Tuesday, June 06, 2006

How To Live Well On Nothing A Year

OK, fine: How To Get Free Beauty Treatment in New York On Little A Year

Last week, I was on the train going home after work, when the woman sitting next to me said, "You got pimple."
I looked up from my book to find a middle aged Asian woman about two inches from my face.
Yes, I get a pimple in the exact same spot in the exact same time of every month and, somehow, the world manages still to go on despite this travesty.
"You want me to get rid of it for you?"
I imagined this woman popping my pimple right then and there in the middle of rush hour and, after considering this proposal for no more than half a second, I politely declined it.

Turns out that Liz, my new pimple-popping friend, works as an aesthetician in a salon on the Upper East Side. Turns out that Liz, otherwise known as Shoyong, moved here from Korea about a year ago and now lives in Bayside. Turns out that Liz had a business proposition for me: in exchange for free facials, she wanted me to give her free English lessons. I search Craigslist all day looking for bargains like this so, naturally, I shook her hand and made a deal.

I know, I know, “Oh Lucy! Didn’t you learn your lesson the first time, when you got that botched haircut for free?” But hair is hair and a face is a face and Liz isn’t a student, she’s a professional with flawless skin. Besides, a facial is really nothing more than paying somebody to put a mud mask on your face for an hour.

Well, not quite. Tonight, I met up with Liz, at her salon on the Upper East Side, and followed her past a row of girls, my age, whose handbags cost more than my entire education. Some of them were getting pedicures, some of them were getting manicures, and some of them were getting pedicures and manicures at the same time. Besides the employees, I think I was the only girl in the joint with dark hair. It's true what they say -- all the blondes in Manhattan seemed to be in this salon on the Upper East Side and some girls were even getting highlights, to make their hair even blonder!

I cannot fully explain what happened in the next hour and a half because I’m still trying to process it all myself. True, there was a mud mask of sorts, but it felt more like sand than mud. Yes, sand being ingrained in my face, that’s exactly what it felt like, but not in a bad way. And there was steam, lots of steam. And then a bright light followed by sequential pangs of discomfort that began to add up to a source of unnerving, if not unbearable, pain. I felt like my face was going to fall off and then, just like that, Liz stopped her exercise in torture and everything was pleasant again. She slathered a bunch of junk on my face and hands and shoulders and we were done. I walked out of that salon feeling like jell-O.

Now it was time for me to fulfill my side of the deal. I must confess to you, blahg, as I did not confess to Liz, that I am not well practiced in the art of teaching. I just thought I would wing it, as I am well practiced in the art of winging it. So we went to a diner a block away, sat down in a booth and began talking. Liz’s English is not that bad but she definitely needs some help with pronunciation. I asked her questions about her life and helped her form answers, mostly through good old-fashioned word association and pantomime. However, after twenty minutes and two rounds of iced tea, we ran out of things to talk about, at which point, I began to stall.

Liz suggested that we work on her reading skills. Now that I can do. The only problem is, the only material I had on me was a week old New Yorker and a three decade old John Updike novel, neither of which is suitable reading for an ESL student. Thankfully, there was a discarded People in the booth next to us (this week's issue). Together we educated ourselves on Brad and Angelina’s baby girl, why Paul left Heather, and everything I never cared to know about American Idol. That took care of twenty minutes. Oh, and we created captions for the glamor shots in the beginning of the magazine. That’s ten minutes.

More conversational chit chat to follow until I make the executive decision for the two of us to take a field trip to the grocery store. Liz had been letting her daughter take care of all the grocery shopping and she expressed some interest in helping out with this responsibility, but admitted that the task of shopping made her a little scared. Again, I cannot fully explain what happened in the next hour and a half, but I will say that although neither of us bought anything at Gristedes, I now feel a strangely intimate knowledge of that grocery store and could, with confidence, list everything in its inventory. The same could be said for Liz, I think, who is now able to differentiate between items that are on sale, items that have already passed their expiration, and items that are not worth buying.

Deal sealed: a facial in exchange for an English lesson, a bittersweet experience for both parties. Ta da.


Blogger Senor Cheeseburger said...

thats pretty friggin wierd...

Gut so is this:

AC Slater vs. Zack Morris...
place your bets and see the outcome at:


There can be only one

12:03 AM  
Anonymous Jenna Lasich said...

this is very charming.

10:45 AM  
Blogger Jaime said...

that's fantastic. but how did your skin turn out?

3:47 PM  
Blogger Toby Shuster said...

well, to be quite honest, it was a bit splotchy. but the next morning, it was kate moss-esque.

4:11 PM  
Blogger DWM said...

I love you for telling this story! This transaction sounds like something you (you here means I) would go through with simply because there is a guaranteed (great) story that will come out of it!

It's all about the stories, so keep up the good work!

~David (aka KT's friend) :)

2:41 PM  
Blogger Toby Shuster said...

yah, you do it for the story and the free beauty products!

it was good seeing you the other night, buddy.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Mary High said...

You're growns up and you're growns up.

I'm so proud.

4:38 PM  
Blogger Toby Shuster said...

thank you, dahling.

4:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a lot more funnier than half the crap that Gawker links to. Keep writing, Toby Shuster.

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A korean on the subway would only make that offer to a fellow rider who is white or asian.

5:06 PM  
Blogger Toby Shuster said...

indeed, i am very, very white.

5:08 PM  
Anonymous hurricane said...

i need to ride subways more.

8:07 PM  

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