Saturday, February 26, 2011

I spy (significantly less than I used to)

After the disappointment of the whole Botox thing (as in it didn't miraculously make me look twenty years younger), I've been musing about what I would change about the ageing process if magically granted a single choice. In other words, what do I hate the most? And I came to a rather surprising conclusion. Well, it surprised me anyway. Because it wouldn't be the wrinkles or the jowls or bags or chin-wattle (although I'm not particularly enamoured of any of them). It wouldn't even be those ridiculous chin hairs or stray eyebrow hairs or whatever you want to call them. Nor would it be the extra weight, although it REALLY pisses me off, or saggy boobs or flat feet (okay, now I'm starting to feel depressed). No, if I had one single choice to wind back the clock it would be something far less visible than all those, and yet vision would be the entire point. I'm talking, of course, about my eyesight.

I don't mind so much having to wear glasses - but I hate having to depend on them. And yes, there's a difference. Wearing glasses means picking out cool frames and being able to look intelligent even if your top is on back-to-front (I get dressed in the dark a lot). Depending on them is holding a packet of crackers in the supermarket and being absolutely, frustratingly incapable of deciphering the smudgy blur of nutritional advice. Or struggling to read the dosage on a packet of medication. Or standing in the shower trying to work out which bottle is shampoo and which is conditioner and which is hair removal (four-minute shower my ass, it takes me that long to make out the 's'). If my eyesight keeps going the way it is now, soon I'll be the fat female with the bald head who keeps falling asleep while driving.

The other problem is the on-and-off relationship that I seem to have developed with my eyewear. Basically dysfunctional with issues of mutual dependency. So that I panic when I put them down somewhere and cannot find them again - which is a lot of the time. Or then, even when I do have them, I spend a great deal of time adjusting the damn things, slipping them into place to read, then pushing them down to the bridge of my nose to look into the distance, then thrusting them up to the top of my head when embarking on a conversation. Only to have them fall off when I tilt my head so that they hang suspended from my hair - sort of like a pair of abseilers in trouble - and I look like a right twit as I try to disengage us. Or I slip them back down in a hurry and manage to pull clumps of hair out at the same time so that the strands are suddenly hanging poised in front of my eyes like some sort of weirdly wafting antenna.

As ridiculous as it sounds, this has become such an issue that my hairdresser actually commented about my hair thinning in this one spot - which happens to be where my glasses live for a great deal of the time. I'm literally pulling my own hair out. Or, put another way, my deteriorating eyesight is sending me bald. And also mad, given that halfway through this post I got up to do a few things (let the dog out, collect the dirty laundry, turn off all the extra lights in the house, start the washing-machine, let the dog back in, sympathise with D1 regarding her job, pick up the coffee mug in the hallway, wash the dishes, clean up the dog pee just inside the back door, sympathise with D2 regarding her job, turn off the extra lights again, lecture D1 and D2 about the correlation between leaving lights on and our hefty electricity bill, bang my head against the wall a few times - that sort of thing), and put my glasses down somewhere or other. Where they promptly vanished. So that I am now typing with a straining, constipated-like squint which is probably - now that I think of it - the reason that the Botox didn't work.

So the way I see it I have two choices - wear a hat and carry a magnifying glass at all times (hmm, perhaps Sherlock Holmes was a fellow sufferer?), or buy one of those glasses-chain thingoes to serve as an anchor. You know, the ones that instantly age a person by about ten years no matter whether they are made from leather thong or glittering gold or funky beads hand-crafted from the vegetarian saliva of an Amazonian virgin. And maybe the fact that I simply cannot see myself wearing one of those is the very reason I need to.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Well, after three weeks of salads and wraps and flopping exhaustedly on the exercise bike each day (and sometimes even using it), I have managed to shed the grand total of one point one kilograms. I was going to try those over-priced Celebrity Slim Shakes (no, I didn't buy them - my slim as a reed daughter did, and then promptly forgot about them) but a plague of weight-conscious mice got to them first, devouring all the chocolate and the vanilla sachets and then zumba-dancing over the mouse-traps with their slim little feet. The odd thing was not that our mice are weight-loss-savvy, but that they were distinctly fussy in the bargain. Even when they had consumed every last shred of chocolate and vanilla powder, they still didn't attempt the strawberry-flavoured ones. So if dieting mice are rejecting the latter, then I'm taking the hint.

