Shop and Shine
By KATHRYN FLYNN
Published April 13, 2008, The Capital Gazette
Four double takes, three sideways glances and one eye roll/wrinkled nose combo: People-watching at the mall hasn't been this entertaining for a long time.
And for every funny face there was a corresponding cynical comment, usually made just out of earshot of the participants. "You have GOT to be kidding me" one woman said to her friend as they passed by. "Don't get suckered into that (four-letter word that can't be printed in a family newspaper, but you know the one I mean)," another said. But the one comment that seemed to sum up most of the responses was this: "I would NOT want to do that in the middle of a mall."
The fuss was all over a kiosk that offered a simple cosmetic improvement. Not ear piercing, which is so commonplace just about any minimum-wager with a Sharpie and reasonable aim can handle it. Not hair straightening, which always makes me wonder whose hair was straightened last on that thing and why there's a selection of fake hair for sale alongside the register. This time, the fuss was all about teeth whitening.
Don't get me wrong. I've got nothing against making your pearly whites even pearlier. And since the supermarket shelves are filled to overflowing with various ways to whiten your own teeth in your own home, it obviously doesn't require four years of dental school to undo a decade or two of coffee and red wine drinking. But to see it in the middle of the mall, well, it was unexpected.
The attention-grabbing setup consisted of three comfy-looking lounge chairs occupied by people wearing Roy Orbison-style sunglasses. Bright blue lights were aimed at their mouths, which were held open with plastic trays that held the bleaching material. It wasn't the most flattering position in which to be seen, and the steady foot traffic at the mall meant the bleachees were seen by A LOT of people. I started to think maybe the dark glasses had more to do with protecting one's identity rather than one's eyes.
Meanwhile, the man in charge moved deftly from client to client, like a circus performer who had to keep the plates spinning until the trapeze act was ready to take the stage.
I can't quite put my finger on what seemed so strange about people getting their teeth bleached in the open expanse of the mall. I guess it's something I expected to be confined to a dentist's office, maybe a spa or one's own bathroom at the very least. But these days I only slow my pace slightly to gawk at someone getting their ears pierced, so maybe I just have to get used to the fact that malls are for more than buying a wedding present for my college roommate or finding shoes to match my new purse.