Waiting with Aud in the exam room at the dermatologist's, I flipped through the 14 pamphlets on the wall rack, 10 of which were concerned with "fixing" my appearance:
1. Get the lift you've been looking for. Restylane helps restore volume and fullness to the skin to correct moderate to severe facial wrinkles and folds.
2. Achieve brighter, more radiant skin w/SkinMedica peels.
3. Join the millions of women who share one special thing. The real, noticeable results of BOTOX Cosmetic.
4. Nectifirm: Advanced technology for firming the neck.
5. Radiesse: Restore collagen. Replenish volume. Refresh you.
6. Lashes thinning as you get older? Why wait? Ask your doctor if LATISSE is right for you.
7. Juvederm XC instantly smoothes those parentheses lines around your nose and mouth. Corrects nasolabial folds or parentheses, vertical lip lines, oral commissures, marionette lines, and chin wrinkles.
8. The new, non-invasive way to reduce fat: CoolSculpting. "I'm a 55-year-old woman, and I'm wearing a two-piece bathing suit for the first time in years!" -Pamela M.
9. Simply put, Fraxel treatment promotes your skin's own healing process, resulting in natural rejuvenation that removes years from your appearance. Life's too short... look as good as you feel.
10. The Timing's Just Right. Be true to the you you love. Prescription Dysport is an injection used to temporarily improve the look of moderate to severe frown lines between the eyebrows in adults less than 65 years of age.
Look. I get the whole to-each-her-own thing (and I assure you, "her" is who we're talking about here -- no male representatives on any of these brochures). But the only reading choices are these pamphlets, save a lonely bottom row dedicated to old Sports Illustrated's, presumably reserved for the pot-bellied, chicken-legged, thinning-haired, jowly-cheeked men in for their annual mole checks, none of whom apparently require refreshing, renewing, correcting, achieving, replenishing or restoring. So do whatever feels good for you, but don't start dragging my daughter into it.
I won't pretend to be excited about my newly-sagging eyelids or gradually gradating chins, but I contest the idea that it's somehow selfish of me to walk around like this, as if I'm denying my own best interests while exposing others to some sort of putrid, decaying, possibly contagious zombie flesh. We've just accepted this notion that to age is to give in, when five seconds' reflection reveals that futilely attempting to not age is the true cave -- to marketers, to men, to our own vanities and insecurities.
I've bought the creams and potions, the volume-boosters and line-reducers, the eyelash-lengtheners and pout-puffers, and I need to ask myself why. As far as I can tell, they don't accomplish anything a little drugstore lotion, a tube of mascara and a tub of vaseline can't. But even if they all magically started working, where exactly is the gain? I mean, I guess I'd be marginally more attractive, maybe receive a few more glances my way, but is that really the best way to stay "true to the me I love"? Because honestly, if so, that's the saddest thing I've ever heard. And tell me what to say to a 13-year-old girl sitting in a doctor's office, where the only conceivable take-home message is that growing older is something to be embarrassed about, something to cover up and struggle against. Years of laughter and anger, sorrows and joys, errors and insights -- reduced to creases. Something valueless.
When I was a kid, there was a woman in our neighborhood, a mom of four, whom I thought of as beautiful. She had loads of wrinkles -- crows feet at the edges of her blue eyes, smile "parentheses" around her mouth and probably a couple of those deep vertical lines between her eyebrows. Even at the time, I fully understood, though I probably couldn't have verbalized it, that she was intriguing to me not despite these lines, but in large part because of them. I knew that she cooked and laughed and yelled and lived. And I liked her for that.
Leaving the office, I think about how I want to approach all this with Aud. Instead, as we walk amicably through the parking lot, she says, "Mom? That doctor kind of scared me." "Really? You mean her forehead?" "Yeah, but mostly her lips."
Unable to resist, I add, "She looked kind of like a cat, didn't she?" Aud smiles, "No, more like a gargoyle. You know those things on buildings?" We both laugh, and she says, "It's just that young-old thing. I don't like it. I'd rather have old-old."
Coming right up, my sweet.