I’m getting dumber as I age, because in my 33rd year on this planet, I decided that it was time to inject poison into my head.
God knows why. It was largely curiosity, which appears to be the driving force behind my every impetuous decision. And you should know that the word ‘largely’ is used rather ‘loosely’ there.
Ten days later I fucking hate it. Hate it. And there’s nothing I can do about it, either. I’ve got to marinate in my stupidity and wait for my vanity to wear off, which will take approximately three months. This is just long enough to come to terms with the fact that I’m ageing, and also dream up a bunch of Botox jokes that’ll never get old.
So, it’s an ordinary morning in an unnamed laser clinic in Sydney’s inner-west. I’m in a plastic chair, fingers clutching the leather satchel in my lap, and I’m grinning like a fuckwit before a woman with an I’m-still-funky-in-my-fifties orange dye-job and freakishly smooth skin. She repeatedly calls me ‘Gorgeous’ in an attempt of camaraderie that’s about as natural as her hair; and she is hovering over the top of me: an odd, waxen Skeksis from a nebulous era.
I trace a finger lightly across my forehead, emphasising that my presence in her salon is only spurred on by the appearance of “some fine lines starting across here”. I’m not, you know, vapid or anything.
Her hazel eyes zero in on my face as her throaty voice corrects me. “No, Gorgeous. Those are deep lines. Quite deep for thirty two, actually.”
Great. Apparently I’m ageing in dog years.
“And you’ve got a frown line beginning here,” she continues. “That’s a fine line.” Pause. “There’s one here, too. And your crow’s feet could do with a little…” She puts down the marker that she’s been using to Crayola my face with and picks up a brochure. “There’s a package available for treating two areas or more. It’s discounted at the moment,” she makes a show of flipping pages even though I’m fairly certain she knows the price by heart. “$459,” she glances up, her emotionless face incongruent with her tone. “It’s our Christmas special!”
Now, to put the cost of these injections into another context, $459 is roughly equivalent to the GDP of Liberia.
*Pause for effect.*
And, if a woman were to get this package four times a year (once every three months) her budget for facial paralysis would be the annual income of a Vietnamese fisherman.
Or, in other words, it’s a Christmas special fit for Tiny Tim himself.
Essentially, this package would make everything from the cheekbones up immobile. And, while this did appeal to my narcissism on some primitive level, I declined. At least until I learn how to express myself like a chimpanzee.
The side effects are listed as she preps the syringe. “…drooping eyelids, bruising, headache, a heavy forehead-”
“Wait, wait,” I stop her. “A heavy forehead?”
“It’s not a pleasant feeling, but you do get used to it. You might have to raise your chin to read anything above eye line.”
I stare up at her. Without lifting my head, incidentally.
“I’ve got a date tonight, I’ll be alright for it, won’t I?”
“Of course. Just remain upright for the evening. If you lay down there can be complications.”
“It can spread and paralyse other areas of your face.”
Best birth control ever. Sorry cute musician boy, I can’t shag you- unless you keep me perfectly vertical during the entire event- because nice girls don’t let their face get fucked on the first date.
Three days later I can’t move my forehead. And I’ve tried. When I do, one eyebrow twitches and the other flattens- I’ve nicknamed them ‘Mr Abbott’ and ‘Mr Shorten’, respectively. Yuk. Yuk. Yuk. What’s more- or possibly, what’s worse– is that she put far too much in. My eyebrows, once as delicately arched as the Bridge of Sighs, are now two broken roller shutters hanging over my face. I’ve devolved into Cro-Magnon woman. The skin under one brow bags attractively- sort of like a prolapsed uterus. I look like a Fraggle with a busted facial stitch.
And one could argue that I am a complete muppet for doing this to myself. I mean: I can’t express how I feel about the results. I’m absolutely horrified, by the way, but you’ll have to take my word for it because I’m currently unable to convey that emotion.
And there’s got to be a feminist rhetoric hiding in that statement. Botox caps our emotional range. It lobotomises us, turning us compliant, docile. The patriarchal hierarchy is dimming our fire, man! The bastards. In Renaissance Italy, women used to drop belladonna into their eyes to dilate their pupils, which was the socially agreed upon sign of beauty. The side effects? Blurred vision and eventual blindness. So they were pretty as, but, you know, utterly fucking helpless. This sounds insane, right? Well, I posit that cosmetic injectables are the belladonna of the 21st Century. Don’t believe me? Botox is a compound of botulism, a toxin that was manufactured for chemical warfare in the Gulf War (among other places). Not only do we now inject this shit into our faces, but we pay people for the privilege. If the ridiculousness of that isn’t smacking you in the face like an autistic toddler, let me throw some farce comedy in to drive the point home: shortly after my botulism injections, I went and got myself an anthrax exfoliating peel and an ISIS labioplasty.
So my skin is now smoother, but in being frozen from the eyebrows up, I’ve lost something of myself. Botox has literally and figuratively flattened me out. My face- once earnest, friendly and reactive- is now a mask. I have permanent Resting Bitch Face. I’ve become Kristen Stewart. I didn’t realise how much I used facial expressions to communicate: to convey interest, surprise, to build rapport. Without my eyebrows, I find myself nodding a lot, like a bobble-head dog in a Chinese lady’s Corolla. In my haste to preserve my skin I’ve incapacitated a chunk of it, turning it into a metaphorical comic book that sits on the shelf in a plastic sleeve- the one that you never read and therefore never enjoy because you’re worried about a crease diminishing its value.
And I don’t know if that’s an equal trade-off.
Because I earned those wrinkles.
Sure, through smoking, but also experience. The furrow of worry above my left eye is courtesy of being trapped in Cuba with no money, no escape and no passport. The one above my right? Nursing violent lunatics for four years. That one there? A university degree. This vertical line above my nose? A crazy ex-husband. They’re the physical manifestations of a life lived. They’re my fault lines, each forming from the minuscule internal shift that has occurred from being thrust under a pressure that has tested me, nearly broken me, but ultimately fortified me. Would I trade them for a boring life and a smooth forehead?
And, if you’re hurtling towards the bathroom mirror every morning to marvel at the way your face has subtly shifted in the past ten years, it means that you’re still alive with your motherfucking marbles intact, which means that you’re incredibly fucking lucky. And if, like many of us, you’ve been challenged in your life; and if, like many of us, your body is now a roadmap of your emotional scars, you should stand tall because it means that you’ve not squinted in the headlights of adversity (or, if you have crow’s feet, maybe you have) but bore a brunt instead. So be fucking proud of it. Don’t erase it.
Besides, as a smoker, I’ll probably have a few more wrinkles than the average girl, but that’s the price I pay for sucking nicotine through a little tube every few hours. Getting Botox to ward off the effects of that is like going to church for Sunday confession after you’ve spent the week beating the shit out of your wife.
Back in the clinic, when I decline her $459 package, the Skeksis warns me about the importance of injecting the rest of my face as a preventative measure.
“I never started getting it until late and now my frown line just won’t go away.” She points at her glossy forehead.
I squint. Nothing. There’s nothing fucking there. Michael Jackson’s sexuality was more pronounced than that wrinkle.
“Preserve your beauty now, Gorgeous. You don’t want to wind up looking like me.”
I blink, considering the sentence that’s running through my head, choosing to remain politely silent instead.
No. I certainly don’t want to wind up looking like you.