This blog entry is the second part of a continuing series.
If you don’t know what’s going on, click here to catch up.
My mother refuses to grow older.
As far as she’s concerned, every year during a certain month, we are celebrating the blahdeeblahblah anniversary of her 29th birthday. That is, if we can get her to acknowledge that she was born at all, and did not spring fully formed from the head of Zeus just yesterday.
My mom is a beautiful woman – a teeny gal (not even five feet tall) who didn’t top 100 lbs. until she was… well… far into her anniversaries, let’s say. But all her worrying about getting older had its effect on me, too: making me scared to hit that 29th birthday, and absolutely horrified at the idea of aging beyond it.
However, thanks to a ton of therapy, I made it into my 30’s without leaping into traffic – a victory I consider righteously hard-won – and in fact, I looked fucking great at that age – probably the best I’ll ever look in my life. That is, until I get some more therapy and decide that I look fucking great in my 40’s. But we’ll jump into that traffic when we come to it.
Bottom line being: if you are a human standing in front of me with functioning eyeballs, you will undoubtedly notice that I no longer appear to be in my early 30’s.
Because I am chronically, clinically overamused, I have laugh lines around my eyes (I prefer “laugh lines” to “crow’s feet” – ‘cause there’s a lovely image for women to haul around; they might as well call ‘em “hag trenches”). These don’t really bother me, as I’ve always loved any kind of laugh lines on people – it shows me that they have a sense of humor; they enjoy life. The peeking omen of jowl sagginess, on the other hand, haunts my nightmares, and – the bane of my existence – those deep-set lines between my eyebrows make me look perpetually scowly and mean.
And this is my problem.
Though I do scowl when I think, and I pretend to be mean (fuck, there goes my Evil Gal reputation), trust me when I say I do not walk around like Rorschach from “The Watchmen” insisting that the End Is Nigh. In other words, at any given time, odds are good you’ll either find me cackling wildly at something inane, or looking scowly because I’m contemplating something extremely important, such as, “Should this character take a cab or a bus?”
However, due to a genetic predisposition to freakishly-strong forehead muscles, as demonstrated here by my brother –
– no matter how constitutionally happy I am, I often tend to look as if I’m very, very angry at the government and planning a major terrorist attack.
This is not helpful in getting a job during pilot season.
Showrunners see the double Grand Canyon between my eyebrows and think, “Jesus wept, this chick looks fun. Can’t wait to be stuck in a room with her for 16 hours a day.” Which is completely unfair, but my face doesn’t seem to give a shit about how it’s impacting my career.
So in the name of The Pilot Season Experiment – wherein I did everything in my power to make myself purty on top of my natural brilliance – and humility – I decided to get Botoxed.
[[Full disclosure: I got prophylactically Botoxed several times in my late 20’s, before being cured of my 29ophobia, but haven’t had it done since.]]
For those of you who’ve been living 60 feet under the Sahara desert for the last few decades, Botox is a diluted version of botulinum toxin (see how they tell you it’s a toxin right in the name? Fewer lawsuits. “We TOLD you it was poison, you moron!”). Found in its natural state, botulinum toxin causes botulism, that stuff you contract after eating from contaminated tin cans. Short story: if you don’t use the diluted kind in the prescribed way, the shit’ll kill you.
I’ve had several friends and family members beg – no kidding, beg – me not to use Botox. They’re convinced it’s going to kill me just like those murderous tin cans, but the fact is: as a woman in Hollywood, the choice between beauty and death isn’t really a choice at all. You will be beautiful, or your career will die. Simple as that.
Granted, it’s usually the Actors and Actresses that go to the extremes of anorexia, drug abuse, plastic surgery, etc. Anything that will keep them beautiful… and working. But that doesn’t keep the rest of the town from seeing everyone else through that same prism of beauty.
And Writers are no exception.
This is me, pre-Botoxed:
Please note that I am not trying to give you my Super Scowl here – I swear, this is just what I look like when I’m thinking. For some reason, when my brain activates, my brows crunch together. Or probably vice versa. This feels ridiculous to admit, but I have actually tried not to crunch my brows when I think, and… it doesn’t work.
The thinking part, I mean.
