Tag Archives: first world problems

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Forehead

21 Dec

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.

Botox.

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.

Ha!

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.

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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.”

“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.

Marlon_Fraggle

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?

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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.

Prague

6 Nov

Prague doesn’t like me. It’s the only explanation.

I had high hopes for this city: medieval, cheap, beautiful, and, as many a traveller proclaimed, fantastic nightlife. Prague was going to bathe me in Budějovický and wash the homesickness away. I book into the Madhouse Hostel- a promised home away from home with beer pong.

I arrive late, having missed the train from Berlin. Ordinarily I take great delight in navigating my way through a city on its public transport system, completely in the thick of things, feeling what the locals do. However, after a 6 hour train ride it was late and I was lazy. I decide to get a cab.

I tell the driver my destination and he pulls a card out of his pocket, the journey will cost 580 CZ koruner. Means absolutely nothing to me. Sounds good. Whatever. Just get me there.

After five minutes, we pull up.
“Mosaic hostel,” he proudly proclaims.
Mosaic?
“Um, I’m not staying here. I’m at The Madhouse?”
“The Madhouse? Where is that?”
Shit. This is what you get for being lazy.

Later I learn that the cab, which was about $40AUD for seven minutes, charged me tourist prices. It should have cost me 150 koruner. Dammit.

However, upon check in, things start to look up. I am offered a free beer. Subsequent beers are 10 koruner each. The pub crawl starts in half an hour. The first stop offers beers at 12 koruner per pint, and the second gives ladies free drinks between 10pm and 12am.

Free drinks. Plural. For doing nothing more than possessing a uterus. Prague may be the promised land after all.

The first pub is a grungy, ex-communist pub. Czech propaganda litters the walls. You can smoke inside, and Rage Against the Machine pumps through the stereo. I may be in heaven.

The night gets progressively messier. Responsible Service of Alcohol ceases to exist in Prague. At midnight a bartender went from table to table with a bottle of vodka, tipping it in people’s mouths. Just because. You’re still standing? You can’t possibly have drank enough. We need to get you girls nice and messy so the predatory Czech lads who are stalking the edges of the dance floor can get their dick wet.

At 3am, I reach under the table for my bag, where it has sat, all night, by my feet. It’s gone.

Huh?

Panic grips me. Two Aussie lads from the hostel help me look. We comb the club, lifting jackets and bags from seats- much to the ire of their owners. It’s gone. I check with the bar- has anyone handed in a bag? The bartender laughs.

Shit. Shit, fuck, shitty fuckery fuck. My room key is in there. My wallet. My phone with all of my photos thus far. I despise wandering around looking like a tourist with a big camera slung around my neck so I have taken all of my happy snaps with my phone, editing them during the long train rides.

I locate my beanie, which had been worn for a large portion of the evening by a Columbian boy from the hostel. I wrestle it from the Czech who has claimed it.
“Can I have my beanie?”
“It’s my beanie.”
“Dude, it’s not. Let me look.” I check it. “I bought this in Amsterdam.” Not sure why he needed that information.
“It’s mine.”
“I promise you, it’s not yours. Now, give me my goddamn beanie back.”

Wandering back to the hostel, in the haze of intoxication, I tell myself that it’s going to be fine. Maybe this isn’t really happening. Maybe the Columbian who wore my beanie wore my bag as well. It’s probably back at the hostel. One of the girls probably grabbed it. Everything is going to be fine.

Since I can’t get into my room without a key, the Aussie offers me his bed. I crash, hoping that the situation will be magically resolved in the morning.

It’s not.

The following day I have to- through a hangover- call the bank and cancel my cards, organise money, and get a replacement MasterCard. I have to find a way to do all of this, quickly, with no money to make an international call.

A girl at the hostel offers me her Skype credit and tells me that I can make calls through Skype. I spend the morning on the phone. I can organise emergency cash through Western Union but MasterCard have to get permission from my bank before it can be organised. It’s about 9pm in Australia, they don’t know how long it will take. I have no idea how long I will be completely broke for.

