Grasping

I’m 35 years old, and I’ve never had any Botox or plastic surgery. This is not a flex. Most of why I’ve never had any Botox or plastic surgery (or fixed my teeth) is that I cannot abide the process, price, or pain required. It’s certainly not because I’m not vain. I wear makeup most days, even in quar. I have an OnlyFans. And a fairly active Instagram that’s 99% selfies, many of them of my butt.

I’m trying to figure out why I get a creeping feeling when I hear women my age and younger talk about getting Botox for their wrinkles. I kind of hate both that they’re freezing their faces to look younger and the fact that I have negative feelings about it.

I’m not upset because I think looks are unimportant. Women exist in a terrible double-bind. Should we dare to visibly age, we’re mocked. Or worse, simply ignored. But if we do anything to not appear to age people judge us for being vain, superficial, fake, etc. We’re supposed to either silently, stoically accept that our worth as humans is wrapped up inextricably with our youth or somehow manage to pull off seeming to not age so subtly that no one can tell we did anything at all. I admire women who talk openly about the work they put into aging more slowly, who admit that they did not, in fact, wake up like this.

I also don’t suffer from the naturalistic fallacy. I can’t wait to become a cyborg.

I think I got closer to understanding my qualms last night as I was doing my nightly guided meditation with the Calm app (they should pay me commission). The topic was “grasping.” Tamara Levitt said every Fall she looks in the mirror and picks apart the signs of aging on her face. The lesson was that when we resist things we cannot change, like aging, when we hold tightly to things we cannot control, like new lines on our faces, we double our suffering.

One thing that bothers me about Botox is that I find expressions beautiful. I love to see genuine emotion on people’s faces. I’m sure a talented aesthetician can apply Botox while preserving a full range of facial expressions. But I worry my peers are sacrificing something beautiful (expressions) just to avoid something that’s also beautiful (aging).

I actually find my wrinkles beautiful. I’m in love with the laugh lines around my eyes. I don’t find signs of aging necessarily unattractive. Old women are absolutely beautiful to me. I love gray hair. I’m enjoying the grays starting to streak through my hair. I’m not going to pretend everything is similarly beautiful, even to me. Fully, healthy, shiny hair is prettier than thin, brittle hair to me. Clear skin is prettier than pockmarked skin to me. But it’s health, I think, more than aging that differentiates pretty from not pretty in my mind. My smile (even with the imperfect teeth) is one my prettiest features. Evidence that I’ve been smiling for decades doesn’t diminish the beauty in my smile in the slightest, to me. I keep saying “to me” because I know it’s all subjective.

I’m also not going to pretend that I don’t care what other people find more and less attractive. I certainly do. All else equal, I’d love to be attractive to as many people as possible. But all else isn’t equal. The older I get, the more comfortable I am in the knowledge that I’ve never been and never will be for everyone.

There seems to be this spectrum of vanity. On one far end you just want to avoid disgusting people and on the other far end you’re going way out of your way to dazzle or impress them. There’s like the bare minimum of not having stained teeth and clothes to assure people you have good hygiene. And then there’s veneers and $1,000 extensions and Birkin bags.

It’s interesting how as I’ve gotten older and less conservative (to say the least) my aperture of beauty has widened considerably. I used to be absolutely disgusted by leg hair on women. Now I think a lil mustache on a lady can be cute as hell. I think it’s both getting older and getting less conservative. When you look at what conservatives tend to find attractive, it’s much more narrow than progressives. Especially for women.

As the variety of things I find beautiful has widened, I’m no longer holding myself to the same narrow beauty standards I once did. Which is part of why I haven’t fixed my teeth. I still don’t find my chipped front tooth or overlapping bottom front teeth beautiful. But they certainly don’t disgust me.

Listening to the meditation, I realized where my discomfort around Botox really lies. It’s not about frozen faces. It’s not about any look, really. At the end of the day, I really don’t have strong feelings about any aesthetic choice. If you like your obviously fake boobs or obvious fillers or frozen face, you do you girl. I love that journey for you. I really do.

It’s about a feeling. It’s about feeling pressure to preserve my face in amber to not disgust people or become invisible.

It’s ultimately about grasping.

What stops me short when I think about Botox is my fear. I fear my peers are grasping at youth. That they’re holding tightly to something they can’t control. That they’re doubling their suffering.

I’m afraid that I’m unknowingly disgusting most people by embracing my imperfect teeth and laugh lines instead of fixing them.

I’m afraid that if I start to “fix” my appearance that I won’t be able to stop. That I’ll grasp at youth, doubling my suffering.

The reality is that as a woman I have to choose between allowing aging to mark my face and body more or less unimpeded and suffer the humiliations of that or to go out of my way to hide or fix aging’s work and suffer the humiliations of that. Neither choice is better or worse than the other.

I think the only choice that really matters is how I approach this reality. It doesn’t matter whether I wear makeup or get Botox or buy a Birkin bag. It matters whether I delude myself, berate myself, or give in to anger at my shitty choices. It matters whether I’m doing whatever I’m doing because I think it’s beautiful, or because I’m standing athwart aging, yelling “Stop!”

I think the work for me is letting go of what I can’t control and working to change what I can: namely my attitudes, my behavior, and my beliefs.

What I see on a lot of older women’s faces that I find absolutely gorgeous is a tranquility. Older women sometimes radiate peace and acceptance in a way most younger women can’t. They look wise. They look like they’ve seen some shit, and seen the humor in it. Rather than fighting against aging, what I want to do is fight toward aging like that. I want to laugh and smile and frown and snarl and crease up this face in such a way as to mark a life lived fully. And to continue to see the beauty in that. And to find and treasure the people who can see the beauty in it too.

Also, squats. For the ‘gram.