Monday, February 21, 2005

On Aging: A Wrinkle in Time

As children, I'm sure we all remember defiantly laughing and rolling our eyes when our parents would warn us about making funny faces, threatening that they “would stay that way” if we didn’t stop. In my eight-year old naïveté, little did I know that decades later I actually would be paying the price for all my playground-renowned grumpy old man grimaces and tongue-wagging wide grins.

Now, my face – no longer plumped by the elastic collagen of innocence – acts as a form of silly-putty each morning. But instead of replicating brightly colored characters from the funny papers, my face bears the mirror image of my wristwatch, or the seams of my pillow, or my cat’s tail, or whatever unfortunate surface I happened to be laying on overnight. Sometimes I am forced to catch the late train in order to give my skin enough time to finally bounce back to its former shape, lest the local townsfolk think me a deformed freak and revoke my street parking privileges.

Over the past several months, I’ve had three dreams that involved me getting Botox injections. Only one ended badly, with the Botox forming gigantic lumps in my forehead that floated freely beneath the surface of my skin. But still, my wrinkles were gone, so even that dream didn’t turn out all that bad.

This past Christmas, my brother and I were watching TV at our parents’ house and some E! Entertainment special came on about celebrity plastic surgery. I half-jokingly made a comment to my brother like, “Huh. Maybe I should get me some of that Botox,” at which point he looked at me quite seriously and replied, “Yeah, you could probably use a little right there.”

Now, in case this isn’t already clear, let me outline some important points for any of the gentlemen who might be reading this right now. There are a few questions that women ask that should never, under any circumstance, be answered in the affirmative, including, but not limited to:

  • Does this make me look fat?
  • Was she prettier than me?
  • Do you think I should get Botox?

    Look, I know this makes me look fat, I’m aware that she’s prettier than me, and yes, I know I should get Botox, but really, how did it benefit you to confirm that for me? Was that a good idea, or a bad idea? It is not a new phenomenon for women to ask questions that can only end in a fight, so you’d think by now people would have learned their lines.

    The correct answer to my question is, “What? Don’t be ridiculous! Why on earth would you get Botox? You’re way hotter than any of those plastic-faced anorexic models!”

    Okay, wait. The thought of my brother saying that to me just totally skeeved me out, big time. So perhaps the correct answer is to never ask stupid questions like that in the first place, particularly in the presence of the person who used to draw mustaches on your favorite doll (Oh, Red Baby, will you ever forgive me for leaving you in the toy room unattended? I’ll never abandon you again, my sweet transgendered daughter).

    As much as I’d like to be able to look you all in the monitor and say that I am appalled at the very idea of injecting botulism bacteria into my face, simply to live up to the beauty standard that Hollywood has set, clearly the fact that I am having recurring pleasant dreams about Botox speaks otherwise. But there’s one thing more powerful than even my feminist ideals that will prevent me from going under the needle anytime soon, and that is the overwhelming fear of a horrific, disfiguring result.

    While I don’t consider myself to be someone who constantly yearns for the approval of others in life, for some reason, I have discovered that I strongly seek their approval in death. This is the reason I won’t skydive – truly, it’s not out of any fear of heights, or because I just don’t want to. I think it would be an amazing experience, but not amazing enough to counter my fear of this conversation:

    “Oh god. When did it happen? Jenny was so young. Was it a car accident?”

    “No, she went skydiving and her parachute got caught up in some electrical wires. It was over quickly.”

    “Wait, she was skydiving? Are you kidding me? Why the hell did she go skydiving – she works in marketing!? She’s not even athletic!”

    “I… I have no idea. She thought it would be cool, I guess.”

    “Cool. Yeah, that’s real cool, all right. I’m sure she looked real cool all tangled up and electrocuted. What an idiot.”

    ”No kidding. Total moron.”

    “You going to the wake?”

    “Nah, not for that bonehead.”

    “Me neither. Let’s go get a smoothie.”


    When I think about the idea of getting Botox, a similar scenario plays through my head, except this time, instead of dying in some power lines, I imagine my face horrifically scarred beyond recognition. I’m not proud to admit it, but it isn’t some moral, Gloria Steinem-esque outrage against agism that prevents me from juicing up – it’s really the fear of having to explain that my deformity was caused by pure unadulterated vanity.

    So for now, I’ll continue to take my Vitamin E tablets, drink eight glasses of water a day, and get plenty of rest each night. Oh, and I’m going to see if I can start sleeping on my back from now on, too. Those wristwatch lines are murder on the complexion.