To inject or not to inject, that is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler to take arms against a sea of wrinkles, and by opposing, end them?
Hamlet never contemplated shooting himself up with Botox, and Ophelia was too young to need it.
I've asked the question.
Should I---should we---surrender to our culture's preoccupation with looking not just young, but younger than we did last year?
Or should we fight back?
I'm a pretty good fighter, and even though I'm an active conformist and live in a town populated by gorgeous, youthful women, I like to think of myself as being a non-conformist when it comes to beauty maintenance.
For instance, I don't always wear makeup to the supermarket. Sometimes I let my legs get hairy before booking an appointment to get them waxed. I walk around with chipped polish on my toenails. That kind of thing.
And every time my dermatologist points to my forehead and says, "You know, we could do something about that wrinkle," I just smile and say, "I'm not there yet."
I feel virtuous turning her down, even though I go there to get restyline injections into the sides of my mouth, twice a year, for $600 a pop. But people don't talk about restyline with the same fear and loathing they talk about Botox.
My dermatologist calls restyline "sugar water.' It doesn't paralyze your muscles, or make it hard to frown. It just fills up the little wrinkles around your mouth. It makes me look marginally better and because it isn't Botox, I can still feel like a member of the more natural "us" instead of the supernatural "them."
Then Virginia Madsen, that lovely actress who filmed "Sideways" without any makeup, started doing ads for Botox.
"Hmmm," I thought, "if it's good enough for her..."
Let's just say I was primed to break.
The first breaking point came when my six year old son and I were sitting on the couch in the basement, watching "Hannah Montana."
David turns to me and says, "I like hot girls as long as they don't have wrinkles."
Let us not discuss how wrong it is that a six year old understands the meaning of the word "hot" and uses it correctly in a sentence.
What is wrong is that I care that my six year old might not consider me hot.
Vanity is only three letters away from sanity, and I find it difficult to maintain one without attending to the other.
The second breaking point comes when my husband, 42, buys a new digital camera and starts taking pictures of me standing in the sunlight on my brother's patio.
It is one of those irregular Sundays when I happen to be wearing makeup. I am wearing a pretty red gauze shirt and long, dangling blue and gold earrings. Both were presents from my sister-in-law. She is always trying to make me look more bohemian than I actually feel, but dressed in what she had chosen, I feel happy, so she might be onto something.
Anyway, my nephew is cranky because he just had his tonsils out, but our kids are playing nicely on the trampoline, and the grownups are hanging around outside, eating pulled pork sandwiches and drinking ginger beer, so my husband starts to click away.
"Smile," he says.
Click, click, click. He is standing pretty close.
The sun is behind him. I look at him and smile.
Then he shows me the pictures. There I am, squinting into the sun, my forehead shot through with a long wide line.
I am looking at him with love in my eyes. I look happy. And I look my age.
Is looking 42 so bad? I mean, what was I expecting, I should always look 25?
The next morning I have an appointment to see my dermatololgist for my semi-annual restyline injection.
My dermatologist is an attractive, 40something woman. She has long blond hair and wears big, geometic earrings. Our kids are roughly the same age. She runs. She has an unlined face and looks normal---not beautiful, not unnatural---just pleasant and pretty. She attributes her unlinedness to the fact that she used to be a competitive figure skater and spent all of her summers inside an ice rink, instead of sunbathing outside.
She also freely admits to getting Botox injections.
She goes to get the syringe. She looks at my face but says nothing about my forehead.
I had resisted her entreaties for a year and a half. Now I am waiting for them.
"I think I'm ready for Botox," I say.
"Okay," she shrugs. She must hear this all the time. She has forgotten---or probably never noticed---that I used to be an active member of the Botox Resistance.
We talk a little bit about how long the effects of Botox last (three to four months), whether it needs to be refrigerated (it does), and how much it costs ($1,000.) She takes the syringe, laughs and fills it with what she calls, "The most poisonous substance known to man."
I try not to detect the irony in her voice.
She makes me sign a form that says I understand that I will not be able to frown and I promise not to sue her.
She injects me with Botox and restyline, and sells me some eye cream. I pay the receptionist a boatload of money and drive home.
I look awful.
I have little pinpricks of dried blood all over my forehead, and around my mouth.
My husband and son don't notice. Neither does my mother, nor does my neighborhood friend who sees me every day and knows---and notices---everything about me.
Two days later, the line that divided my forehead into two separate but equal zones is gone.The wrinkles around my mouth have retreated. It is July 4th so we have a barbecue.
My neighbor and another close friend come over with their husbands and kids. Nobody notices my face.
But I feel prettier, so I prepare more food than usual. I make homemade vanilla ice cream, and open up two bottles of wine.
When my husband starts obsessing about how long to grill the tuna, I don't get impatient.
When it starts to rain and the kids go outside to play, and then come in and get everything wet and muddy, I don't get mad, I get towels.
When my friends' three-year old son goes out into the hot garage and begs me to remove the rusty tricycle that is nesting beneath my husband's old bike, which is squeezed between the wall and my car, I don't pretend not to hear him, or bribe him with a cookie to go inside and watch TV. Instead, I say, "Sure," then spend ten minutes unearthing the tricycle for him. I watch him ride around in the rain and when he asks if he can take it home with him, I say yes, and tell his mother how adorable he is.
Two days later, we go to the town pool. We see my friend and her four kids. My friend has sold me some art. She introduces herself to my husband, points in my direction and says, "I'm her dealer."She is younger than I am and doesn't wear makeup, so I don't have the nerve to ask her if she notices anything different about me.
I quietly realize that the Botox may have eaten into my art budget.
My son challenges me. If I go down the water slide twenty times, he will give me twenty kisses.
Because I am feeling young and pretty, I say okay.
Twenty times seems like a lot, even if the sixty-year old guy standing in line behind me is cheering me on and checking out my butt as I climb up the ladder. I go down the water slide three times, and jump off the diving board once. It's more than I usually do, which sit in the shade, read and sneak to the snack bar for a diet Coke without my kids realizing where I am.
Do I look different?
Do I feel different?
A week later, I feel as if I have a sheet of saran wrap pulled tight across my forehead.
I cannot frown.
I can't raise my eyebrows.
When I go to pluck my eyebrows, I have to push up my eyebrows up manually in order to pluck beneath them.
That's a little scary.
When I finally admit to my husband what I have done, he asks, "How much?"
Then he says, "Are you going to get your boobs done now too?"
"NO!" I say, with as much dignity and indignation as I can muster.
"Oh," 42 says, and looks disappointed.
But one night, I'm standing in the kitchen, wearing a ponytail, no make up, tank top, short shorts, and flip flops. I'm putting out carrots, watermelon and red peppers, so that my son can eat something healthy before he gulps down his defrosted frozen pizza. The power goes out, but the oven stays warm and the pizza continues to thaw. My husband and I drink a decent $16 bottle of Riesling. We promise David that we'll all stay up late and watch "Shaggy Dog" with him, even though what I really want to do is put him to bed early and watch the "Dreamgirls" DVD we just got from Netfliks.
David grabs a red pepper and tells me how thin I look.
"Mom," he says. "You've really lost weight."
Well, I haven't lost any weight, but for $1,000, I lost a wrinkle.