celebrity shopping

What Mary H.K. Choi Can’t Live Without

Photo: Courtesy of Hatnim Lee

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair, but the hand sanitizer and the electric toothbrush. We asked author Mary H.K. Choi — whose new book, Permanent Record, is available September 3 — about the cotton pads, pizza knife, and black pens she can’t live without.

I’m usually an English Breakfast, PG tips, or even an Irish tea drinker. I used to drink so much caffeine, but when I’m going into promotion or I’m doing work that requires a lot of anxiety, then all that caffeine makes me do is access self-loathing a lot faster. So I’ve got to go decaf. Barry’s is nice because so many teas are really anemic-looking in the mug. But Barry’s deludes me into thinking I’m actually drinking caffeine — the flavor is just really, really good. I’ll put in a little almond milk, which is, like, the conflict milk. Then I add some Stevia and I’ll drink it throughout the day. Anytime I have to attend to an oral fixation rather than doing any of the old things, like snack or smoke, tea holds your attention in a weird way. It’s like an avocado. There’s a window in which optimal drinking happens, so you have to tend to it. I hate coming back to cold tea and being like, What is wrong with me? Why can’t I stay focused? Why does Instagram not want me to have tea?

My worst secret is that I’ve never tried Biologique Recherche. Really, I don’t know what the P90-whatever smells like, but I can joke about it! I’m like “Oh yeah, that toner smells horrible!” But I really have no idea. I feel like a failed Korean for not quintuple-washing or whatever. I’m that way with any emollient too. I can’t do it. I can’t do $150 moisturizer. I know it’s preventative and other people are really good at it. I believe them. But I like this stuff. I just splatter it on my face as a moisturizing lotion — it’s a morning and night thing. At night, I’ll use an eye cream, and even the eye cream is from the drugstore.

These kind of remind me of that episode of Seinfeld where they painted over the street separation, so they are driving down that one big fat lane. They remind me of parking in Texas vs. parking in Manhattan. Cotton balls — I mean, surely there have been advancements — but these are like an embarrassment of riches. What I do is dump micellar water on one and take off all my eye makeup. Then I flip it and take off city grime. These are so good because there’s enough left you can even get the back of your neck and your décolletage.

And I put the micellar water in these dispensers, these shitty Amazon ones. There’s two, because a deep dark secret of mine is that I’m one of these New York assholes who has two bathrooms. I keep one in each because I’m lazy. Flossing and taking off my makeup is a thing I do properly now because I’m an adult, a.k.a. I’m just old. So I have to make it as convenient as possible, otherwise I will reward myself by not taking my makeup off properly.