I don’t know if it’s great, and I’m not sure if there’s an actual debate, but I do know that it’s becoming increasingly popular - our society’s relationship with Botox. Some of the ladies in my social periphery have been clamoring for it recently and the stigma for its use seems to have almost disappeared overnight.
No longer is it relegated to movie stars and aging beauty queens. Now, the gal behind the Starbuck’s counter or the spunky mom in the carpool lane is just as likely to have had it as Meryl Streep! And that’s good, I guess, since it allows for more possibilities in terms of how we go about feeling comfortable in our own skin. The only thing is, as with all other matters of humanity, there are those who participate and others who don’t. For those who don’t – I am inserting my raised hand here - it can start to feel as though we are being brushed to the side.
In the “before times,” when the natural process of aging started to kick in, women were given the grace to look as normally haggard as their situation required. Household tasks and a handful of kids would unquestioningly cause crease lines and frown furrows. But that was okay because it was seen as a normal part of life; expected, really. After all, anyone who could navigate life’s messiness without at least a few of these formations was the odd woman out. Such medical anomalies were allowed to don their appearances as a rare sideshow feat but not an assertion for everyday living.
Now, however, our greatest ideals of feminism seem to be melding with society’s need for our idealized perfection. Not only are we implored to juggle careers and homelife (as if those two words could nearly sum up all that they entail), but we are also meant to do it all while remaining fresh faced and smooth skinned. And these latter goals have become rebranded under the guise of “self-care” to the extent that we now assume it’s every woman’s truest desire to stick needles in her face. But is it really?!
I don’t know about you, but….NO! It’s not for this gal! I reject this activity 100%, not only because I rebuff the biological impossibility of being forever young, but also because I find it to be ridiculously inequitable. Men don’t have to do this; some do but most don’t. They are privileged not to have to care an iota about aging, and society doesn’t force them to care, either. They can be as gray, lined, and shabby as they want to be, and no one belittles them for it. So why should women be subjected to such an unobtainable standard?!? This is almost a rhetorical question, I realize, because it certainly won’t be answered in my lifetime or any other. For as long as men hold the real power in our world, they will never be weighed down by the strains and burdens that are pushed off onto womankind.
Of course, I can’t deny the fact that sometimes when I look in the mirror, I find myself staring at an image that has morphed quite a lot over the years. An ever-growing patch of gray hair flanks my face, highlighting an adequate crop of lines and creases that tell exactly how many times I’ve laughed at a joke or scowled at a passing car. I don’t possess a good poker face – and would have nowhere for it to hide, even if I did - so what you see is quite literally what you get with me. I wear every expression with honesty, and I show the culmination of those expressions with an accumulated sense of candor.
But even when it pains me to see the things about myself that are not perfect (and there are TONS), I’m not running from them anymore. I refuse! I’ve run from myself long enough and I’m tired. After having been a child who always felt awkward and ugly who then grew into a teen that battled body dysmorphia and anorexia, I emerged into my adulthood feeling just okay about how I looked. It could have been worse, I figured – I could have been the elephant woman; I could have had my face melted in a fire. But it also could have been better, too. Someone once reminded me, it (I) could ALWAYS be better!
But despite the years of self-loathing and the belief that I was never more than so-so in the looks department, I was able to snare a husband and keep him for over a decade and a half. I’ve had three babies (not at the same time, thank goodness!) and have grown up - and grown older - right along with them. In that time, I have slowly learned that none of my displeasures with my face/body/personal shortcomings really matters at all. NONE. OF. IT. When my family looks at me, I know those things hardly even register. All they see is mom, wife, maker of cookies, finder of missing socks.
Wrinkled or not, I am part of their landscape - just as rigid as the Rocky Mountains, but perhaps equally majestic because I am their constant, their north star, the gatekeeper of their comforts. Everything that is a part of me, is part of that backdrop. Regardless of how the outside world views me, and whatever pressures I am supposed to feel by the countless strangers who coexist on this planet, none of it matters to me as much as how my family sees me. And, I know, when I leave this place, no one will talk about how smooth my forehead used to be or what a shame it was that my nasolabial fold was so darn deep.
Not to get sappy or trite, but the only thing that does matter isn’t wrapped up in our skin or written on our faces. If you are an adult and still haven’t learned this lesson by now, well…it’s no wonder why superficiality and racism still maraud our world. But here’s a little secret: it’s not too late to adopt a revolutionary idea! JUST BE YOURSELF – in whatever form that may be, at whatever age. Just come as you are! If enough of us adopt this approach, it will start to take over as a new/old normal. Natural beauty – in every form – could/should/would reign supreme! Think how lovely that would be!
So now, as I am walking deeper into my 40s, I stand at a serious fork in the road. As some of my female compatriots are veering off into the fantasyland of seeking eternal beauty, I am knowingly parting ways. There is no ill will. I wish those who diverge from my direction much luck on their endeavors. But I do hope they will realize one day that they are already beautiful without any of those needles or creams. Without defying the laws of nature or indulging in treatments that are man-made (though not man-endured). They are beautiful, just as they are. But so am I. And, in my land, there is nothing more beautiful than telling the unrealistic status quo to fuck off. Especially when it involves tiny needles laced with botulism.