Braving a Botoxed World: A Mother's Tale
In the recent Disney/Pixar film, Brave, a young princess defies an age-old custom and fights to make her mother understand that she is not ready for marriage. I know you’d rather not think of the Disney princesses at all, but we live and breathe, and shop at Target, so I contend---if forced to choose among that whole pastel-clad, sugary lot, you’d want your daughter to be more independent, courageous Merida, less Cinderella waiting for her prince to come, right?
We of the generation who held out on having children until our careers and our relationships were adjusted according to our own specific tastes and more or less secured in place, yes, of course we want our daughters to grow up to become whatever they want to be---doctors, lawyers, athletes, writers–-and to take their time before “settling down.”
We waited to have children until our thirties or forties, and we are glad. We are better. Better mothers. Better women. But there does appear to be one small kink in all our planning and waiting: According to our society’s emphasis on the beauty of youth, we don't look better.
Enter Botox, center stage. Botox. I'm so annoyed and embarrassed that I have to write about Botox. Well, I don't have to, but honest discourse about trying to raise my daughter in a way that shows a genuine appreciation for her non-appearance based achievements and effectively rewards them, all the while dealing with my supposed diminished attractiveness, seems to necessitate consideration of that popular elixir of youth.
That and the fact that I despise the deepened, static frown line in the middle of my forehead.
While we feel increasingly pressured to maintain our youthful appearances, we are also more aware than ever that what we say and do as parents really matters to our kids. A recent Forbes magazine article entitled “7 ways you’re hurting your daughter’s future” warns parents against telling our daughters they are pretty to the exclusion of everything else. “We live in a very appearance-conscious society and unless you can commit to completely cutting your daughter off of all forms of media and interactions at school, she is going to have a sense that her appearance counts.”
Media? School? What about seeing her 40-year-old mother staring sadly into the mirror at home; hearing her mother on the phone with friends lamenting wrinkles; knowing that her mother is injecting toxins into her face?
Now, please. Please. If you choose Botox, or anything else like it, please don't huff off. I admit that if you'd asked the me of ten-to-fifteen years ago if I would ever do plastic surgery I would have stood on a soap box and delivered a feminist rant. But the me of ten-to-fifteen years ago was obviously an immature idiot. With the skin of a twenty-five-to-thirty year old. I swear that I am not judging you or your parenting. I am not exactly in a position to judge.
Exactly. True confessions time. I’ve tried it. 20 units of Botox administered to the aforementioned wrinkle.
And lets just say that in the eye of this beholder ... I liked the way I looked. The wrinkle softened. And I don't think I looked fake or plastic as per earlier concerns. Yeah, when my stomach wasn't turning about the fact that it cost $250, I was pleased with my face.
Yes, I liked my softened wrinkle. But I like my four-year-old daughter more. Maybe the reason I feel so conflicted on this one is that my daughter has nystagmus, an eye movement disorder that causes her eyes to constantly move back and forth, and I am acutely aware of the potential body image issues that may arise for her as a result in adolescence. Or earlier. Or maybe I'd feel this way about any daughter. But I just can’t figure out a way to make sure my daughter gets that her value does not depend on her appearance if I model injections of botulinum toxin into my face to change the way I look.
Look, I highlight my hair. And I spend significant sums of money on the latest jeans, boots and purses. But we’ve all got to draw our lines somewhere and for this 40-year-old mother of a 4-year-old year old daughter, Botox is a line I just can’t figure out how to effectively cross.
40-year-old faces have wrinkles. They have wrinkles that formed from years of smiling and laughing, and also from times of tears. I think at least one of the reasons my forehead wrinkle bothers me, but the lines around my eyes and mouth do not, is because my frown lines reveal to the world all those times that I have frowned. That I have been angry, stressed, sad, or scared. That I have raged, that I have cried, that I have momentarily wished for things I could not achieve or could not have. And who wants to look in the mirror and think about all that?
But I guess I don't really have a choice. I've got a daughter to raise and a life to live. And I know how lucky I am. So I control what I can. Appreciating my good fortune. And my good looks. And spending whatever cash is available for vanity---after buying my daughter non-gender based, math and science learning focused toys along with the princess (Merida) doll she desperately wanted---on chemicals, cotton, and leather rather than toxin.
You're beautiful. Really beautiful. Don't forget it.