Botox and The Elevens


Brachioplasty reduces skin-fat that droops downward from flaggy upper arms, that waddely part of the arm that grandmothers sometimes have—the all-in cooking kind of grandmother who kneads dough for hours, turns on the oven, sweats, wipes her brow with a dishtowel covered in flour, ladles up whatever, and makes you feel just the tiniest bit guilty as you’re enjoying the most amazing Bolognese you’ve ever tasted.

Brachioplasty is also called an arm lift. You can get your hands lifted too. Or rejuvenated. I have no idea how I know these things

When I was 14 and my world existed primarily of Saturday night babysitting gigs for whatever coins a dad had in his pocket (hopefully quarters), or an occasional walk to the town’s water tower to imagine how I would absolutely most likely pretty much climb it if only the ladder came all the way down, I began noticing certain commercials and advertisements in magazines—and according to them, I had the option of making myself look a whole lot prettier.

If you were a white girl in 1979 you couldn’t be pretty without blonde hair, and I wanted nothing more than for my unfortunately named mousy brown hair to be honey blonde. The color of sunrises and sunsets. Cheerleaders. Things like that.

So, with newspaper ads fogging my adolescent brain, I began browsing the aisles of a pharmacy. I picked up bottles of Jean Nate After Bath Splash, Sun In hairspray, Lip Smackers from Bonnie Bell. They were all over TV—so many commercials for Sun In and Jean Nate and Breck Shampoo were woven through Mash and Marcus Welby MD that I felt obligated to buy them, like it was a coming-of-age ritual for the American teen.

So one day, after loitering in the makeup and hair aisle far too long, I compulsively did what I’d been thinking about doing for weeks. I purchased a bottle of Sun-In, went home, sprayed my hair wet, lay on a towel on the back deck and pleaded with my mousey brown hair as though I was pleading for mint chocolate chip ice cream: please turn blonde, please turn blonde.

At school, I told people my blondey-orangey hair was from lemon juice because at that time lemon juice was okay but peroxide was cheating. And there was actually a slice of lemon on the label. So. My goal was to look like a film negative, everything dark would be light and everything light would be dark. My Sun-In and Coppertone Tanning Oil. Life was good, Jack.

30 years and 40 age spots later and Big Sky Artificial Intelligence, through some combination of quantum physics and supernatural mysticism, notices on my computer that I’ve been giving in to a bit of clickbait; Premiere Cosmetic Solutions. Ultra non-surgical procedures, Therma Peel . . .

 Last week was Mother’s Day. I’m an empty nester now, and according to popular opinion in America this period of my life is finally my period of my life, I deserve to rejuvenate my sun damaged skin, so yes, I did it. A week ago when I was searching for the original Hebrew meaning of Hallelujah and an ad for Premier Cosmetic let-us-change-your-life Solutions popped up, I clicked on it.

My compassionate and loving husband and children have noted that I don’t need such things but they do love me. And, as it turns out, a physician grade chemical peel with Groupon is almost as affordable as a bag of 1979 beauty paraphernalia from the pharmacy. So . . .

Cosmetic Solutions requires a consult first.

There are enormous cushy loveseats in the waiting room and when I sit in one I feel like I’m surrounded by sleeping puppies. There are tiny white speakers at the ceiling that fill the room with some Michael Buble-like song that reminds me of my (if I had one) sister’s wedding. There’s an album on the coffee table with laminated pictures of chins before and after. Chins and eyebrows and one picture of a bum in a thong. In the first picture the bum has cellulite and in the second picture, there’s not so much. 

A (presumably) young woman leads me to a room and motions to a comfortable padded chair that can be tilted back. She asks me if I’d like anything to drink. I tell her I’d love some water and she promptly goes to get it. As I wait, I can feel the chair beginning to heat up and it makes me relax. I think about going to sleep, so when the presumably young woman returns and hands me a bottle of Voss Artesian Water I’m somewhat disappointed.

When the cosmetic physician comes in she sits across from me and asks what I’m concerned about. I tell her I have some sunspots and mention that I have a Groupon because that’s what the site that I got my Groupon from said I was supposed to do. I turn my head to the side and point at the result of my 1970’s obsession with blonde hair and dark skin. She says yes, a peel could help with that and gives me a rundown of what to expect; my skin will be a little red and then peel and I’ll need a week or so of downtime. Not a big deal, I work from home. I make an appointment for 2 weeks later to get a chemical peel.

As I begin to gather my things to leave, she tells me she’ll be right back and returns with a syringe and a couple small plastic medical looking cellophane packages and says, “Okay, let me just lower the chair a little.”

“What’s this?” I say as she’s tilting the chair back.

“Your Groupon includes a few units of Botox.”

Wait, Botox is the mother of all vanity. It’s the heroin of cosmetic procedures. Two years from now my lips will be the size of plumbs. “What will it do?”

“It’ll get rid of your elevens.”

I don’t understand what she means by this. “What are elevens?”

“The perpendicular lines between your eyes—they’re from squinting, or frowning.”

“Really? I have them?” She gently lifts my chin as she holds the needle in her other hand.

“Most people do at your age. Just a prick,” she says, and inserts the needle between my eyes and gently swabs the area. “You might not see a difference for a few days, everyone’s different. Exercise the area for 60 seconds. Squint and frown, it will spread the Botox around. Most people do it on their way home.

She says it was nice to meet me, that she’ll see me in two weeks for the chemical peel, then reminds me that the peel will cause my face to shed and will require some downtime. This time she adds that my skin will shed somewhat like a snake.

As I drive home I squinch my eyes tight and frown as hard as I can and begin to feel the place between my eyes resisting the movement, like a large thumb is pressing down on my forehead so that only my eyebrows can move. I look in the rear view mirror. When I raise them they look like they’re yanked up toward my forehead. I look like Michael Keaton in Batman. I start planning what I’m going to do in two weeks, how I’ll stay inside while I shed like a snake.