Aspen Princess: The cosmetic struggle of middle age is real |

Aspen Princess: The cosmetic struggle of middle age is real

Alison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Princess

A few months ago, I found myself at a Botox party.

A woman dressed in a white coat and high heels hovers over me, brandishing a needle and speaking a language I couldn’t understand — something Eastern European, with a harsh sound that made everything she said sound serious, if not a little bit bossy or covert, like a villain in a Bond movie. She had long, straight, blonde hair, and clear blue eyes so wide set it made her look almost alien.

She’s frantically pointing at different parts of my face and speaking very quickly in her native tongue to my friend. They’re friends from back home, and that’s why we can get the goods for cheap, because she brought them over from the Old Country. They’re having some kind of debate about my face, or maybe it’s a discussion but it sounds like a debate because of the way they express themselves in their language, sort of angrily.

“She says you should have a little Botox in your chin, here and here,” my friend says, holding up a mirror so I can see. They are both pointing at the lines that are starting to form around my mouth, which is apparently drooping southward.

I’d never noticed this before. But they’re right. My mouth and chin are drooping a little, if you look at it in a certain light.

“Does it cost extra?” I ask, my eyeballs darting back and forth between these two beautiful creatures who seem like they are an entirely different species than me.

It was definitely one of those only-in-Aspen moments. There I was, sitting in the living room of a friend I’ve known since I moved here. She’s in what I like to refer to as “my class,” like we were freshmen in Aspen at the same time. Not freshmen at Aspen High School, but freshmen as in first-year ski bums, circa 2002. It’s funny how you stay in the loop with people who moved here the same time you did, the people you partied with from apres to last call, clomping down the hill back to the dorms, a.k.a. (Centennial/Hunter Creek Longhouse) still clad in ski boots because we somehow managed to miss the last bus.

At any rate (Note: I think I have retired “anyhoo” and graduated to “at any rate” because, you see, I really am starting to get old), this friend had invited me over for discounted Botox, fillers, or whatever you fancy in a needle. Needless to say, I was totally game.

It turned out the chin injections did cost a little extra, and I only had as much cash as I had brought in my pocket, the cash I’d withdrawn from the ATM like I was heading to a back alley to do a drug deal. We stuck to the usual areas (crow’s feet/scowl/forehead) and I said a silent prayer in hopes that she wasn’t injecting me with rat poison or some other such thing. It was a bizarre scene, with wine and hummus and crackers and crudite, and various women sprawled on pieces of living room furniture with ice packs on their faces, hoping they wouldn’t bruise.

Here’s the thing: I’m aging.

I mean, I guess we’re all always aging, all the time. But for the first time in my life, I’m starting to notice.

What really gets me is when I’m out somewhere and run into a bunch of people I’ve known for a long time, people who are my age but that I’ve known since I was in my early 30s. I’ll find myself thinking, “Damn, they look old!” Only to realize that we’re the same age.

Then I go home and examine myself in the mirror and wonder if they’re not thinking the same thing about me.

It’s the little things, like the way my left eyelid has a little fold in it that wasn’t there before. My eyelids are starting to droop in general, giving me that sad-puppy look and casting a shadow over my once bright, wide eyes. The skin under my chin and on my neck is starting to loosen just enough to suggest what’s coming in my 50s. And while I once would have poured battery acid on my face if it meant drying out my acne, I now slather my skin in oil serums and oil based cleansers and expensive moisturizers so that I go to bed looking like a root vegetable about to be roasted in the oven.

Then there’s the cosmetic stuff, which gets more expensive every year as the frequency with which I need it continues to rise. Oh, this stuff is evil all right, a Pandora’s box, the promise of eternal youth that comes at a price in the long term. You can only paralyze your face so much for so long before it starts looking weird, taking on a waxy, almost cadaver-like appearance.

Whatever happened to “aging gracefully,” to beauty regimens that include things like Noxema and Oil of Olay and Vaseline? To gentile older women with silver white hair and lines for every memory, like the rings around a trunk of a tree?

But now that the years are starting to creep up on me and it’s hitting me that I’m well into middle age, I understand the need to resist. I can remember thinking about my mortality when I was 6 years old. I have a vivid memory of sitting at my desk in first grade and thinking, “Holy cow, I’m going to die someday,” and being really freaked out.

I later found out that Botox in the chin area does help with those creases around the mouth, but it can also cause uncontrollable drooling and a partial paralysis of the mouth that makes it hard to suck out of a straw or whistle. That part I can hold off on until I get to the nursing home.

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