Sitting in a Esthetician’s chair last week, after being gifted a salon “sampler” package at my gym for referring a friend, I was enjoying the soothing chimes of the background music when my white coated skin care specialist told me she was a medical esthetician. I had no idea what that meant. “You have great skin”, she tells me, “but you should really get some Botox here, and here, and here, and here” she coos as she is pointing to my forehead, under my eyes, and to my “marionette” lines (who in the world thought of that terrible adjective?)… “Don’t worry” she assured me, “just 20 cc’s or so to start.”
I was immediately enthralled. Here I had a real “medical” skin care specialist making recommendations to my tired, over-sunned, once flawless 45-year-old face! I immediately wondered if it hurt. “We give you something to numb the area”, she assured. When I asked if it ever went wrong, she told me that she’s never seen it go wrong, but that I would need to sign several waiver forms to release any liability on their part. “I get it”, she adds. “How old do you think I am?”. She looks about 48 with smooth, baby-butt skin. I think I piss her off when I tell her this. “I’m 49”, she says as she begins to furiously perform skin extractions with what I believe is excessive force. As the tears are rolling down my eye corners due to the stinging she is evoking she soothes me, “Come on Stacey, toughen up”. For those of you curious, non-facial receivers, this is when a little tool is brought out and every pore you have on your face is “de-clogged”. This happens even if you have no visible blemishes or pimples. More of a stated preventative for any potential baby zits or clogged pores that may be thinking in the future they want to become problem areas. I find this just makes my face blotchy and worse looking when I leave, but it must me good for me right?
So instead of relaxing (as the gentle chimes are joined by water trickles and continue to play in the background) while she mousses up my face with a cucumber smelling frothy substance, I begin to fantasize about shooting my face full of botulinum toxin. I think of the ways I could sneak over, and get it done, without telling anyone. I look at the address…I could be there in 15 minutes. True, I write about aging gracefully, eating fresh foods as close to the earth as possible, and refusing to kill animals so I can eat them….but I WANT to put this in my face. Next to my brain. ALL OVER MY FACE to be exact. I do. I admit it. I want to reverse the signs of aging on my face and look better. I don’t want my mouth to have marionette lines on the corners when I talk like a hand puppet. I want, I want, I want. Who cares that the word “tox” is in the name… Not me. Not anymore.
I leave her chair with a business card in hand for the facility she practices in with a “real doctor” also, she claims. “She used to be an internal medicine specialist, but now she does this because she can make $250 for 10 minutes of work and not have to bill insurance, you know?”. Yes, I know I say. I’m conflicted all the way out the door. I get in my car, drop down my sun shade and slide over the plastic window so I can look in my lighted mirror. I’m all blotchy, red and shiny from the extractions and ten layers of skin products. I look at all of my laugh lines around my mouth. I fake smile to see how bad it looks by my eyes. My forehead scrunches up and the lines stay there when I let the smile fall off my mouth. I want this, I think. I’m going to do it. I will look so much younger and better and I will no one has to know. I feel weak to my own judgement. I cave.
I had a haircut scheduled following my facial as it was my day off. My hairdresser is a beautiful, vivacious, 25-year-old women who just got into haircutting 3 years before but is wonderful in both her style and, even more enjoyable to me, in her personality. I sit in her chair explaining why my face looks so blotchy and red. “I thought maybe you just got a peel”, she says. Then I tell her that I think I’m going to start getting Botox. “I just got some today,” she admits. What? “It’s my third time”, she adds…”I get it in trade”. She proceeds to tell me, as she looks down the line of the other gorgeous hair stylists in the row alongside her, that everyone does it there. “All of us do it”, she admits. I am completely blown away as I look at these twenty something young women. What are we doing to ourselves as women? “Even men do it now”, she adds, “they call it Brotox”. Of course they do, I think to myself. What are we doing to ourselves, I wonder quietly.
I realize in talking to her, that I just can’t do it. I have nothing against anyone reading this who has decided for themselves that they want to reverse the clock and take advantage of something that it feels like “everyone” is doing. I get it. I really do. But as I sat in that chair and looked at my stylist I realized that I had a daughter growing up who has told me repeatedly that she never wants me to do any “fillers” or “Botox” and wants me to age naturally. (She also wants me to get really chubby to be a “comfortable” grandmother someday for my grandchildren…but that one I’m going to fight.) She is a 15-year-old beautiful talented girl who is going to feel this same pressure amongst her peers when she is in her early twenties. This next generation of women has a whole new toolbox available to fight aging and maintain some ideal form of beauty that our society is promoting. This toolbox is more of a magicians bag of tricks, and they are often not healthy for our sense of self and personal acceptance.
I take a deep breath, look at my red blotchy face in the mirror, and make a personal commitment to myself that I am choosing to share on this blog. Here it is: I am going to age and it’s going to show on my face, my body, and in my wisdom. I promote self acceptance and positive body love to every single one of my clients as a therapist. I refuse to not be genuine and thus will begin the process with me.
I throw away the “medical” esthetician’s business card. I tell my daughter that I will make her a deal. In this life, I’m going to be who I am, warts and all. But the deal I make is this…If I do it, you need to do it too. She proceeds to tell me that she thinks wrinkles are beautiful and that they add character to a women’s face. What wisdom in such a young fresh woman in training…. Whose lucky daughter is that? Oh yeah, that’s mine.
Stacey Neil, Licensed Psychotherapist, is in private practice in Los Gatos, CA. She can be reached at 408.827.5139. If she isn’t there, she is off floating in the ocean, or hiking in the mountains.