What Not to Put on Your Face

I’d mentioned how my parents recently sent a box filled with beauty products from Japan. The box included a white plastic package containing cotton pads made for facial cleansing, toning or removing makeup (I always get the round ones, so I’ll call them “cotton rounds” henceforth.) Great timing! I thought, since I was almost out of the last ones I’d purchased in France. I like to use cotton rounds with Sonia Kashuk Eye Makeup Remover, my favorite product for removing eye makeup.

The package was covered in Kanji writing. I know nothing about Kanji and can’t read it at all, but I knew what was inside the package, because Mom had talked about how its contents were beloved by many Japanese women. “They’re really thin cotton,” she’d said. I could understand how “really thin” would be an ideal feature in a cotton round, as the skin around the eye area is very delicate, and the more gently you apply anything to that area, the better. Leave it to the Japanese to modify something as simple as cotton rounds, I thought. In general, anything they do with products for the face is amazing.

The Kanji-covered package sat on the bathroom counter for a while, and I eventually opened it and filled up the container I use to store cotton rounds.

The first thing I noticed was that they were square, rather than round. No big deal! I like cotton squares just fine.

The second thing I noticed was that they were individually wrapped. Now that’s strange, I thought… but I didn’t dwell on it, because they were Japanese. After a while, you don’t think twice about the unusual things the Japanese do with their products. There’s a picture of a horse on the “washing form” facial cleanser, and the cleanser itself is an opaque, dark metallic gunmetal gray cream that looks like a beautiful automotive paint, so why would I take special note of these cotton squares being individually wrapped?

When I went to use one, the mystery that I didn’t know was a mystery was solved.

I had my bottle of eye makeup remover ready to go. I opened the cotton square. And I found that it had to be unfolded.

“Well this is weird,” I said to Callaghan, who was in the next room. “It looks like a… wait…”

Realization started to set in. I turned it over, saw the strip, and yanked it off.

“…a pantyliner!!”

I bent over laughing and stuck my arm through the bathroom doorway so Callaghan could see the pantyliner dangling from my hand, attached to my palm by its sticky adhesive backing.

After a few moments of boisterous hilarity, we calmed down, and I felt pretty stupid. Looking at them again, I couldn’t believe I didn’t suspect that they were pantyliners all along. Those Japanese! They’re so quirkily innovative, once I had it in my mind that these were cotton pads for the face (which I guess I’d just assumed since everything else in the box was for the face), I didn’t question the design… it didn’t occur to me that they might be for the vagina even when I saw that they were individually wrapped squares.

Cotton for the crotch, not for the face.

But it’s true that they’re really thin!


"Beaty Lolapalooza" (named by Callaghan) Cotton pads from Japan

Beauty is on the Inside

Yesterday was the day “GYN” was written in my agenda. It would be my first Well-Woman exam in France. Callaghan and I got there on time, and the doctor called us in immediately. Shocking! This was a good sign. I was brimming with curiosity. How would this particular exam differ from those I’ve had in the States? All the medical exams I’ve had here so far have been different. We followed the doctor down the hall to his office. I was about to find out!

For starters, he couldn’t find my vagina.

Kidding! What really happened at first was that he couldn’t figure out why I was there, since I’d had everything removed except my vagina. Ovaries, tubes, uterus and cervix – the whole SHE-bang, gone. He had a good point. There’s nothing to find in a pelvic exam on a woman who’d evicted all of her reproductive organs from her pelvis. He asked a few questions for clarification purposes.

“My GYN in the States said I should still get a yearly check,” I explained.

The doctor gesticulated with his hands as he meandered through a long reply, but even with the sign language, I wasn’t sure I understood him.

“He says there’s nothing to do,” said Callaghan, cutting the response down to six words.

But the doctor got up and showed me to the examination area, anyway, while Callaghan remained seated in his plush green velvet 18th-century replica chair at the desk. The exam area was concealed behind an ornate Oriental screen. The doctor told me to undress completely, but he did not give me a paper gown. This omission flashed in my mind. What’s a pelvic exam without the crinkly, slippery paper gown? (Not that I missed it. I didn’t.) As I reposed on my back with my feet in the stirrups, I gazed above and bit my lip to keep from laughing as I recalled how a former GYN had tacked a poster of Tom Cruise on the ceiling above the exam table. It was supposed to help patients relax. I’m not making this up.

After the exam, I got dressed and joined Callaghan at the desk, wondering what the doctor would find to say about my non-existent girly parts.

“C’est bien,” he said. “Votre vagin est parfait.”

“Your vagina is perfect,” said Callaghan.

“That’s what I thought he said.”

“Well I already knew that your vagina was perfect.” He sounded like his intelligence had been insulted.

We burst out laughing. The doctor ignored us. He grabbed a large coffee-table book, set it down, spun it around, and opened it to display pictures of all kinds of vaginas, interior close-ups beautifully captured in gleaming full color. He enthusiastically used his pen to point out the different parts of vaginal anatomy. As he flipped through the vagina photographs, I suppressed the urge to ask him which one resembled mine. If mine is “perfect,” then why couldn’t it also be featured in a vagina photography book? There are models for all kinds of body parts (hand models, leg models, feet and teeth models). From what I understand, body-part modeling is lucrative, and the models take out insurance policies on said parts… celebrities too, sometimes, if they have a part that’s especially famous. Didn’t I read somewhere that Jennifer Lopez has an insurance policy out on her ass?

In any case, I have to say that this doctor was more thorough than any American one I’ve had, and the exam was only 34 euro (that’s without insurance). Girls, remember this if you ever visit France! You could squeeze in a Well-Woman appointment during your stay. It’ll probably be cheaper than going to the top of the Eiffel Tower, too.