Years, and years ago, I started a new job, and I was sure that my coworker hated me. Sure, sometimes she would smile at me, but the smile never reached her eyes, and most of the time, she just watched me with a moue of disdain. It was weeks before I realized she smiled and looked at everyone that way. If I’m completely honest, I’d started to think she wasn’t very bright because she never showed even the slightest expression of interest in anything, and even when her voice was laughing, her face was saying, “Whatever. Next.”
It was another couple of weeks before I realized the culprit was Botox, and not the public education system.
She was smart, and funny, and had a wide range of interests. She just couldn’t express anything with her face, and because I relied so heavily on those visual cues, I had quit talking to her before we could connect.
So, when the cute crease above my left eyebrow rolled into a shallow sine wave across my entire forehead, I blew it off with some glee that I had retained at least one mathematical term from college. I wasn’t going to give up my ability to make Mom Face out vanity. No. I cut bangs out of vanity.
That was almost a decade, three house moves, five years in retail banking, and a tween ago. Any one of those things will age you, but together? Well, that charming brow line eroded into a groove that became the only thing I could see when I looked in the mirror.
I started researching neurotoxins to inject into my face. I thought, “I’m 45 now. I’m old enough that it’s not just vanity. My eyelids drape, and this will help lift my lids up from my lashes. I’m 45. That’s closer to 50 than to 30, so that’s a reasonable age to consider upgrades. This is a midlife crisis. I can buy myself a nicer forehead. Or, I could buy this really expensive cashmere sweater from the catalog send to the previous owner of our new home.”
Cashmere makes me itch. So, a month ago, I marched into the dermatologist’s office and said, “Please look at this weird mole, and also, please make my forehead not gruesome.”
Four needle pricks and one dime-sized bruise later, I had 40 units of Dysport seeping through the muscles that control my Surprise Face, and a headache.
Y’all, I should have bought the sweater.
Now, your mileage will vary based on your own face and how you feel about it, but outside of that one big groove, I like my face fine. I like having big expressions. I like that I can look warm, or silly, or interested, or repulsed. Well, I like that I COULD. Now, all I can manage is either “Whatever,” or “Haha. That’s funny. Whatever.”
My forehead is as smooth as a river stone, but my face is also a flatline. I feel like I need to apologize, or explain my apparent disinterest, or disdain to everyone. I have said, “I am listening to you, and what you are saying is so sad, and I want you to know that I am empathizing. I apologize about my face.” I have also said, “That is great! I am so sorry my face will only telegraph that it’s mildly interesting.”
Aside from having become les yeux sans visage, I’m having some interesting physical side effects. For one, the paralysis of the forehead muscle has pulled the upper portion of my face to the sides, away from the center point of my eyebrows. This has pulled my eyelids sideways, rather than up (as I had hoped–thus lifting my lids), and means that my round eyes are now almond shaped. Pretty shape, yes, but that’s had an effect on my vision.
Pull your eyelids sideways. Look around. It changes things!
My eyebrow shape has changed too. Those were always fairly well curved. Now, they are Vulcan straight. I’ve had to relearn how to draw my eyebrows, and how to apply my eye makeup because the shapes are so different. The struggle…so real.
Maybe worst of all, my forehead hurts. I have a near-constant headache just in the paralyzed muscle area. I don’t know if this is because I am trying too hard to make expressions and it’s like turning over the transmission while the car is still running, or if it’s just a reaction to the toxin. All I know is that I already look bored with life, and the headache makes my forehead feel heavy, and it is exhausting trying to keep my eyes peeled open wide enough for my prescription lenses to do me any good, which makes me look even more tired and angry. I’m like Ebenezer Scrooge’s prettier cousin.
I admit to you that I miss the face of my youth. I miss being smooth and pretty. I miss people remarking on how perfect my complexion is. I miss people wanting to look at me. But really, right now, what I miss most of all is being able to look sad about getting old in the face.
And that is why I’m going back to wrinkles, just as soon as this stuff wears off. Youth is wasted on the young, and I want to be able to fully express that with my eyebrows.