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Ready to Face Your Face?

It’s there in our inboxes, social media feeds, even in our old-fashioned physical mailboxes, the ones by our front doors. The message shows up over and over again.

Fix your face and fix your life.

A bit of Botox here, a little filler there, perhaps a peel … and you’ll be radiant. Youthful, or at least youthful-looking. And your personal and professional dreams will come true.

The message is seductive, even to young women whose faces are just fine. And certainly, to older women who are painfully aware our faces no longer quite fit the American standard of youth and beauty.

At the New York Times, Jessica Grose writes about trying Botox as she was approaching her 40th birthday. Yes. In her 30s, she was already concerned about the state of her face. Of course, COVID and Zoom had something to do with this.

As Grose points out, “according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, neuromodulator injection, which includes the use of Botox, was up a staggering 73% in 2022 compared with 2019.”

Maybe you, too, have been tempted to try enhancing what Nature gave you. Or diminishing what Nature has doled out over the years. I’ve been tempted, and I succumbed, way back in the pre-Zoom days of 2018.

Let’s just say my Botox experience was not an unqualified success.

Okay, let’s go all the way and say it was a bit of a nightmare.

Jessica Grose’s experience was the opposite of mine. Where I wound up with my left side and right side mismatched, the right side drooping badly, her eyes and eyebrows, post-injection, appeared more symmetrical. Which should be a good thing. All the research says symmetry is one way we measure beauty.

And yet …

The writer may well be on target when she posits that asymmetry is what makes a face interesting, attractive, even magnetic. In her case, Grose discovered that one eyebrow higher than the other gave her a face that “could light a spark.”

She missed that face when it was gone. And she was thrilled when the Botox faded and her “eyebrows went back to their old tricks.”

Worth thinking about, yes? What is it about your face that can light a spark? That draws our attention? That makes your appearance more interesting than the bland, smooth, symmetrical looks all over TikTok?

And are you comfortable when you look into the mirror … or the Zoom screen … and see that quirk of yours?

Are you ready to accept other faces’ quirks too?

The most disturbing part of Jessica Grose’s essay, to me, was the end when she acknowledged that she might be tempted to go down the injectable road again. Because of internet commenters “who don’t hesitate to say things about my un-Botoxed face like — and this is a direct quote — ‘NYT, pls don’t put your ugliest employees on these videos. Makes me sick.’”

Oh, for the love of God. What is wrong with people?

This should not have come as a surprise to me. I was on the radio for years, and I got my share of hate-mail, some of which contained unfavorable commentaries about my physical appearance.

Apparently, the situation has not improved since then for women who dare to show their faces in public, and express opinions in the process. As Grose says, we’ve created “a culture where any random internet crank feels comfortable expressing disgust” at our naturally aging faces.

No wonder so many of us go to great lengths to alter those faces.

For now, at least, I’m accepting my own aging face and yours.

And I’ll invite you to join me in that acceptance. What do you say?