Back when I was in college, a boyfriend gave me a copy of Minding the Body, which is an excellent anthology of essays by women writers in which they recount some experience of what it has been like for them to inhabit their own bodies. All the stories are captivating, but I was particularly spellbound by “Mirrors” which was Lucy Grealy’s story of avoiding her reflection for an entire year.
Ms. Grealy had been stricken with cancer in her jaw as a child, and to save her life, doctors had to dismantle the lower part of her face. With a lot of painful surgery, doctors put her face back together, but the process was long and there were a lot of “transitional asthethetics” along the path of facial reconstruction. There were tissue expanders and monstrous amounts of swelling after surgery, so as she described it, she would tend to look a lot worse before she started looking better. Rather than confront her face as it was changing, Ms. Grealy assiduously avoided looking at herself in any reflective surface. For a year. Wow. Psychologically, this must have been trippy, but it was amazing to note how liberating the experience ultimately was. When you’re free from pre-occupation with self-image, where might you direct all that extra energy?
Compared to Ms. Grealy’s ordeal, my predicament is ridiculous and petty, to be sure, but I have been thinking about her recently as I confront the “transitional aesthetic” which is my badly Botoxed forehead. I totally get not wanting to look. When you look at something that seems like it needs fixing, then the need and desire to fix it becomes pretty consuming. When you don’t look, that drive to fix and change things retreats just a bit. Though I have seen a little improvement in my crazy Botox eyebrows, I nonetheless don’t really linger in the mirror these days.
Of course the big difference between me and Lucy Grealy is that she got dealt the cancer card and had no choice but to play it, whereas I voluntarily gambled with Botox and lost. I made a silly, vanity driven mistake. While I feel a little foolish about getting the Botox in the first place, I’m feeling a little proud of myself that I’m not rushing back to the dermatologist to “fix” it. I made my Botox bed, so now I shall lie on its wrinkle-free sheets.
What sealed my decision to forego additional Botox to “fix” my forehead was the realization that if Botox was the problem and also the solution, there’d be no telling where this might end up. It’s like that time I tried trimming my son’s hair and kept cutting and cutting just to even it up. Instead of getting better and better, it just got worse and worse….
They say the difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut is two weeks. So perhaps the difference between good Botox and bad Botox is about three months. Waiting patiently and memo received.