About two years ago I was shopping at Washington Mall in Beaverton, OR, with my friend Judy. We are good friends who enjoy each other’s company. A visit to the makeup counter, always a staple of our outing to a mall, marked the moment when we realized that we had gone past ma’m and onto the next stage. Oblivious to our ages, we were trying on lipstick and laughing when a young woman walked towards us and said: “You girls are soooo cute!” We were take aback by the condescension in her voice and the way she spoke to us, as if we had suddenly entered our second childhood. Were we going to be treated like toddlers again? Would people now begin to act as if we couldn’t hear, see, dream, be productive?
Because I am an active dreamer and a creative person, I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about how I am perceived. I have noticed that my “marionette lines” are looking much deeper than they once did and that my neck has lost some of its former tone. At times I pass a mirror and wonder who the woman is that just went past, as she looks much older than I feel. Her aging face says nothing about her vitality. She is not I, yet she is,
I began to realize that my exile had reached another level. As if being estranged from my land had not been enough, I was now rapidly disappearing from the earth. Outside of an occasional “nice young man” offering me a seat, and kind looks from strangers (or were they sad commiserating looks for my lost youth?), I began to notice that I was walking through this earth without being noticed. I was fast disappearing from the land of the living without having died.
My age began to become an issue to my granddaughters, who at eight years old have begun a conversation about the subject of death and once in a while ask me how much longer I’m going to be alive. They were worried that grandma was getting old, and they didn’t want to lose her.
The only person who seemed oblivious to my aging face was my husband, who has always managed to be connected with my essence and who finds me beautiful with more or less wrinkles, more or less pounds…a gift of my second time around, he truly loves me “just the way I am”.
I am not against plastic surgery. I had a breast reduction when I was younger, truly one of the best gifts I ever gave myself. I remember waking up from the surgery and being able to breathe. That surgery restored my ability to exercise, and to see my toes from a standing position for the first time in years! I began to consider a face lift, particularly after I learned that I was going to be on television for an important interview with Martin Guevara, my collaborator , on a program that has nineteen million viewers. But try as I might, the fear of not looking like myself after an irreversible process, of finding yet another albeit new stranger in the mirror, gave me pause.
Let me preface the rest of this post by saying that I come from a long line of really vain women who never hesitated to improve their looks by any means possible. So perhaps it was inevitable that I would consider doing “something” about my face.
I made an appointment to give myself a temporary new face.
I agonized, examined my conscience as I had done since I was little, and then an agent I know said to me: “You know, you sell a lot more books if you’re young looking….” She provided the excuse I was looking for.
I researched products like Juviderm, Restaline, Radiesse, , etc. I was happy to see the products didn’t las forever and that there was control of how much to “improve” one’s appearance. I read blogs written by people who had undergone the experience, checked into contraindications, and decided to proceed, knowing that if I didn’t like the results I could go back to the other unfamiliar face.
So I made my appointment and one recent morning got in my car, turned on the radio just as “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena” began playing on the oldies station (really!) and I arrived at the promised land in a state somewhere between trepidation, excitement and abject fear. Before the procedure, pictures were taken with a regular camera and a studio camera. I found myself staring at a picture of my grandmother Celita and I have to admit my heart filled with love at the memory. When had that happened? When had I stopped looking like “myself”? I spoke with the doctor who explained that one of the first things to go as one ages are the cheekbones and that she would use one product to build up my cheekbones, and another to fill the “marionette” lines. I discussed with her that at sixty three I did not want to look forty, just wanted to recognize myself in the mirror again. And so my face was covered with an anesthetic cream and I sat on the chair waiting for the procedure to begin.
A couple of days later when the swelling subsided I was greeted in the mirror by a younger more vital looking woman. And I still looked like myself. I didn’t erase all the lines, just softened them considerably, and even agreed to a little Botox, although I can still frown if I really want to. A miracle. I went to Zumba class two days later and found myself moving to the music with the abandon of years ago, feeling…. dare I say….sexy?
I am no longer invisible. I get appreciative looks, I no longer blend into walls, men smile at me, women don’t treat me like I’m a fragile antique, and the only complaint I have received has been from my granddaughters who are convinced that grandma should “look old”.
Traveling to Miami I sat next to a couple of grandmothers on the airplane who were discussing their grandchildren. Normally in the past I would have been asked if I had grandchildren and would have joined their conversation. I wasn’t. I have to admit I felt a little left out…not looking like a grandmother, not quite looking like a mother, I was suddenly in a sort of limbo, but I was no longer invisible. And it was nice not to be invisible any more. I had rejoined the land of the living and eliminated the need for photo shop.
I am not sure I will repeat the experience. I have a few months to analyze the impact of this small change in my appearance on a physical, psychological, and spiritual level. But I have to say that today I am really glad for a good dermatologist and that I am really enjoying finding myself in the mirror again!