My face needs a lot of fixing, apparently. I had a coupon to go to one of those “medical spas” — where shiny people go for shiny faces and to remove spots, pores, hair, wrinkles, fat, and freckles. The kind of place that immediately springs to mind whenever I see a face belonging to a Kardashian or Kushner. I was there because a friend had recommended I get a Kybella treatment. Seems no matter what I weigh, I always carry some fat in my neck. I have, as someone once put it, “more chins than a Chinese phonebook.” With this coupon in hand, I thought here’s my chance to turn my double chin into a single one.
I handed the receptionist my coupon and she said the doctor would be with me shortly. I sat in this spotless, poreless room with a large screen showing a parade of before and after photos. I honestly saw little — and mostly no — difference in the before and after photos, so they seemed like poor marketing tools, but maybe I just didn’t have the discerning jeweler’s eye needed to ascertain tiny changes in women’s faces and abdomens. Also, I was nervous about having a needle shoved into my neck, but I guess I was more daunted by the prospect of living with this neck o’ mine.
The doctor (she went to medical school) called me in. I introduced myself and told her about some childhood experiences that gave me a sort of PTSD about people doing things to me when I’m lying down. TMI perhaps, but I wanted to give her context for why I was so anxious. She waved it away and just said you’ll be sitting up. This should have been a red flag because typically when I bring up aforementioned childhood experiences people usually, a.) get very uncomfortable, or b.) at least feign sympathy. This doctor just wanted to get on with the next body part in her conveyor belt of anatomies that needed fixing. My chin in her hand, she turned my head to the left, then to the right. Then she gave me the bad news: My problem was too severe. My neck couldn’t just be tweaked; Kybella couldn’t do the trick. There’d be too much loose skin, and “that would look even worse.”
However, she saw lots of other things she could fix. I needed injections in various places on my face to fix “marionette” lines near my mouth and lines near my nose. I needed Botox on my forehead and to plump up my top lip because it was too thin. I said my top lip had always been thin.* She replied, “Your lips get thinner as you age and your top lip is turning into itself.” I wasn’t sure what “turning into itself” meant, but its future looked bleak. She told me they were having a special and I could get all these fixes for….I didn’t hear the price. I didn’t want injections anywhere, especially not my lips. #LisaRinna
My head was spinning. I’d come already rattled by the prospect of a needle in my throat. Now I slumped out of the austere white office, shuffling to the bank of elevators with the despondent diagnosis of a lifelong double chin and a face beset with neon signs of old age and asymmetrical lips. I came in feeling a little ugly and left feeling a lot ugly. Numbed by her assessment, I walked sadly up Broadway. But as the numbness wore off my sad turned into mad.
Here’s a doctor, a woman who went to medical school, telling me and other vulnerable women about all the things that need fixing. Beset by messages all my life about all the things wrong with me, (Hair! Face! Body! Scent! Attitude!), I’ve always had the mettle to meddle with all my flaws and fix them, where I could. (God grant me the wisdom to know which things wrong with me I can fix and those things that I should just give up and maybe get a Master’s degree or hobby.) I’m used to being my own worst enemy; I’m used to some men being totally judgmental dicks. But having Ms. Bedside Manners spend her day preying upon her sisterhood’s fears and feelings? I find that particularly infuriating. The last thing I need is someone making me more insanely self-conscious about my upper lip, especially another woman.
It’s not like I don’t know what she’s talking about. I know all the big and little things that keep me from being that generic pretty face. Khloe Kardashian is absolutely unrecognizable from her former self. Is she prettier? Uh…I guess? Yes, her face is closer to that singular “pretty face” mask with full (symmetrical) lips, a slim nose, big eyes and n’er a pore in sight. There’s a generic, interchangeable ‘prettiness,’ a facial destination to which Kylie Jenner fans, “Real Housewives,” and too many teenage girls aspire. I think it’s perfectly fine that women like me want to put our best selves forward. But I think it’s important that it’s our unique selves we’re serving. Khloe doesn’t look like Khloe anymore. She looks like Face #4 from some Stepford lab.
If I fatten up my lips as the doctor suggested, who knows, maybe I would look prettier — to a stranger. But I wouldn’t look like myself; I’d just have a face closer to that generic “ideal” that I had no hand in choosing. I didn’t vote for the face I was born with, but I didn’t vote for that dumbass generic Instagram face either. And now, if asked to pick between the two, I’ll choose myself. Why? Because ladies, no matter what someone tells you, always — always — choose yourself.
*I’ve always looked to photos of Gloria Grahame, Maggie Smith and Greta Garbo to try to cheer me up.
Dixie Laite has been a second-grade teacher and mechanical bull operator, and for the past 25 years she’s worked for a variety of TV networks as a writer, editorial director, trainer, advice columnist, even an on-air personality. But primarily she’s trotted around New York City in one cowboy shirt or another, lurking around flea markets, gyms, and anywhere they’ll hand her French toast. Currently she lounges around her apartment with one husband, one dog, five parrots, and roughly 2,000 pairs of shoes. Dixie is the main lady behind Age Against the Machine, a column about empowering women over 50. Sign up for the Jumble & Flowdown newsletter to stay in the know about Dixie’s latest columns.
Follow Dixie on Instagram @dixielaite
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