I’ve never understood why so many women subject themselves to scalpels and skin peels, toxic injections and sutures, all in the vain attempt to look younger.
Why can’t we embrace the lines on our skin as testaments to experience and our bodies as beautiful vessels that have carried and nursed life, toted toddlers and toiled? Why do we spend nearly $17 billion a year on cosmetic procedures, everything from breast enlargements and facelifts to Botox injections and chemical peels?
For years, I scoffed as my mother spent thousands of dollars for tweaks and jabs, padding the dermatologist’s bank account with little appreciable difference. I ignored her admonitions to moisturize nightly, to drink plenty of water and to invest in face creams worth half a day’s salary. What a waste. I’d never fall prey to our cultural obsession with youth.
Until I noticed fine lines radiating from the corners of my eyes. Had those always been there? What about that cavernous wrinkle between my brows?
Peering into the mirror at my middle-aged self, I realized for the first time that those deep lines framing my mouth had not existed 10 years ago. And no one ever told me that one day I’d start waking up to find my chest zig-zagged in wrinkles merely from sleeping. Apparently my skin has lost so much elasticity that it can no longer rebound from a few hours of crumpled sheets.
I’m obsessed with the curious aging of my body. When I pass mirrors, I tug on my slouching skin. I lift and meld it back into its rightful place – the place it happily existed for 42 years – only to have it give up as soon as I withdraw my hands, which by the way are also a mess.
I’ve long cradled my face in my palm while contemplating a thought or daydreaming, but suddenly my palm has no support. I lean into it and the skin slides upward without resistance, over my jawbone and cheeks, coming to rest at my forehead.
My age group, 40-55, is the largest consumer of cosmetic procedures, racking up more than seven million procedures a year, nearly half of the total, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. No one would bat a wrinkled eye if I joined the pack.
And yet I’ve spent my whole life terrified of medical interventions – I didn’t even have my babies in a hospital – so it troubles me to think of going under the knife for vanity’s sake. Instead, I’m tinkering around the edges.
Recently I sampled an expensive eye cream made from the extract of the toxic oleander plant. It gave me an eye twitch that lasted two weeks. But during that time, my eyes looked so fabulous – that is, the non-twitchy part – that I actually considered buying the accompanying night cream for the full paralytic experience.
Botox, I’ve convinced myself, hardly counts as a cosmetic procedure. It’s a simple serum delivered in a syringe like a flu shot or the polio vaccine – practically a public health measure. And I can obsessively Clorox my kitchen and still inject bacterial toxins into my body. No hypocrisy there.
Day by day, my resolve softens as much as my skin. But I try not to think about it too much. If I do, I end up cupping my face into my palm, and my slack skin simply can’t afford the pressure. One day, it might slide off my skull entirely, leaving only bone behind. At least then I’d have a smooth face.
Renee Moilanen is a freelance writer based in Redondo Beach.