“Do you know where you’ll be injecting botox today?”
The tall, dark woman leaned down towards me, holding a little transparent box in her hands, her lips protruding perhaps farther than they ever naturally should have. I caught sight of her left thigh quiver, ever, ever so slightly from balancing on her platform high heels.
I blinked many times fast, staring up at her from my seat, and my lips parted while I let my periphery vision take in whom of the general public in the little waiting room could possibly have heard that. “Oh, um…” I angled my head down and resolved to just be a soft-spoken person. “I don’t actually know if I’m getting any,” waving my hand in a dismissive gesture, “I’m just speaking to the doctor.”
“Ok,” her expression didn’t change. “Well, these,” she said, flapping the tiny packet, “are disinfectant wipes, and this,” she prodded the white tube, “is a topical numbing agent. Use both wherever you think you may inject botox today.”
I smiled and thanked her. Then the box, my wide eyes and I made our way to the bathroom down the hall. Closing the door, happy for the relatively personal space, I stared at myself in the mirror. I stared at my 25-year-old self. I let my eyes drift slowly across my visage. Starting above my left eyebrow, meandering over my forehead, diverging to my frown area. I forced my anger to indent my skin, then let it be, noticing how the indents hung around. Fucking lingerers. My vision shifted to just below my eyes, where visible laughter lines cast grooved shadows.
I had thought about botox a couple of years ago. But I had thought about botox a couple of months ago. The details are tedious so I will simply state that I have always had—I believe this is the scientific term—shitty skin. Maybe it was the copious amounts of topical creams or prescription drugs disinterested dermatologists threw at my face for years. Maybe it was stress. Maybe it was hereditary. Maybe it was just fucking bad luck. But I ended up looking a lot older than I should.
My better adjusted self screamed silently at the face in the mirror. I had, have, never been that girl. Lip gloss makes me gag. Eye-shadow is a bi-annual affair. The same scuffed, flat shoes are worn to work, out on a Friday night and to tea with Grandma. My hair hasn’t seen a blow-dryer since the 90s. I preach less television and more time outdoors (with SPF 50!). I pity girls who seem convinced and confused by society’s showcase of ‘real’ women. And I would not readily be labeled insecure by my friends or acquaintances. This action would be so anathema to my character that of course I worried about what I was doing. Would I be judged for getting something done that would produce a similar—better—result than most chemical-enriched creams and their skincare company punters promise us all daily? Was it for the right reasons? Was I just indulging my vanity? And the kicker, did it really matter if I was?
I stared hard at myself in the mirror. I had thought this through. I considered myself of sound body and mind. So, with as much of a devil may care attitude that was possible in a bathroom with floral toilet seat covers, I ripped the wipes open with my teeth and disinfected that shit.
I walked back into the waiting area, only to be ushered into the doctor’s room. She spoke like an aunt, dispelling concerns with a wave of her hand and a scientific diagram. Before I could scream “MY YOUTH!” she lay me down and injected tiny pinpricks into my forehead and under my eyes. Then I paid, left, walked outside, and awkwardly laughed myself silly at both the absurdity of the situation and at how much worry was put into the really less-than-momentous occasion I had just experienced.
I now just had to wait. The scientist in me was interested in how my face and body would react to the toxin. I had researched extensively (as far as the internet is ‘extensive’) and amid reassuring commentary, horror stories and medical reports I stumbled across articles on how not using the facial muscle could actually limit the actual emotion derived from that muscle. Instead of frightening me I found this intriguing. Would I possibly feel less angry without my frown? Could botox be, could it really be, my key to happiness?! Ha. Sincerely though, a good part of my willingness to take part in the practice was based on the interest I would gain from the social experiment that would inevitably take place: would any of my nearest and dearest notice the difference in movement on my (rather expressive) face?
It has been three weeks (Goddamn do I look refreshed!) since it’s been done and no one has noticed, and if they have, they haven’t said anything. The people I spend my time with are not ones to mince words so I don’t believe they wouldn’t comment. I have only received one wondrous gaze from an older male colleague, telling me how smooth my skin is. A skin compliment? For me? BLOODY MARVELOUS. It looks natural. It feels normal. I still have movement in my face, just… less. I have felt real anger, and real joy. I worry about it sometimes but never more than I worried about my lines. I almost eagerly await anyone who puts forth the question, “have you done anything to your face?” And I will award first prize to whoever does.
I am neither delusional nor hyperbolic about the state of my skin. Changing how I look has never crossed my mind. I simply wanted to look my age (and I’ve always been a fan of the preemptive strike.) Botox could easily be the marijuana of the beauty industry but I’m not interested in segueing into collagen lip implants and rhinoplasty. I don’t know if I’ll get botox again. I may; I may not. I had justified and unjustified what I did to myself, in pretend dialogues with my parents, my friends and haters, more times than anyone could think healthy, until I realized that my unspoken diatribe had nothing to do with them, and everything to do with me. I was only ever justifying it to myself. That said, I would not hold it against you for raising an eyebrow to my situation, or to what I did. God knows I can’t.
image – stevendepolo