or How my dog drove me to get Botox.
In past years having my period at work meant I regularly employed the old tampon up your sleeve on the way to the rest room routine. But of late I take a different tack. In my dotage, I march towards the restroom twirling my tampon like a baton. If I could light the thing on fire, throw it up in the air, and catch it with my vagina, I’d do that too. Because at this stage of my endless peri-menopause, where making it through the night with only one dripping-wet night sweat is a victory – anything that screams to the world I’M NOT ALL DRIED UP YET is a good thing.
Because the world thinks I’m old.
Even my dog. My dog doesn’t eat my underwear anymore. This is good news, I know. But still.
The internet thinks I’m old, too. A baby wearing an “I Wrecked my Mom’s Vagina.” T-shirt showed up in my inbox the other day. It was an ad for a re-vagination spa. Evidently, re-vagination is a thing, “including v-lightening, v-tightening, and o-shot”. (I have no idea what that last one is, and quite honestly, I’m afraid to find out. After all, if that infant could wreck a vagina, who knows what else he’s capable of.)
I can’t decide which is worse: that there are enough women in the world worried about their aging vajayjays that this spa exists, or that internet marketers, with their vast and ever-growing knowledge of the deepest truth of my being, determined that re-vagination was something I’d be interested in.
Because the internet thinks I’m old.
The internet, the dog, the fact that the only men who still think I’m a babe are septuagenarians with cataracts. Of course they’re not wrong. I am, by marketing standards, old. Which is to say, over 35. Which is to say, over 50. Ok, Ok, I’m 52. See? Old.
I know, I know. Old is better than the alternative. But let’s face it, no one wants to be old. In particular, no one wants to LOOK old. Whenever I see 20-somethings who have dyed their hair gray I chuckle to myself: if ever there ever were a luxury only for the young it’s deliberately dying your hair gray. What’s next? Deliberate crow’s feet? Deliberate whatever the o-shot is supposed to cure?
I never thought I’d care that much when I my looks started to go –especially given that they weren’t heading anywhere that great to begin with. Even at my peak of youth no one accused me of being a great beauty. I am not saying that people recoiled in horror at my hideous form, but what with a perpetual 10 pounds to lose and a nose that one would generously describe as “having character,” I wasn’t getting any modeling contracts. But still, as careen towards my sixth decade, each time I look in the mirror, my first thought is always: When the hell did THAT happen? Aging has hit me hard — in the face. Several times.
A few months ago, I decided to do something I’ve said, with lessening degrees of surety with each passing year, that I’d never do: I had my face injected with botulism. Yep, I got Botox.
I met Dr. Doris Day – her real name – at a press event for a skin tightening system a few years back. Oddly enough, the system she was promoting is also used for – not kidding- v-tightening. I’ll never forget the PR rep flashing me full color, close-up before and after v-photos on her phone. (Can you imagine finding that phone in the back of a cab?) The press event, however, was for a little further up on the physical hierarchy of feminine foibles: we were testing the system on the neck and jowls. The doctor was there to explain the medical benefits of the device. Dr. Doris Day lives by these wise words: Que sera sera. Just kidding. Her motto is really this: Getting Older is Inevitable, Aging is Optional. It took me two years, but I finally decided to exercise the option.
I’d always felt a bit superior about never having had any cosmetic treatments. I was above all that, I told myself. But then, I did a little research: according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, in 2015, 20-29-year olds had 67,000 procedures using soft-tissue fillers and 100,000 Botox treatments. 20-29-year olds! I wasn’t just late to the party, I was missing it all together. And when I looked around at my contemporaries, I realized that not having had injections didn’t make look more genuine than they were, just more wrinkled.
My biggest fear was that I would end up looking, as so many Botoxed women do, permanently surprised. I wanted to be Botoxed, just not look that way. And here’s the problem with that: nobody – NOBODY – thinks they’re the one that looks Botoxed. You can ask the most plumped up, frozen in place, duck-lipped woman about her fillers, and she’ll tell you that she just wants to look natural. How would I know if I looked ridiculous?
Then I remembered I have two teenagers. They thrive on telling me I’m ridiculous. They’re masters at the adolescent eye-roll of death. I was good to go.
Still, as a mother, I hesitated: what message was I sending my daughter? That looks were so important, it was worth shooting yourself up with bacteria? As a feminist, I hesitated: why should I conform to the patriarchy’s ideas of what is beautiful? But as a woman in business, while I had long been subjected to sexism and condescension, I had begun to notice a new kind of discrimination: ageism. Now not only was I being man-splained to by virtue of my gender, but I was beginning to notice the slightest of sneers on millennials’ faces when I spoke about technology. I was seeing how I was passed over at meetings and conferences in lieu of younger women. My wrinkles weren’t just affecting my self-esteem, they were impacting my bottom line, (not to mention my bottom). It was time.
Dr. Day’s office is an understatedly elegant Upper East Side enclave for the rich and wrinkled. While she does still do more banal things like body checks and diagnoses of rashes and the like, the bulk of her practice is dedicated to helping her patients smooth over the wrinkles that come with age, stress, and worrying about whether or not you’ll get your preferred bike at Soul Cycle that Tuesday.
She herself is surprisingly open, friendly, and frank…not to mention almost entirely wrinkle-free. Going in for my appointment I was nervous. I secretly hoped she’d look at me and say “Why you don’t need Botox at all! Go on with your amazingly young self!” But that didn’t happen. Instead, she expertly, surprisingly gently, and with the eye of an artist, stuck needles in my face.
The first thing I noticed when I next looked in the mirror was that my eyebrows had an arch again. Then I noticed that that I looked just a bit more awake. I tried wiggling my eyebrows and was pleased to find out I wasn’t frozen. I looked refreshed, not refrigerated. Plus, I no longer terrified myself every time I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.
I don’t know that I look any younger than I did before the Botox…I just look more like myself. Which is, Dr. Day explained, the point. She doesn’t claim to make women beautiful, only the best version of themselves. I don’t feel it makes me any less of a feminist, or any worse of a mother, to want to look like my best self. Feminism doesn’t tell me I need to look awful to be powerful. And who gets to draw the line as to what’s acceptable within the bounds of feminism anyway? Is it OK to wear makeup? To highlight your hair or whiten your teeth? What I’ve always noticed is that it’s the naturally beautiful women with flawless skin who tout the natural look. Easy for them to say. Let them look at a mirror and see my face looking back at them and take that position.
I’ve heard that in Brazil, women talk about getting Botox the way women here talk about getting their hair highlighted. There’s no shame in it. It is the land that gave us the Brazilian Bikini Wax, after all. So I suppose that compared to having each and every pubic hair torn out by the roots as you lie, splayed like a butterflied chicken, on an ersatz examining table, having a few needles stuck into your face doesn’t seem like a big deal. So why is it?
The bacteria in my face makes me feel less like I’m on a downward trajectory towards shopping at Chico’s and getting a bad perm and just a wee bit more confident that the millennials in my business won’t milleni-splain me to death. Having Botox means my daughter gets a confident mother, not a cowering one. So I’ve decided that it’s ok, two or three times a year, to have myself injected with Botox. Because it’s MY face. Nobody else’s.
And maybe dog doesn’t eat my underwear anymore; he still licks my face every day when I get home from work – Botox and all.