For years now I have been saying that I will never, ever do Botox. I will gracefully pass through the hallowed halls of aging: the crows feet, the laugh lines, the sagging chin, those little droopy folds at the corners of your mouth. This is a vow I made years ago, and I have stuck to it pretty well, trying to mend the effects of natural aging with moisturizer, sunscreen, and complicated nightly washing regimens that have often included honey and herbs. I’ve been treating my face like a muffin for years.
Until now. I caved. I am 46 years old and I finally caved in and did it. What was the catalyst that nearly overnight changed my deep resolve to maintain a life of natural, albeit wrinkly beauty to get me into the chair at the board certified cosmetic surgeon’s office? It was the mad face. I had started fielding a lot of odd questions from my family and friends. Are you ok? What’s wrong? Even my daughter was pleading with me “Please don’t be mad, mommy.” Mad? I’m just sitting here watching Seinfeld, WTF?
A friend of mine had admitted to me that she does Botox. She is barely 40 and looks youthful, beautiful. I was very surprised at her candor but it got me thinking. I had long suspected that women I knew, women I worked with, fellow mothers at my children’s school, neighbors even, had been doing Botox. Many of these women, beautiful to begin with, always seemed to have a pleasant calm appearance. There was never any scrunched up face. No asshole faces, no cracked angles when they guffawed at jokes, no deep creases settled on their faces like folded bed sheets. How do they stay so young looking, and in particular, so smooth? I asked myself. But knowing nothing about Botox, it remained only a suspicion.
Well one morning getting ready for work, I arose particularly puffy, and went to work in the mirror trying to mitigate the damage. I smeared on my creams, I put on my powders. I took a long, ample look in the mirror and, at 5:30AM in the morning, without even my first cup of coffee in hand, I looked mad. I messed around with my face, you know, like we all do, pulling back my forehead, pulling my cheeks up a little. What was it that gave my face this permanent state of irritation? I love to laugh, and I am a pretty happy person. It bothered me that my face was not on board with my personality; that our dual mission toward a visage of expressed happiness had diverged, and my face had betrayed me. I mushed around the once taut skin and I had my answer. My brow. Not the whole brow, just the area between my eyes. The wrinkle between my eyes had become a permanent furrow, too many years squinting through bad prescriptions, too many years reading books with that furrow deep in story, too many early mornings at my computer, trying to get through pages of emails. That furrow was turning my expression from open-minded, happy and relaxed to stern, exasperated and serious. It was time.
Have you ever made an appointment to get Botox for the first time? It’s a bit daunting. I couldn’t even get through it, imagine a large Russian Oksana type stabbing my face with broken needles. I am a real chicken when it comes to needles. In my face. So I made my friend go with me. She said she could use a “refresh” as she called it.
At the office, I filled out what seemed like deliberately vague forms about my health and welfare, and then was ushered into a room not unlike the dentist’s office: a large, white and sterile reclining chair, a moonlike LED mirror lamp hanging above the chair, and a small console with medical syringes, bottles and instruments. I swallowed hard. Was I really going to go through with this?
My friend asked the doctor if I could watch her procedure before doing mine. Yes, yes, I wanted to know what to expect. The doctor prepared his syringe, the Botox combined with saline to turn it into an injectable liquid. I wondered to myself as I watched exactly how much saline and how much Botox was in each syringe, was this guy legit? I had read enough to know that there are a lot of scams out there, cheap Botox injections that are “watered down” with saline or combined with other agents, or may not even be Botox at all. Even my hair salon sends monthly emails advertising their“Botox Party!” It’s never really appealed to me to get my face numbed where I get my haircut, but I heard it’s a big moneymaker.
I am sure I was skating on thin ice when I asked, but I thought if ever I could ask stupid, rookie questions of this doctor, it was now. “Why do you mix it with saline?” I wanted him to know I was onto him, in case he was doing anything he shouldn’t be. I imagined that I was a detective and now I had put him on the suspect list, and he would have to be honest now. He just gave me a kind of grandfatherly smirk and explained that he dilutes with a very low percentage, just enough to get the Botox prepared for injection. But I still watched him carefully. I was fucking nervous, too.
