of Electra as a better version of Ophelia, but yes, I can completely see that. Does Electra keep her sanity? I’m not sure if having achieved vengeance she’ll be more towards the ok end of the spectrum, or implode completely; but at least she is alive. I can see that if the play were longer I might have struggled with KST’s interpretation I found maintaining that near hysterical pitch worked for me. Haven’t seen the Turner film, doesn’t sound as though I need to!

    Emily – it’s easy, just say no. Start by being polite and then move on to ‘I don’t care if it’s on sale, I wouldn’t take it for free’ if you have to 😉

  5. thesesandwichdays

    that is absolutely heinous. My husband won a sort of gift bag at a work-related black tie event and brought home an estee lauder skin cream gift bag. I used it and I think maybe my skin was slightly improved but currently I’m out of most of my face products and have been using baby shampoo and cocoa butter to cleanse and moisturize and notice no real difference.

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