After taking a quick peek in the mirror before heading off to work, I took note of the furrows between my eyes. This time they seemed more prominent than usual. They appeared deeper. My mother (circa, 1970), who had a perverted sense of humor, would like to say her wrinkles were so deep, she could plant radishes in them. What a horrible visual, radishes growing out of someone’s face. For years I continued to ruminate on this mental mindset of getting old. Fortunately, I haven’t arrived at that radish stage yet.
I thought Botox… that’s what I’ll do. I’ll get Botox that everyone is talking about. I called my dermatologist during lunch to inquire about an appointment. They could take me right away and lucky for me an appointment was available after work. The doctor, a Kevin Costner look alike, had a fancy high-rise office suite located in Los Angeles close to Beverly Hills. His tribe of nurses could easily have been models on their off time, I suspected recipients of free Botox and fillers. The waiting room was a real treat. The ambient lighting was so dim I could barely make out my surroundings as I groped the wall making my way toward the receptionist. Five or six women, wearing large hats sat hunched over in fluffy couches appearing to read magazines. How could anyone read in this cave, I wondered? I signed in and took a seat. The door opened from the side and a nurse called out “Frieda, Frieda?” The light from the door illuminated the woman’s face next to me. Her lips were enormous; she looked like something from a Halloween movie. Oh my… maybe this was a mistake, I thought. Frieda launched herself off the couch and through the door like a heat seeking missile. I felt a tightening in the pit of my stomach.
I made my way back to the receptionist, who was a spitting image of Kim Kardashian. "Will this hurt?" I asked.
“You’re just getting Botox, right? No, not at all. You won’t feel a thing. We have numbing cream.”
I went back to my seat wondering why I was doing this at 60? I don’t look that bad, I thought trying to talk myself off the ledge. Everyone gets Botox, so why not me? There must have been a buzzer behind the reception desk because almost as soon as I sat down the door opened. “Marilou… we are ready for you... How’s your day going?”
Ugh…. How is my day going? ‘Horrible’ I wanted to say. If I hadn’t looked in the mirror this morning, if my mother hadn’t referred to her wrinkles as growing ground for radishes, if I was more accepting about getting old, I wouldn’t be sitting here ready to receive who knows how many needles in my forehead. That’s how my day is going. But I knew it was too late to turn around. My fear factor must have been detected as they shoved a clipboard in front of me walking down the hallway requesting signatures and asking for my credit card. Upfront?
After signing my life away and even agreeing to having my face fall off without blame or litigation, I was escorted to the procedure room. Nothing fancy here as it looked like any ordinary room but for one difference; it had a magnificent view of Los Angeles. Was this another strategy in case someone wanted to back out? A wonderful view can calm anyone’s nerves. Dr. Kevin Costner look alike came in, flashing a big grin, seemingly excited I was here for the treatment. “What are we doing today Marilou? Some Botox?”
“Yes,” I said, “Will this hurt and will I be able to go to work tomorrow?”
“Oh sure, you can go to work, just wear some extra makeup or style your bangs over your forehead to hide some of the purple skin bruising. But don’t worry, most of my patients have no problem with bruising. You’ll love it, you will love how you look, trust me.”
“Sit up” he said, “and make a smile. Now make a frown. Okay I’ve got it. I know what we need to do here. You will be beautiful by Monday morning, this stuff takes 4-5 days to work.”
Hmmmm… 4-5 days to work, I was disappointed. He left the room and Monique began to plaster my forehead with what seemed like Vaseline. “Do you want Botox around your eyes?” she asked?
How would I know… get the doctor back in here, I thought. By now I had acquiesced into something akin to an obedient child. They had me trapped. Sure, do the eyes, what the heck, go the full Monty now that I’m held hostage.
I laid back on a table and the doctor re-entered the room. “How much of this stuff do you want?” he asked.
Ge’ez, “How would I know, do your best,” I answered. “Has anyone ever died from this?”
“Never, now don’t be a baby. You will love this stuff. Trust me. Now this may hurt a bit so go to your happy place.”
Don’t be a baby? I rolled my eyes up into my head. Don’t be a baby? I haven’t heard that term used on me since I was 12 years old.
The doctor inserted eighteen needles in my forehead and around each eye. I counted every injection. They hurt… more than a bit; they lied. Numbing cream turned out to be a joke. The worst part of the procedure was the doctor and his assistant chatting with one another about the amazing Sushi they had eaten the night before. I flashbacked to “Mash”, the movie. “How much longer?” I interrupted.
“Almost done. You are going to love this!”
When the needles were put away, someone handed me an ice pack and paper towels. My head was pounding, I was dizzy. I could hardly stand up and noticed there was a complete outline of my body in sweat on the procedure table. I glanced in the mirror and noticed the side effects of the injections; blood oozing from every pin prick accompanied with swelling.
I wanted to exit as fast as possible. I was thankful I had paid in advance as it provided me a swift get-a-way. At the elevator, three people (all men) stared at me. I wondered what they were thinking. I remember what I was thinking… I wished I’d worn one of those big hats.
In the parking garage I passed a crowd of people and was very thankful I was in the dark again. I managed to make it to the car without any more viewers and sat there for 10 minutes in an attempt to gain my composure. Good, it’s done, I thought.
On my drive home, I felt proud for unleashing courage I didn’t know I had. I found myself singing along to the music on the radio, happy and in control of my life. I couldn’t wait to see my “new look” I’d have in a few days. Upon arrival at home, my husband greeted me at the door not noticing the swelling or pin pricks. Nice.
Three days later I saw the affects instantly upon wakening. The grooves between my two eyebrows had completely vanished and the wrinkles along the side of my eyes were erased. Pure magic, I thought. I felt beautiful and ecstatic; ready to take on the world. Botox is a miracle.
When I arrived at work, my secretary asked, “Did you sleep good last night, you look well rested today?”
“Thanks for the compliment. Yes, I got some good sleep.” I loved my new look. There was no denying it. I felt more confident, I felt courageous and I felt more personal power than I’ve ever had in my life. Something as simple as removing some deep lines between and around my eyes made me feel like my former self decades ago. Would I do it again? Possibly. Would I go farther and add fillers? Probably not. My message here to all women is to do what you feel is best for you. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to decisions about personal appearance. While Botox is expensive (two pairs of name brand shoes is the equivalent) it has made me happy. In my opinion, that’s what aging is all about. Do what you can to stay healthy and vibrant whether it be fitness, a new outfit or cosmetic enhancements. As I would commonly say during my Hippy Days in the 60s, “Do your own thing… whatever turns you on.”
Dr. Marilou Ryder is co-author of Don't Forget Your Sweater, Girl: Sister to Sister Secrets for Aging with Purpose and Humor (Delmar Publishing 2019) and can be purchased on Amazon with the following link.