10/30/2012 12:29 pm ET Updated Dec 30, 2012

To Peel or Not to Peel

At a televised sporting event recently, a Skycam scanned the crowd and all of a sudden there was my face on the Jumbotron. It was shocking to see myself. First, I saw the guy standing behind me who was naked from the waist up with the image of Moses painted on his chest. You don't miss that in a hurry. But who was that woman in my seat? I called my sister on the way home and wailed: "You know who I saw on the big screen?" I cried. "Grandma Rebecca!"

Grandma Rebecca was a lovely person, really. I loved her like crazy. She believed Vaseline cured everything, including sore throats and stomach aches (yes, she swallowed it). When I slept over, we stood together at the sink and massaged Vaseline into our faces. "It makes the skin plump and pretty," she said. At four-feet-nine and round as a bowling ball, she had sun-speckled skin and a double chin that made Alfred Hitchcock's neck look wispy; you can understand my dismay when I saw her in my stead on the big screen.

As we drove home later, I studied myself in the exterior rear view mirror. It was a long 30 minutes. I emerged with a sudden determination. Something would have to be done.

"You have to get a peel," a friend declared recently. "Your face will be flawless and as soft as a baby's bottom. Do your hands, too!"

A chemical peel is a voluntary procedure where acid is applied to the skin, much as marauding heathens did to disfigure enemy captives in ancient times. No longer considered torture, the modern day peel scalds the outer dermis without much agony at all, or so it is claimed. The charred skin eventually molts, revealing a layer heretofore unseen by humans or Skycams.

Coincidentally, the New York Times Style Sunday Magazine last week (The Peel Sessions, by Florence Kane) included a feature article on chemical peels. The post-peeled skin "should have a nice glow, like you're a three-year-old who just woke up from a nap." Of course there is always the risk you'll end up looking like something from Madame Tusseuds Wax Museum. Beauty is risky, no doubt about that.

A Groupon coupon for a free dermatology consult sealed the deal. Three weeks later, I sat on the examining table as my face was scrutinized, pore by pore, under a lighted, multi-lensed magnifying disk that had obviously been stolen from the Hubble telescope. The dermatologist, a pasty man wearing a jeweler's eyepiece strapped to his head with what looked like a seat belt, made disparaging noises, his lips just above my flesh. His skin was perfectly smooth, pink and shiny. He looked like a peeled melon. How many chemical peels had he had? Finally, he pushed the apparatus aside and spoke.

"Have you always had this much facial hair?"

Facial hair? I was here to consult about a chemical peel, not to defend my post-menopausal hirsutism. Before I could stop myself, I said, "What are you? Jealous?" More words I wish I could take back.

If looking good requires physical torture, I'm not interested. That includes burning my skin with acid. I have to draw the line somewhere. I suppose that means I'll be walking around with a creased face and age spots on my hands. However, I just noticed an advertisement in a magazine for a trick to minimizing a double chin, also known as a "waddle," using Saran wrap and a heating pad. That one seems worth a try.