I don’t know if there are tiny little triggers behind my brow muscles that start the neurons firing or what, but unless I squeeze them together, my brain decides that I’m not really making an effort, so it goes off to get a cup of coffee, or whatever brains do when they’re like, “Eh, fuck it. If she’s not gonna try…”
So I made an appointment with the same dermatologist who shot me up last time, lo those many years ago, and in two days’ time, I was sitting on his exam table once again. I’d decided to have a glycolic acid peel as well – yet another thing I’d done in my 20’s thanks to my inherited aging fears – though this is a much less invasive procedure, sort of akin to having a facial at a spa.
Except, you know, with ACID.
Okay, okay, it’s basically acid made out of sugarcane – and you can buy slightly less potent versions of it over the counter at your local pharmacy – but I won’t lie: that shit stings when he rubs it on (with a cotton ball, while wearing gloves – if that tells you anything). It’s only two minutes, but you won’t mistake it for a soothing avocado mask, I assure you.
Glycolic peels are basically quick-fix exfoliators; they remove the top layer of skin cells from your face, leaving you pink and glowing and, done regularly, can also even out your skin tone and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Considering I have tattoos all over my body, a glycolic peel, for me, is only a 1 on the 1-10 pain scale, and the results are decidedly noticeable, so in my book, the benefits far outweigh the discomfort. I almost didn’t mention it at all, but I swore to myself I’d be completely honest about the insane lengths I went to for this experiment, so I might as well mention the relatively mundane parts as well.
After the peel, we moved on to the main event: Botox.
Mind you, the tattoos also have an effect on my reaction to the Botox injections. Once you’ve had a dozen tattoo needles simultaneously shoved in and out of your neck 15 times a second, having one slim needle carefully inserted into your forehead muscle once every 10 seconds isn’t that terrifying.
But does it hurt? Fuck yeah, it hurts! They’re sticking needles in your fucking face!
However, everyone has their own pain threshold, and if I had to rate Botox shots, I might nudge it up to a 2. Getting shot in the Grand Canyons wasn’t so bad – there’s so much freakish forehead muscle there, it was like a shot in the arm. No big.
But what they might not tell you is that the doctor is also going to shoot you right above the eyebrows, where the skin is thin and your skull seems to be just millimeters from the surface. Though I’m sure I’m mistaken, I was nearly convinced I could feel the needle scraping across my frontal bone.
And yet the main thing that bothered me – get ready to skim a couple paragraphs, Squeamish People – is the sound.
Yes, the sound. It turns out you can actually hear the injections. Not with your ears, like hearing a doorbell. It’s more of an inside sound – like the way you hear Cap’n Crunch in your head when you chew it. Of course, it’s nowhere near that loud or sustained, but it is audible inside your head.
It starts out with a tiny pop as the needle breaks the skin, and then a gritty (apparently muscle is gritty; who knew?) push – I suppose because you’re associating it with the needle going in deeper. Like I said before, I was almost sure I could hear it scraping against my skull, but I have a hard time believing my doctor tried to dent my headbone just for funsies.
In total, he probably injected me about 12 – 15 times, and had finished completely in under two minutes. So that was two minutes for the peel, two minutes for the Botox, for a grand total of FOUR MINUTES of actual procedures – which cost over $400.
That’s a hundred bucks a minute. Talk about equating pain and beauty.
But take a gander at the After photos:
And for the record? In this last photo I am really trying to crunch my forehead muscles — they’re just not crunching.
As of today, I am no longer able to create canyons of any size between my brows.
And yet, when I need to concentrate, I still squeeze those same forehead muscles together – or at least, I send the electricity along the same axons – but thanks to the Botox, those muscles don’t move. The scowl is gone, but I’m still able to think.
I’ve also noticed that I haven’t had a single headache since getting it done – and I used to get them at least a couple times a week. An interesting bonus.
Now, I’m not going to say, “WOO HOO! BOTOX IS THE UTOPIAN FACIAL PANACEA WE WOMEN HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR!” Because, let’s be honest, I just got fucking poison shot into my face. I am not unaware of the irony.
But I will admit to really liking not looking like the Grinch when I think, or having blinding headaches after staring at my laptop for 8 hours.
Thus, when I go into meetings this pilot season, I do feel more confident that showrunners and Suits aren’t thinking, “What the fuck is this angry bitch’s problem?”
At least, not until after I leave.
CHOP OFF ALL THIS HAIR!
Wanna keep reading The Pilot Season Experiment?