This was back when you could knock on a stranger’s door, and they’d invite you in.
If that title brings on waves of nostalgia, you are of a certain age. Back in the 1950’s and 60’s, when women were still expected to stay home, and more and more men were leaving them high and dry, often becoming an Avon Lady was a desperate woman’s most viable career option. My mother found herself on that bandwagon, and therefore went from door to door, hawking lipstick.
All the hard bits happened while I was at school. I never heard her complain about being an Avon Lady. I even remember her winning a couple of awards. She certainly loved to talk to people, so that was right up her alley. But her efforts, however heartfelt, weren’t enough to keep the financial wolves from our door for very long.
Still, as a small child, I admired her. I thought what she did was really exciting. Learning about all the products, and going out there with all her colorful samples, convincing people to buy things. I could never be that persuasive.
That business model came about at a perfect time in our nation’s history. It was a time when you could knock on a stranger’s door and they would invite you in. It was also a time when, more often than not, the woman of the house would be at home when you arrived, and probably was thrilled to talk to someone over the age of 5.
My mother was also stunningly beautiful. I’m sure that a number of ladies bought her products simply because they hoped that they would somehow look like her. (Heaven knows I always wished I looked like her.) But then, too, she was a divorcee at a time when that just wasn’t done, so I suspect many people considered her to be an exotic and slightly dangerous and unpredictable animal that just might prey on husbands. (I could have told them that that was not her style.)
She would sometimes practice her sales pitches on me. That was fun. I felt like the center of attention. And I’d get to help her fill her orders when the shipments came in, seeing the products before anyone else did. I felt special.
I remember, in particular, being fascinated by the cologne bottles that came in the shapes of cars. I would slide them across the table, “Vroom! Vroom!” before they went into the customer’s bags.
Typical me, being drawn to the cars more than to the makeup and jewelry. You’d think she’d have taught me to apply makeup, but in fairness I never expressed an interest. I don’t know how to do it to this day.
I wish my mom were alive so I could ask her if she actually said, “Avon Calling!” when she rang the doorbells. If someone did that today, they’d be laughed off the front stoop, if anyone were home. But it was a different time. I bet she did, though. And I bet the women on the other side of the door would be glad to hear her.
Alas, the days of Avon Ladies are long gone. By the time I hit my teens, people were leaving Avon catalogs at the local salons and such, with their name, address ad phone number stamped on the back, and you’d contact them via your rotary phone. Now, of course, you can buy products online without the human interaction at all.
Even though I don’t buy makeup, this makes me a little sad. Now, if you want the personal touch, you have to order pizza. Somehow that just isn’t the same.
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