health

"Botox ate my face"

Botox? If you’d asked me a couple of weeks ago, I would’ve shaken my head. Not because I have anything against the stuff. If that’s your bag, baby, then you go for it. It’s just… I’m 26 years old. I don’t need botox. No one my age does. Right?

Right. But when I randomly bumped into a friend a couple of weeks ago, who asked if I’d be interested in receiving some for free (as part of a training demonstration), it took me approximately half a heartbeat to say yes. Why? Well… because it was free. And because I’ve always associated the word ‘botox’ with ‘instant appearance upgrade’ – you know, like a fab new haircut, or a magical new foundation. Who knew when I’d get the opportunity to do this again?

Of course, there were also my impending crows’ feet to consider. A stranger had pointed them out to me when I was 24 (they were “a dead giveaway of my age,” he’d said), and even though I knew he’d probably just read ‘The Game’ and was trying to insult his way into my pants, the comment had stung. All in all, I deduced, a spot of free botox could only be a good thing.

And that’s how I found myself at the plastic surgeon’s, watching attentively as he gestured to a blown-up picture of my face.

“So which areas do you see as the trouble spots?”

I looked up at the photo, which had been taken only moments before. It was a fair question, but I didn’t know what the correct answer was. There weren’t any trouble spots, as far as I could see. I looked like a normal 26-year-old.

I looked closer.

“My crows feet,” I heard myself say.

The doctor nodded knowingly as I looked more closely at the photo. On closer inspection, that area was actually kind of a worry. Sheesh.

“And also that spot between my eyes,” I added.

“What about you?” I asked. “Which area do you think is of most concern?”

He looked at the photo thoughtfully.

“Your forehead,” he said.

Oh.

“But not to worry – you’ll look a lot fresher after this,” he continued. “Your skin will be a lot smoother, too.”

Was my skin not already smooth and fresh? asked a small voice in my head. I ignored it. “That’s good,” I said, smiling.

“Of course, the real benefits at your age lie in preventing lines from deepening,” he added. “That’s why it’s becoming more popular with younger women. After all, prevention is better than cure!”

As they marked out the sixteen different places they were going to inject my face – yes, sixteen – I pondered his last statement. Since when do wrinkles need ‘curing’? Let alone prevention? And was I really about to get botox, just because of some insult from a stranger? (Now that we’re friends, I guess I can confess the truth: that’s really why I was here. To make sure I didn’t receive an insult like that, ever again.) I looked back at the giant image of my face again, up on the flatscreen. I looked like a lost little girl. At the same moment, that little voice piped up again. I don’t want to do this, it said.

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And there it was. An epiphany. F*ck the stranger’s insult. I liked my face as it was. I didn’t want to change it.

But even though that was my cue to get up and leave, I didn’t. Not when everything I’d read or heard about botox suggested it could only improve me. This can only make you better, I told myself sternly. It’s a win-win situation. So I told the little voice to shut up. And we got down to the business of botox.

Three days later, I’d seen no changes. I had a mild headache for the first few hours, but that was all. Then, on day four, I woke up looking… different. Not in a major, she’s-had-a-facelift kind of way. Not even in a new-shade-of-lipstick kind of way. I just didn’t look like… me. Mostly around my eyes. They were suddenly slightly less round, more almond-shaped. Without my normal crinkles, they seemed less warm.

Ironically, at the same time, friends started telling me how great I looked. The compliments on my ‘glowing’ skin flowed thick and fast. And even though I felt like a fraud, I enjoyed that bit. I guess you could say that some part of me felt more acceptable when botoxed. Having a wrinkle-free forehead had brought me one step closer to ‘ideal’ beauty… exactly what I’d wanted.

Except it wasn’t. See, here’s the thing. Even with all these extra compliments, I can’t say I feel more loved, more accepted, or genuinely closer to people. Quite the opposite, in fact. My mate dragged me to one of his work functions last Friday, and if anything, it was harder than normal to connect. Turns out genuine communication is tough when you can’t smile with your eyes.

And another thing. Botox works by paralyzing your facial muscles. Your face. The one thing that intimately reflects who you are; how you feel. And when you stifle that – or any part of your you-ness, for that matter – you’re suppressing exactly what makes you beautiful, accessible to others; capable of real connection. And that’s what I was really after, at the end of the day. That’s what we’re all after, when we’re chasing beauty, isn’t it? This idea we’ll become more lovable; more acceptable. Both to others, and ourselves.

So when you judge my little experiment by those standards, it’s an out-and-out fail. But I don’t regret it. This has been a beautiful lesson (excuse the pun) in self-appreciation. A reminder of what’s really important. Besides, who knows? Maybe I’ll look at botox again in twenty years’ time and decide that it’s what I want. Maybe I’ll like my face less then. Although I sure hope not.

Watch the video of Georgia trying botox..

Georgia Rickard is a Sydney-based journalist. She writes for many a magazine and chats on various radio stations across the country. She also likes Twitter, so if you are that way inclined tweet @georgiarickard.

Have you tried Botox? Would you?