My 13-year-old daughter loves to play the starlet model, with me as her photographer, all in the name of a better Facebook profile picture. One day recently she turned the tables and took pictures of me.
I knew I was in trouble when she showed me the final results on her laptop. "Look mom, I made you look so much better."
In this case, so much better meant I'd been digitally Botoxed. Gone was the vertical groove in my forehead, a squint line I'd worked years to create by vainly not wearing my prescription eyeglasses. That wrinkle showed up as a hairline fracture when I was 30 and now, at 50, is a Grand Canyon-sized crevice.
Don't get me started on why it's perfectly okay for Leonardo DiCaprio to have San Andreas-like fault lines on his forehead, while female actors like Nicole Kidman resort to so much Botox, their foreheads resemble flat screen TVs. It's a dubious statement of the times that when 59-year-old film star Kim Basinger shuns cosmetic work it makes headlines. The adages "aging gracefully" and "beauty is only skin deep" are clearly as socially appropriate these days as, say, "a woman's place is in the home."
As I face (pun intended) a new decade of getting older, I'm confronted with more and more of my friends showing up at parties, often after an extended spa holiday (yes, code word for out-patient clinic) looking 10 years younger--or more often, facially paralyzed. Let's face it, when a smile looks like a snarl you just know enormous muscular effort is involved to overcome Botox.
Arguably worse than the freeze look is the fright face. This overly zealous cosmetic procedure lifts eyebrows to the hairline, causing a look that ranges from perpetual surprise to outright shock. Then there's the ethnic eye job, where one girlfriend (well, okay two) went in for "medically necessary" eye surgery and came out looking Asian. (Which is nuts, given lately Asians are busy having eye surgery to look Caucasian.)
As I cheerfully engage My Freaking Fabulous 50s (insert your own slogan), I refuse to surrender to the cultural beauty imperative where wrinkles are treated like a rash and sagging skin, like leprosy. I'm instead cheerleading a new movement, Wrinkled Women Of Worth--or even, Get Your Sexy (Facial Movement) Back!
Because, when I look at my Fabulous Fifty face in the mirror, this is what I see.
I see deep lines bracketing my mouth from decades of choosing laughter, even when life has delivered the pain of losing both parents before I turned 39, and the near death of my son, not once, but twice. Despite it all, I have laugh lines.
When I look in the mirror, I see a fan of wrinkles in the outer corner of each eye from smiling through so many episodes of joy, not to mention "say cheese" photo sessions.
And on mornings where I slept poorly or drank copiously the night before, I see in my mirror someone who could pass for a bag lady. Gone are the days of living hard and looking good. Now, I tenderly love this body so that my morning face does not scare dogs and small children.
And when I look in the mirror I see me. I see the little girl who looks out from old snapshots with her gap-toothed smile. I see the 20-year-old bride, the 30-year-old mom and the 40-year-old divorcee.
What I don't see is a face doctored by scalpels and botulism toxin, or plumped by fillers or scoured and planed by lasers. I am every cosmetic surgeon's worst nightmare -- not because I need so much work but because I am so clear that the only work I need do, is beyond skin deep.
That is the work of loving this un-doctored me, just as she is.