Heavy Meddle: Am I Wrong To Be Tempted By Botox?
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I find myself now squarely in middle age, and just in case I wish to deny it, my body, which aches upon waking, and my eyes, which suddenly need reading glasses, remind me. Even so, I consider myself a late bloomer. I like to think that my best experiences and memories and achievements are still ahead of me. Sadly, I see in the mirror every day that my best skin is not.
For the most part, I am totally okay with aging, and I'm not lying even a little to say that I wouldn't trade the 25-year-old me (okay, maybe her boobs) for the 45-year-old me any day of the week.
I think of all the older women in my life that I really admire, and they are all women who have steered clear of interventions ... I find them -- and their lines -- truly beautiful. I feel differently about me and mine.
Here's my dilemma: I am feeling pressure from a very dear friend to join her in the land of injectables — Botox, Rejuvederm, heaven knows what else. Aside from the fact that I really can't afford any of this is my long-stated desire to age naturally — an easy pledge to make before marriage, babies and demanding work had their way with my jawline. I feel like a sell-out hypocrite just thinking about going the way of the needle. But my browser history would out me for all the on-line Before and After pictures I browse when no one is looking.
I think of all the older women in my life that I really admire, and they are all women who have steered clear of interventions and let their age and experience show. I find them — and their lines — truly beautiful. I feel differently about me and mine. Perhaps having a stunning teenage step-daughter casts into too sharp a focus my own Before-and-After pictures. I want to model graceful aging for her. I also don't want to look like a Sharpei, all wrinkles and folds.
So Steve, can you offer some wisdom about this to someone who fancies herself a natural woman, who eats and sleeps well and hydrates and uses sunscreen, but who is feeling susceptible to flash sales on Botox? I can't deny that my friend who is pushing the way of the needle looks really smooth and good, if a bit surprised.
Yeah, see, we all have these two stories we tell about ourselves.
The first story is the way we want the world to see us, and the way we want to see ourselves. In your case, that story is about how you want to age naturally and gracefully and hydrate the proper amount and be a good role model for your step-daughter and embrace (or at least accept) those wrinkles that come with aging.
And the second story is the story of our private selves, the woman who looks at her face and recognizes that she really doesn’t like what age is doing to the elasticity of her skin, and is hearing the siren call of cosmetic injectables and surfing images of beautiful “afters” on-line and realizing that her friend actually looks pretty good after her treatments.
Both of these stories are true representations of who you are. They live side-by-side.
My basic advice is acceptance. Try not to judge the person who wishes to have supple and youthful skin. It’s not a sin to want to be beautiful. It doesn’t make you vain and superficial. It makes you human.
My own sense is that chasing physical perfection is a miserable loop in which to get snagged. But it’s also true that there are millions of men and women who are much happier for having had cosmetic treatments and surgeries.
At the same time, you clearly admire women whose conception of self-worth isn’t so deeply bound up in their physical appearance, and has more to do with the content of their character. This is what you want to model for your step-daughter. But more important, it’s what you want to feel within yourself.
That feels right.
So my advice would be decide which story is more important to you, has more meaning. And then to act accordingly. If you want to see what it would be like to get a cosmetic treatment, then do so. See how it makes you feel.
If, as I suspect, you really want to accept that the nature of your beauty changes as you age and starts to diverge from the youthful pluck and shimmer that advertising culture shoves down our throats, then I would advise you to get the heck off-line and tell your friend to stop pressuring you and, while you’re at it, try to cut down on the number of images of flawless, unwrinkled women you consume. Yes, I know this sounds radical. But only because our popular culture has become so pathologically reverent of the nubile and pneumatic.
In the end, it’s your life. You get to make the decisions about how much your physical appearance matters. My own sense is that chasing physical perfection is a miserable loop in which to get snagged. But it’s also true that there are millions of men and women who are much happier for having had cosmetic treatments and surgeries. I’m not going to argue with their experiences. Nor should you. Just decide what’s right for you and try not to torture yourself with the alternative.
Author's note: As a 48-year-old man with a sagging jawline, I totally related to this letter. But I also recognize that it’s about 100 times worse for women, because of the way our culture dismisses and even vilifies women who show signs of age. We’re truly sickos in this regard. And I hope OV can turn away from that kind of judgment. I’m curious what you all think. So write a comment below. And send a letter to Heavy Meddle, too. You can use this form, or send your questions via email. I may not have a helpful response, but as I always stress, someone in the comments section probably will.
Steve Almond is the author of the book "Against Football." He is the co-host, with Cheryl Strayed, of the WBUR podcast, Dear Sugar.