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Shot of Reality
A woman gets Botox for the first time and discovers that her forehead treatment comes with a few unexpected wrinkles. By Carrington C. Tarr
Comments () | Published February 1, 2010
The author says that getting Botox requires a measure of self-confidence—because it can be easy for others to tell if you’ve had it. Photograph by Scott Suchman

I look in the mirror and am confronted with a fact I can no longer deny: The once-faint vertical line between my eyebrows has become a crevice. It makes me look old.

I tend to be inquisitive, and now I’m wearing my curiosity on my forehead. When talking to people, I don’t have to ask a question—people just start giving me answers. I nod empathetically, thinking, “I’ve got to get rid of this gully between my brows.”

I’ve got to get Botox.

I don’t think of myself as a high-maintenance person. I rarely wear makeup—at least during the day—and I primp with one thing in mind: efficiency. I started with regular highlights in my hair only after I turned 40. But I’ve found that at age 46 I have to “maintain” more. I have to work a little harder to look, say, slightly tired as opposed to exhausted.

Unlike many of my friends, I didn’t find turning 40 to be traumatic. Even 45 wasn’t that bad. But 46? It announces you’re no longer “around 40.” You’re not even early forties. You’re officially mid-forties. And that means . . . almost 50.

“Almost 50” makes me more squeamish than the thought of a slim needle between the eyes. Plus, I know people who’ve had Botox. I’ve seen there’s a way of getting it so your face doesn’t look as frozen as an ice sculpture. I know people who can move their foreheads and whose eyebrows aren’t cockeyed and who can still utter four-syllable words and hold decent jobs.

So after ruminating on this—casually polling friends and deciding it’s a woman’s right to choose—I make an appointment with my dermatologist. I ostensibly go in for a mole check, but I have the B-word on the tip of my tongue. Near the end of my appointment, I take a deep breath and turn to the doctor, a high-cheekboned, attractive woman in her thirties: “So I’m thinking about doing Botox.”

Barely missing a beat, she nods and launches into a recitation of how it would be administered and the possible side effects. I know then that however gingerly I’ve stepped onto the boat, it’s pushing off. Forms are whisked before me, and within about five minutes I’m experiencing the sting of tiny needle pricks in my forehead. I’ve told the doc I don’t want my entire forehead frozen, just that crevice erased.

After sitting for a few minutes with a cold pack pressed to my forehead, I walk out of the office in a bit of a daze. I don’t even think to look at my face until I enter the elevator and confront a pockmarked person in the mirrored wall. I gasp. It looks as if my forehead has been bitten by insects. Angry insects. I lower my sunglasses and don’t take them off, even outside under an overcast sky.

I can’t feel any difference for a couple of days. In fact, I’m thinking the Botox didn’t take. But after a while I notice numbness in the lower center of my forehead. Suddenly, my forehead is paralyzed. In conversations, I try to ooze surprise or concern by raising my brow, but the facial muscles don’t comply. The sensation is frustrating, as though my body has a new owner’s manual I haven’t yet read.

Because I can’t make a concerned or questioning look by moving my brows, I find myself compensating by squinting and cocking my head. I realize that in losing old lines I’m creating new ones. Is the cycle of cosmetic addiction beginning—Botox begetting more Botox?

Briefly, I also experience a throbbing numbness behind my eyes, as if my eyeballs are going to pop out of my head. That sensation disappears after a few days. Something else that goes away? The crevice between my eyebrows.

One byproduct of my dermatological experiment is that I’ve become an expert Forehead Examiner. In face-to-face encounters, I scan my subject for that perfect smoothness. I nod to myself when someone’s brows shoot up like teepees, creating wrinkles only on the sides of the forehead and none in the middle. I recognize it from looking in the mirror.

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Posted at 04:00 PM/ET, 02/01/2010 RSS | Print | Permalink | Washingtonian.com Articles