I borrow bolt cutters, cut the padlock to my luggage and locate the 15 dirham I have in my bag from the layover in Dubai. I set off to find a currency exchange.

My cigarettes were in my coat pocket but my lighter was in my bag. I roam the streets, starving, hungover, and looking for a smoker to borrow a lighter from so I can smoke my stress away. A Czech man approaches me, asking if he can bum a smoke.
“Do you have a light? Because if you have a light I have a smoke for you.”
With no money to waste on a lighter, trade becomes the international language.

The first currency exchange looks at the dirham like I am offering her a ham sandwich. No, they don’t accept that currency, whatever it is. I manage to convince the next exchange to take it. He offers 43 koruner, about $2.50, a massive rip off, but I need to eat something.

They say that travel broadens the mind. They are correct. All of the things that I take for granted have become painfully obvious to me during this trip. The ability to converse easily in the same language. Buying a hot cup of coffee on a cold morning. Being able to eat when hungry. Shoving a card into an ATM and withdrawing the cash you work hard for.

At a market I buy a stale bread roll for 3 koruner. I can’t afford a coffee. I eye the orange juice longingly but decide that wasting 20 koruner is probably unwise when I don’t know how long the Western Union transfer will take. I can refill my water bottle at the hostel. I chomp the bread walking through the streets of Prague, feeling like a peasant. Pulling out my iPad to navigate back to the hostel, I run into a girl I am staying with.
“Be careful using your iPad out here. A young guy was robbed by an old gypsy woman right over there a few days ago.”
iPad shoved back into bag. “What?”
“Yeah, she asked if she could suck his dick and then took all of his koruner.”
“What?!”
“Yeah, it was weird,” she said blithely. “Did you find your bag?”

Back at the hostel, I decide to badger MasterCard again. Inexplicably, I burst into tears on the phone. Great, heaving sobs that you can’t speak through. I completely fell apart before a total stranger. I don’t do that. If I have to cry, I hold my shit together- no matter how tenuously- until I’m by myself. Bless the girl for taking pity on my pathetic ass, because she put a rush on the cash.

Loneliness hit me. I sat in my room, flicking through the pages of my friends on Facebook. I missed everyone. I cried. Again. Sook. At that point, I was honestly considering changing the date of my flight and returning early. Travelling alone was hard, confronting, scary. I’d tried and failed. I expected rivers of beers to the symphony of giddy laughter. The reality was vastly different. There have been absolutely jaw dropping experiences, but there has also been some shit times to deal with. Alone. Plus, a run of bad luck was making me homesick.

Shutting Facebook, I pulled myself out of my funk. Come on, CC, you didn’t travel to Prague to cry. Just deal with what you have in front of you one step at a time and it will eventually be solved. One day this will be a funny story.

There is a ray of sunshine in my shit storm. Usually, in hostels, you have to leave a deposit for the key. Money, or your passport. Usually, I leave money and keep my passport in my bag. This time, thanks to my large cab fare, I left my passport at the hostel. My iPod- arguably my most used possession- was left in my room. And, usually I carry large sums of cash to avoid constantly using ATMs but, thanks again to my huge cab fare, I only had about $50AUD in my wallet.

Later that day, after getting paid and eating the most succulent burger ever, I pass a man on the street. He is begging. Prostrate. Before him sits a cap with 3 koruna in it. Crutches lay beside him, and his hands, folded as if in prayer, are shaking. I wonder about the sort of life one must have to spend their days with their forehead touching the dirty ground on the streets of Prague. Here I am, wandering around a beautiful city with my bottom lip protruding, ensconced in my own first world problems. Even if I was robbed, I’m lucky to be here. Things shifted into perspective.

Reaching into my pocket, I pull out the remainder of my dirham koruner coins and toss them into his cap. Not a large sum of money, but it felt right.

I have just booked my hostel for Munich. I’m not going home. I can’t. I don’t give up. Besides, I’m not going to let a thieving Czech send me fleeing back to Australia. Fuck that.