Oct 21 2012

Mixed feelings about Botox

I was still raw with grief over the premature death of my eldest sister three years ago when I stumbled into a dermatologist’s office in Ottawa. Sally had lost her life at 55 to malignant melanoma, leaving behind a loving husband, two adult daughters, who spent the last weeks of her life sleeping on gurneys in the hospital corridor, and a 12-year-old son.

And you thought the target market for Botox was middle age! Is the young woman featured in this Botox ad out of her teens?

Although my skin is quite different from Sally’s, a precautionary visit to have my moles checked seemed like a smart thing to do. I anticipated the feelings of vulnerability that I experienced as I entered the discouragingly full dermatologist’s office at 8:30 a.m.; what I couldn’t have predicted, however, was the rage that I felt when confronted by posters celebrating the 20th anniversary of Botox.

My fury was not solely about the popularity or promotion of an injectable toxin that aging women — and, increasingly men — are encouraged to believe they can’t leave home without, although now that you mention it, yes, I do resent that. But on this particular occasion it was heightened by the fact that I’d waited six months for an appointment, and was now about to have to wait another 45 minutes, despite being on time, first thing in the morning.

Earlier this week I received an email from Sandi Berwick, who’d come to the launch of I Feel Great About My Hands in Halifax. A grad student in the Department of Family Studies and Gerontology, she’s currently doing supervised academic research into women’s experiences with injectable facial procedures.

As someone who’s not immune to the wrinkles I see reflected in my mirror (see previous post), I’m interested to learn more about how this phenomenon affects women, and offered to try to help Sandi and her colleagues find additional research subjects. I’ve pasted the text of her notice below.

If you are a woman aged 35 – 65 who has had injections to reduce the signs of aging to your face but have mixed or negative feelings about your experience (for example, maybe you didn’t like how you felt emotionally or physically afterwards, you didn’t like how it looked, or other reasons),

 You may be interested in participating in this study on

Women’s experiences with injectable facial procedures

Participants will be Interviewed Privately and

Confidentially (in person, on-line Skype, or by telephone)

To find out more about the study or to participate, please contact: sandi.berwick@msvu.ca  (Dept of Family Studies and Gerontology)

OR call 889-4130 and leave a confidential message


May 30 2011

More praise for laugh lines

Given the prevalence of angry and ignorant “haters” who appear to have little else to do than slag others in online feedback loops – especially when the inspiring article offered up something remotely female- positive, let alone overtly feminist — it’s always a treat to read comments from thoughtful women weighing in on news sites.

Responses to the Dominique Browning piece I discussed here the other day included a woman in Portland weighing in on the downside of injectibles…

What bothers me is the early use of botox, by women just over 30 who are already fussing about aging. Really? My hair stylist can’t f**ing smile! And she has a young child! What must that be like?

and a woman in Chicago suggesting that such interventions are a waste of time, if it’s male approval you’re after…

I have noticed over the years that men don’t have very good eyesight and the main things they see are a big smile (open to approach), eye contact, and various other obvious attributes according to their tastes. Nothing in the way of wrinkles….nothing. They can’t see them with their male vision, which is the same vision that can’t see dirt, crumbs or grease on a countertop.

May 29 2011

Making a case for laugh lines

Thank god I don’t travel in the same circles as Dominique Browning…

That was just one of the thoughts that occurred to me when reading her provocative and insightful piece, “The Case for Laugh Lines”, in today’s New York Times. Browning confessed that she’s often inclined to greet people she knows but barely recognizes by asking them who they are, as opposed to how they are. She claims that many of her acquaintances have erased the traces of identity, if not life, from their faces.

None of the people I see day-to-day appear to have engaged in serious Botox injections or collagen enhancements, let alone the more invasive skin tightening procedures apparently so prevalent in Hollywood, New York or Texas.

This is not to say that I can’t relate to the phenomenon Browning describes. I do know a couple of women whose faces have been so distorted by surgical interventions that I can no longer hear the words that come out of their mouths, so distracted am I by the damage to their ability to present authentically.

Browning cites an experience of watching a smart and passionate celebrity make the case for disarmament on TV, observing that the woman’s frozen-in-place face

…is grotesquely fascinating — and undermining. Before I know it, the interview is over. The medium overtook the message.

Diana Majury’s essay in I Feel Great About My Hands contains many insights, but one of these is especially relevant. Confessing her unhappiness with her own lines, she recounts how her boredom at a meeting one day led to a “wrinkle revelation” as she watched a similarly aged friend speak.

I looked at her lines and I loved them – they were signs of wisdom, life and learning; they were guides to her responses and emotions. They were entrancing. I stared at her for the rest of the meeting, interpreting its tone and outcome through the lines on my dear friend’s face. I enjoyed myself immensely and saw her, as I always have, as extremely beautiful.