As I write this today, I am worn out and throwing my hands in the air. I’m done. I’m tired of articles telling me how to be a better me. Eat healthy. Exercise daily. Spend quality time with your family. Cook from scratch. Use only organic produce. Watch less TV. Meditate. I’m guilt ridden at the prospect that I’ve fallen short. And as I get older, I have come to hate the advice, “Age gracefully.” What does that mean? “Age is a state of mind.” Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. “You look so good for ____ years old!” Shut up right now! Is it so bad that I sometimes don’t like the way age looks on me? Is it so bad that I want to fight it? Artificially?
I never thought I would submit. I admit that deep down I might have even judged other women for doing “it.”
Confession time: Don’t judge. Good Lord, the last thing I need is guilt on top of the assault of father time. Is there really something wrong with fighting it? I mean if you want to be smarter, you read. Right? If you want a healthier body (or thinner one), you exercise. If you want to make the wrinkles go away, you…you…? Inject! Ouch! Well, don’t object—yet—about the inject.
I never thought I would submit. I admit that deep down I might have even judged other women for doing “it.” At the very least, I haven’t defended other women who’ve taken artificial measures as vehemently as I should have, or maybe not at all. Geez, I still find it hard to say “it.” And “it” is many things: Botox. Filler. Collagen. Even the dreaded, and more permanent, face lift. Look, not to sound trite, but until you’ve walked a mile in another woman’s face, you don’t know what you’d do.
So one day I was at the dermatologist, getting a rather noticeable red spot on my cheek zapped, when I mockingly scoffed, “At least I’m not here for Botox.” My doc just smiled and calmly said, “Why not? It’s wonderful,” before he momentarily stepped out of the room. And just like that, in that mere few minutes of his absence, I reflected on what he just said and completely flip-flopped. It was like an out-of-body experience.
I left the dermatologist’s office with a mixture of shame and excitement.
He walked back in and there I was asking for injections of Botox. What the hell? How does that happen? And I only flinched a little bit when I had to pay the bill, which was enormous. At this point I was in my mid-40s. I left his office that day with a mixture of shame and excitement. But I will never forget what one of the aestheticians said as I left, “A girl has a right to her beauty secrets.”
It was a revelation. And let me just say that I loved the way I looked. It didn’t erase my wrinkles; it just took the edge off. Sleep marks were less obvious in the mornings. Makeup was easier to apply or less necessary. Wow! But I still felt guilty about going back, so I waited. And waited.
Just One More Fix
The next time I went for it I was 50. This time I was interested in not only Botox, but “just a little filler and just this once.” I got some filler in my smile lines and folds and in the little edges of my lips to help smooth out the lines that make my lipstick run. It’s intoxicating sitting there in the chair imagining how young you’ll look again. Things will be much easier I told myself now that my face was going back in time 10 years or so. Did I keep this as my beauty secret? Not exactly.
“A girl has a right to her beauty secrets,” an aesthetician said.
You see, my husband had mocked Botox a couple of times, so I didn’t dare tell him what I was up to. It was my business, right? So I got home, ran to the mirror expecting to see the early stages of reverse aging but instead saw swollen and bruised lips. What? OMG? Darn filler! Crap! Now he was going to figure it out. I quickly assessed the situation and realized that no amount of cover up could hide my now dirty little secret. I mean my lips were red/blue and approaching duck-bill dimensions. I started to drink red wine while cooking dinner. It was a two-part cure—to mask my lip’s bruising and/or to care less if it didn’t.
Red, Red Wine
We sat down to dinner, and I could feel my lips growing, and the swelling made it hard to move my lips naturally when I spoke. “What’s wrong with your mouth?” he asked with sudden interest. I couldn’t have drawn his attention more if I’d been wearing a party hat at dinner. Just this once I wanted to keep something to myself; instead, and without my permission, I was out of the closet.
“What’s wrong with your mouth?” my husband asked with sudden interest.
It was almost pathetic how I held my ground, insisting I didn’t know what he was talking about. I just laughed and started clearing the table. “No fanks, honey,” I said through my whopping lips when he offered to give me a hand in the kitchen. “I got fis.” If my husband figured out what was going on with my mouth (and speech), he never said anything. It was actually kind of sweet. Feeling grateful for this kindness, I was much nicer to him the next day. But I didn’t confess. Eventually, my balloon lips deflated, and I did look minimally younger again for about four to five months.
The truth is that all the Botox and fillers in the world can’t really make me look as young as I feel inside my head. It seems like a weakness to admit that I miss the me who didn’t give a second thought to how she looked and wore the natural look with pride. I miss the me whose face didn’t have sleep marks every morning that took all damn day to disappear. I miss the me who could eat most anything she wanted and not gain weight. I miss that secure, younger me. I miss the me who felt like she still had some game. Where the hell did she go? And God how I wish that none of this bugged me at all, but it does. Not all the time, but sometimes.
Will I Go Back?
It may seem like a contradiction, but I do see my self-worth growing with each year of maturity. I’m bold and assertive; I think I’m wise and smart (not always the same thing). So why do I long for my wrinkles to go away? Honestly? I’m not doing it for anyone else; it’s for me. I consider it a time-saving move. It’s much quicker to get dressed and walk away from the mirror feeling ready to face whatever the day brings.
Surely I’m not alone. And surely I’m not the only one who doesn’t come clean to her husband. He doesn’t see my age or my wrinkles anyway. He just sees me—that’s what he’s always told me, and now I appreciate that more. I forgive myself for giving Botox a shot (pun intended). Will I go back for more? Perhaps. But it’s expensive and it’s never really the younger me anyway. I guess the whole exercise just allowed me to quit wondering “what if?” to see how it made me look and feel so I could move on. And that’s what I’m doing—moving onward and upward with this face. Well, maybe.
A version of this article was originally published in October 2017.