June 1, 2016
I was all of 26 when my dermatologist told me about this new thing, Botox. He said he could give me an injection and he touched to the space between my eyebrows. I had wrinkles there since the age I started scowling, which was probably 9 minutes old, but I didn’t really want to give them up. I mean, frowning was a major part of my presentation—if the wrinkles weren’t there, how would people know I was displeased?
Well, that was 23 years ago, and since then my frown lines have been joined by nasal labial folds, laugh lines, crow's-feet, and general wear-and-tear of a face that has been very busy expressing itself.
At a recent night out with a group of friends, there was much talk about what everyone does to their faces. I had to be honest, my face really didn’t bother me that much. “That’s because when you look in the mirror you make a Botox face,” said my smart friend Ann. Of course, in the mirror I raise my eyebrows, and don’t smile—if only I could remember to do that in the world. Ann happens to be very beautiful and natural looking and she spends most of her days with dogs and horses. So how did she end up with on this path?
“I had gone to an awards show with my husband [the comic actor Denis Leary], and the next day I looked at photos of the event online. People were commenting about how noble it was for Denis to still be with his old wife." She said, “I was insulted and he was buoyed!” The next day she went out and got Botox.
When another friend, Ellen Rapoport, a glamorous screenwriter, heard of my ambivalence she said, “You should totally do it. Everyone needs it!” She joked, “At this point, it is basically rude to walk around with forehead lines.”
Not one to be accused of bad manners, I consulted with a highly recommended Upper East Side cosmetic dermatologist, Dr. Ellen Marmur.
She chatted with me about the psychology and philosophy of fillers and injections, and why I’d never done it before. “Fear and money,” I said. Dr. Marmur handed me a mirror. I tried very hard not to make my mirror Botox face, as I pointed out the areas that I wouldn’t mind seeing smoother (eye crinkles, eyelid droops, under-eye bags)—I said I really didn’t mind the frown lines. She outlined what would be needed for my various areas—surgery for the eyelids (so, no) and whole and half-syringes of Juvaderm and Restylane and Botox. It was all temporary, and would eventually need to be redone. It sounded great and she was so calm and pleasant, and yet I had this funny feeling while she was telling me all of this that I was never going to do it. I’m a very casual person. Jeans, sneakers, messy bun, makeup only when I’m out on the town. Would I make my face too fancy for the rest of me? I remembered when I was a kid, my dad worked with this guy who had a very elaborate American Hustle kind of toupee and Van Dyke beard and my mom saying she could never imagine a guy like that naked.
I left Dr. Marmur’s office and realized this whole notion of spiffing up my face—even considering doing so—was a real luxury. And it wasn’t just the cost. When my friend was dying of cancer, I wasn’t looking at my crow’s-feet. When my daughter was devastated that her parents were splitting up, or when I was trying to figure out if I had enough credit to buy a package of hot dogs for dinner, my facial wrinkles were nowhere on my radar. I should say, I am the farthest thing from someone who feels like “I’ve earned this face.” This is not political or feminist. I don’t feel like “I’ve earned this face.” Honestly, I feel like the hardships in one’s life should earn you Emma Watson’s face, not Migrant Mother’s.
A couple of days later I took my daughter for a haircut at Rita Hazan on Fifth Avenue. I was trying to be invisible and unembarassing and started talking to makeup artist Daisy Schwartzberg. I asked her if she could make me look younger. It turns out, when she isn’t at the salon, she is Martha Stewart’s full-time makeup artist (Martha Stewart, who looks amazing and isn’t 24). Daisy swooped in with brushes and concealers, a lot of sweeping upward. She groomed my eyebrows (“Browtox!”) and gave me some extra eyelashes. Daisy is not only a brilliant makeup artist, but she is also warm and hilarious. When I looked in the mirror, I expected to see the usual makeover where I looked like an anchor on the Weather Channel, but I didn’t! I appeared relaxed, rested, fresh and “luminous” (she is big on luminosity)—kind of like a better version of myself.
That night I met up with my friend Gigi Levangie Grazer, a stunning Hollywood gal. She looked even more beautiful than usual, so I had to ask her if she was “using.” “Nope, not for about a year.” This coincided with her falling in love with a very handsome French photographer. He loves her face the way it is. I asked her if she felt pressure to go back. “I only feel pressure to tuck, fill, and puncture myself when I leave my 'safe space'—my bathroom.” She said, “No, really—Beverly Hills luncheons are so pressurized they could explode. And no one would raise an eyebrow. Because they can’t.”
I still have the brochures from Dr. Marmur stashed in my drawer. Maybe in ten years if I’m looking less "fresh as a daisy" and more Driving Miss Daisy, I’ll change my mind. Until then, I can always make my fancy mirror face.