He walked over to my friend and began the injections. I stood up to watch but immediately sat down. Have you ever watched someone else getting a shot? What a stupid idea. I was even more nervous now and a little traumatized. I kept glancing at the beautiful model portraits around the room. I tried not to fidget. In what seemed like a minute, he announced, “That’s it!”
That’s it? Already? Now it was my turn. My friend left the room to attend to her bill, and there I was, alone in the room with Dr. Strangelove and the syringe. “Step on up, young lady,” he said. I plopped my purse on the chair and sat rigidly in the patient recliner. He made idle chatter to try and calm me, but I was as unrelaxed as my folded brow in this moment accurately displayed. He turned toward me, syringe in hand and I braced myself for a blow. I’m sure I looked pretty ridiculous. It wasn’t heart surgery, after all.
He wiped my brow with some kind of cold disinfectant. He said “Make a face.” What face? So I scrunched up my face as best I could. “Mmm hmm, I see,” said Dr. Killjoy. I had to speak up at this point, so nervous was I that he might somehow fail to see the wrinkle between my eyes. “I just want to stop looking mad, can you make this disappear?” And I furrowed my brow again. “How old are you?” he asked? “Forty-six,” I answered. “Well you look younger. This will help.”
And with that he took the needle and stabbed it into my forehead.
What did it feel like? Well it felt a lot like you imagine a needle in your forehead would feel like: a sharp pain, a deeper pain, then nothing. Over and over, he moved across my brow like a painter dabbing bits of sunlight to a oil pastoral scene. Ow, Ow, Oh shit OW was all I was thinking. When he finally got to the muscle that created that angry wrinkle between my eyes I was squirming in my seat. One last stab into that muscle and I tore at the armrests. That one hurt. “Well, that’s it, you’re done. Give it five to seven days and you’ll start noticing the effects.” I was ushered through the reception to pay my $275 bill, and we were on the curb. “Well, how did it go?” my friend asked. “Good, I guess. I think I am going to have a bruise.”
The next day I awoke with a pill-sized bruise above my left eye, a little soreness at the injection points, but otherwise, no change.
By the third day I started to see a difference. I couldn’t fully raise my brow so that it made any wrinkles. But that angry furrow between my eyes was still there. This was before Thanksgiving and I worried that the bruise would still be visible by my family coming into town. Luckily for me, my family was preoccupied with holiday festivities, so my secret was safe.
A full five days later I could not wrinkle my brow. I was still able to make the furrow between my eyes, but not as much, not as intensely. It felt, well, strange. I could still feel my skin the same as before. But the muscles didn’t move freely. It was very subtle, and I did look more relaxed. I have to say it wasn’t the miraculous makeover I had imagined but I could see a lightened expression. I could still knot my eyes together but the look was softer. One unexpected side effect was that my eyelids seemed less than before. I had heard that botox on the brow would bring my eyelids up, given them a more “open” look. Not true for me. They were unchanged, or perhaps slightly less visible. Perhaps without the ability to raise my brow, my sagging eyelids now had no architecture by which to uphold themselves? No matter, it was not a big difference and at last, I did not have a permanent look of disapproval.
Three to six months. That’s how long the doctor said I should expect it to last. So I am carefully monitoring the rise, climax and denouement of my brow’s transformation. It was definitely an experience and I am glad I tried it. Another unexpected thing has happened since I had it done. I know. I know what it looks like, what it feels like, how it behaves. I can look at all the women in my community and recognize Botox in seconds. I see for myself the telltale hallmarks of it’s change on a face. So now that I am “part of the club,” I can suddenly spot all the other members. And it was a big surprise for me to assess that about 70% of the women I know over 40 are having it done. I had no idea!
I was never, ever, ever going to do Botox. I was against the violence it represented to true female beauty. I was against the toxins being put into my healthy body. I was against a society that could not tolerate the real faces of women over 40. Will I do it again? I’m not sure yet, but if I can scrounge up the cash, probably.
What do you think about Botox, and did Erin “let the cat out the bag” in revealing her treatment? Share your comments. – Ed.