I don’t know what “natural beauty” is, but if I ever had it, it’s been long since smothered by the increasing mess of products I use to remain presentable as I age: tooth whiteners, lip plumpy-ups, retinol creams. I believe that if nature had intended for us to be beautiful as-is, she wouldn’t have invented tweezers.
So I don’t begrudge people who undergo cosmetic procedures to reverse the ruthless tug of time. Who among us hasn’t fantasized about having a silicone rack up to here and out to there? Who hasn’t stood at a mirror and pulled her flesh up around her hairline, watching in amazement as her skin stretched back to its sublime teenage tautness? Who didn’t recently invest in a waist-cinching, “tummy-taming” camisole called Suddenly Skinny, which is now her very favorite item of clothing and without which she will never again leave the house? (Wait … was that just me?).
But there is one vanity procedure to which I won’t submit: injecting Botox to eliminate the creases on my forehead. It’s not because I have concerns about shooting poison into my face (says the woman who bleached her hair throughout her pregnancies). It’s not even because, at a few hundred dollars per Botox prick, I’d be trading my wrinkled-haggard look for a financially destitute-haggard look.
I can’t have Botox, because I need my face to move. And crinkle. And scrunch. I need to be able to raise one eyebrow while the other plunges to dramatic depths. Like the corrugated landscape of Tommy Lee Jones’s illustrative face — or Yoda’s — I need my rippled brow to convey the full gamut of human emotion.
I need it so that I can strike terror into my children.
How does a creaseless mother convey appropriate incredulity when her child chides her for neglecting to sift powdered sugar atop his homemade, football-shaped pancakes “like they do at Denny’s?” How would a furrow-free face demonstrate the surprise-turned-anger-turned-disappointment of being lied to outright by a teen?
Frozen flat with Botox, my face would say “relaxed and approachable.” But without it, my face says something more useful to me at this precise moment of my life. It says, “You might want to rethink that plan, revise that statement, or retract that eye roll, little man.” It says, “Do I look like I’m kidding? Did you mistake me for someone relaxed and approachable? ‘Cause I’m not her. I ate her for lunch. And I’m still hungry, so watch yourself.”
You might say that intimidation tactics are the tools of a lazy parent. And I might then frown in a spine-chilling way that makes you take it back immediately. But you’d still be right. The truth is that my facial fissures are every bit as crucial to my parental power as are my wallet, my car keys, and my top secret, melt-your-mind-delicious chocolate chip cookie recipe; when I need these things, I really need them.
A few months ago, a Chicago plastic surgeon told CNN that women who can’t make an angry face might actually be better mothers than their fully expressive counterparts. “Maybe they are presenting a more positive image to their kids,” said Dr. Steven Dayan. “Maybe they’re happier; maybe they’re going to be better parents.”
Puh-lease. You can’t get happy by freezing the muscles that make you frown any more than you can prevent sadness by having your tear ducts removed. Maybe “better parents” are actually the ones whose flexible faces act as mirrors, reflecting authentic reactions to their children’s behavior — the inconsiderate, the unwise, and, yes, the funny and brilliant and kind.
Someday, when my kids are grown, I may seek the needle to become strikingly smooth. For now, I’ll have to settle for serviceably scary. And Suddenly Skinny.