Among the Embedded Cosmetic Salesgals | HumorOutcasts

Among the Embedded Cosmetic Salesgals

May 17, 2018

The U.S. military has disbanded the command overseeing American ground forces in Iraq, but will maintain a special operations task force to finish off the Islamic State in Syria.

The Washington Post


Day one of my “embed” assignment to Iraq. For security reasons I cannot say exactly where I am, but I know that the enemy has been here before me, because I meet my brigade commander in a house painted bright pink. Mary Kay colors.

“We’re going in–get the moisturizer ready!”


I am part of a Surge-related initiative called “Human Facial Terrain Moisturizing Project”–an attempt to rebuild this country starting at the crow’s feet that plague the eyes of its war-weary people. If I can persuade the Iraqi “gals” to use Yolanda Cosmetics Oil-Free Hydrating Gel in the morning, and Extra Emollient Night Cream when they sleep, I can return to my home in University Park, Texas feeling that I’ve done my part to make the world a safer place.

Mary Kay: Seeking to topple her dictatorial rule.


The brigade commander brings me in to meet the troops, explains why I’m there, and then asks me to say a few words. I’m ready for this, because public speaking is part of every Yolanda Girl’s training. You can’t do without it when you’re putting on a Yolanda House Party! for ten to twenty women you barely know.

“Guys,” I start out, trying to make them feel I’m one of them, “I know what you’re going through.”

I sense some skepticism among the troops, who have been patrolling the streets of Karkuk–oops! I shouldn’t have said that–for several hours this morning.

“I see some of you shaking your heads a bit–yes I did!” I say to one young man with a “snake eyes” tattoo on his arm. He smiles sheepishly, and I continue.

“Look-I know what it means to be despised. I know what it means to be moving among the enemy without knowing who they are.” I pause for effect. “And I know what it means to have to fight an uphill battle when the people at home don’t support you.”

I remind myself to stop and take a breath. If I get too emotional, I get the fantods.

“When you’re a Yolanda Cosmetics Girl, you start out down by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. You’ve got both Avon and Mary Kay lined up between you and the goal line, and all you can do is suck up your guts and play football.”

They’re starting to relate.

“Behind you, you’ve got a whiny teenage daughter who wants to know why she can’t have the car after cheerleader practice. And a no-count husband who if he could just sell a whole life insurance policy every now and then his wife wouldn’t have to ring doorbells when she’d rather be at the country club working on her tan.”

“Stay with us for a few weeks and you’ll have a savage tan!” one of them says, and the rest break out in laughter. Humor in uniform, just like in Reader’s Digest.

“Okay then!” I say. “If we’re all on the same page, why don’t we try to bring a little international understanding to this god-forsaken sandbox!”

The brigade commanders picks up on my cue, and we’re out the door and down the street to a suspected ISIS redoubt.

“I’ll let you do the honors,” I say to a young soldier. “My pleasure,” he replies. He starts to kick in the door, and it is all I can do to put my body in between him and total mission failure.

“That’s not the way to win hearts and minds,” I scold him. “Hide and watch,” I say, and he and the others on our patrol flatten themselves against the outer wall.

“Yolanda Cosmetics,” I say in the tinkling tones of a UN Support Mission Peace-Keeping Soldier. “Anybody home?”

UN Peacekeeper: “I need blue eye-shadow to go with my helmet.”


A good twenty seconds pass before we hear rustling within. The door opens just a crack, and I see the faces of three men before me. That little sliver of eye contact is all I need.

“I’d like to give everybody an introductory Yolanda ‘What’s Your Face’ test,” I say.

I don’t expect them to jump at the chance. Sometimes people are suspicious.

One of them speaks a few words, and our interpreter translates. “He says they have no reason to believe you. You Americans came here in 1990, gave out free samples and left. They were promised there would be a follow-up to the initial color analysis, but you deserted them.”

Free color analysis


I can understand their mistrust. We finished off Saddam, but we abandoned people who needed Balancing Moisturizer–badly.

“I tell you what,” I say, looking the man square in the eyes. “I’m going to give each one of you a complimentary Overnight Makeup Bag before I even touch you.”

The men look at each other after the interpreter conveys my offer, and they seem to brighten a bit. The eldest has one question, however. He gestures to the interpreter as he speaks, and the question is then relayed to me.

“No purchase necessary?”

“Absolutely not. And I’ll throw in a free tube of Lash-Lengthening Mascara.”

They nod, and then smile. With one small step, the journey to peace has begun.

Con Chapman

I'm a Boston-area writer, author of two novels (most recently "Making Partner"), a baseball book about the Red Sox and the Yankees ("The Year of the Gerbil"), ten published plays and 45 books of humor available in print and Kindle formats on My latest book "Scooter & Skipper Blow Things Up!" was released by HumorOutcasts Press last year. My humor has appeared in The Atlantic, The Christian Science Monitor, The Boston Globe and Barron's, and I am working on a biography of Johnny Hodges, Duke Ellington's long-time alto sax player for Oxford University Press .

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