A Cosmetic Conundrum (September 9, 2010)

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I am 32 years old, which I realize, in the grand scheme of things, is far from elderly. With proper care and the continual advances of modern medicine, I could have a good 60 years of soul searching and hand wringing in front of me. That said, I have done some hard living in my three plus decades on the planet. Some of that is due to outside forces beyond my control (family for example), while other influences are an amalgam of my innate joie de vivre, my penchant for self-medicating in difficult situations and the fact that I have always had a terrible time turning my mind off. A good friend of mine recently said something that will always stick with me: “I love your personality Becky – all of them.”

I am a professed neurotic. No sense lying about it. While this certainly renders me an entertaining cocktail party guest, there are definite downsides to the Tao of Boop. I have lines on my face – lots of them. While I am told over and again by well-meaning family and friends that I am a beautiful person, and the evidence of my life experience should not bother me, clearly it does. I am a perfectionist with a palpable fear of aging – a nasty combination when we’re dealing with self-esteem.

To make the situation more interesting, I have a violent aversion to all things medical. I keep promising to tell the story of my flight at the age of five from a pair of nuns wielding booster shots, because frankly speaking, this is one of my proudest moments, but we’ll get to that another time. Though I have since been inked twice (NEVER allow 20 year-olds to select permanent body art – butterflies? WTF?!), had an oral surgery and a couple of short stays in the hospital, each and every time I am confronted with a needle is like the first. I simply cannot deal and often display this fear in the most irrational ways – like pulling a much needed IV out of my arm because I “couldn’t stand the sensation.”

So as I approach my mid-30s, I find myself in an interesting predicament. I want Botox in the worst way. I once claimed I would wait until the age of 35 before giving it serious thought, but that aforementioned hard living is beginning to play itself out in a reverse Dorian Gray fashion. “But Boop,” you may ask, “What about your fear of needles? How will you get around that?” Apparently when it comes to down to it, vanity trumps phobia. I do not declare this with pride.

Let me be clear that for everyone outside myself, I am a huge fan of aging gracefully. I simply can’t imagine loving Sophia Loren, Barbara Walters or Helen Mirren as much had they been the willing victims of plastic face pulling. Why I cannot apply this standard to mineself I leave to those with M.D.s and $100 per hour billing rates to assess. I know so many strong women personally who grow more gorgeous with age, but when I look in the mirror, I see the early stages of hagdom reflected.

But that’s OK. It’s 2010 and I have the freedom of choice to do what it takes to bolster my self-esteem, right? Now the only problem I have is that the Botox gods seem to be trying to tell me something.

On September 22nd, I will be making my third attempt to actually have the procedure performed. Eddie had planned to gift me the injections for my birthday on August 8th (despite his stated disapproval), but after learning that he is being phased out at the office, spending $400 for a cosmetic pick-me-up seemed a little unsavory. Happily, my husband’s employment situation has since been resolved for the better.

Last Saturday, I made my second appointment for a consultation at a trendy spot in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. I arrived right on time for my 12:30 PM rendezvous, feeling a lot of things: shame, excitement, fear and guilt among the mix of emotions. I was immediately disconcerted by the perfect looking mannequins snidely manning the reception desk, but decided that once my wrinkle-free face emerged from the doctor’s office, they could take their superiority and shove it.

40 minutes, many disdainful once overs and two magazines later, I was still waiting to be seen. I began to feel the presence of Panicky and Uncomfortable, the twins who typically accompany me to any sort of medical practice. I realize Botox injections are a relatively minor procedure, but this is, after all, my face and my muscles. If the practitioner isn’t taking my time and my visage as seriously as I am, should I be there?

Just as I was finishing my thought, Mannequin #1 did her best to smile at me before dispensing the information that the doctor would be “ten more minutes.” No apology, just the smug presumption that I would continue to hang around. Naturally, I grabbed Eddie’s arm (after first waking him up from his afternoon waiting room nap) and headed for the door in a huff. For the record, Eddie congratulated me on making it past the 15 minute mark, which is the typical upper limit of my tolerance for rudeness.

I made some calls after I returned home and selected another reputable establishment with which to consult. So in less than two weeks, will I finally be acquainted with my new temporarily motionless, but wrinkle free countenance? Or will the Botox gods throw up another road block?

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