But the lack of weight-loss is made all the more frustrating by those contestants on The Biggest Loser who seem to shed kilos just marching single file to the weigh-in room. Or being yelled at by Michelle, or having a breakthrough moment with Shannon, or being dojo-ed by the new Blondie. Whose intensity levels suggest some underlying issues of her own. Plus she really needs some new material, I've only tuned in three or four times and I've already heard her say that whole treat-your-body-as-a-temple-not-a-nightclub line twice. A nightclub isn't even a good analogy - too much fun and frivolity and high heels and glad rags and daft pick-up lines and cheerful early-hours exhaustion. I'm thinking an all-you-can-eat restaurant, or maybe even one of those ancient Roman lounges, where plump patricians in togas recline languidly while being fed delicacies from silver-plated trays.

But it started me thinking about what sort of structure I would use to describe myself and I came to the conclusion that I'm very much like my own home: rambly and messy and comfortable and in a perpetual state of partial renovation. The good news being that we can both still scrub up okay, the bad news being that it now takes a bit of effort. And I decided that from now on, whenever I do something for the house, like buy a plant or a painting or another sarcophagus, I'm going to do something for me. Maybe some new clothing, or a foot massage, or a bar of decadent soap. Something vaguely equitable, just to add value to us both. We deserve it.

Which is all excellent timing as the mission-brown, termite-nibbled, been-falling-down-for-years front fence is finally getting replaced next week. 32 metres in slim-line Windsor picket with non-exposed posts and a new letter-box complete with lockable flap and catalogue insert. Hmm...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mirror, mirror...

Well, I have to say that Botox was an extreme disappointment. After lengthy examination I have concluded that there is little difference. If I had taken before and after shots, I think they would have been interchangeable. If anything my smile lines have simply migrated to under the eyes, where they have congregated to make me look a little jovial and baggier than usual. Sort of like Buddha, so that now my face matches my belly. Not quite what I had in mind.
But then again this experience has made me realise one thing - that I very seldom spend much time looking at myself in the mirror nowadays. A quick glance to make sure I don't have blobs of mascara studding my cheeks, or a wily chin hair wafting gently in the breeze, and then an efficent - and usually critical - examination of my hair and that's about it. So there's a goodly chance, I suppose, that I look massively younger and just don't realise it because I'm comparing myself to way back when, and not now. And even mega-doses of Botox ain't going to bridge that gap.
It's not like I don't have a plethora of mirrors in my house either. There's one in the hall, and one over the fireplace, and several full-length ones fixed to wardrobe doors. As well as dressing-tables, and vanities, and cabinets, and we even have one of those make-up mirrors that magnify and illuminate and make pores look like moon craters while giving your skin all the glow of a ruddy apple. Conversation with my daughters, and their friends, are punctuated by teenage eyes sliding away to whatever mirror is behind me, where they give themselves a brisk once-over before sliding back. Only to repeat the process again a few minutes later, like it's a compulsion.
I can't quite remember what it was like to have such an easy relationship with my reflection, but I suspect that they - too - are looking for flaws rather than admiring the overall result. Why do we do that? There's that old joke that women will never be truly equal with men until they too can walk down the street with a bald spot and beer belly and think they look sexy. And if that's the case, we have a long way to go. God, says my slim, smooth-skinned, gorgeous nineteen-year old, staring critically at herself, I look like shit. Her friend turns it into a competition. Look at me! My nose, my chin, my ass! It casts a frigging shadow! And I wonder why it is that they cannot see what I can, or appreciate what they have. So maybe it's not about appearance as much as acceptance. And all the Botox in the world isn't going to help anybody without that.
So I have decided to start rediscovering myself. Spend a little more time enjoying the view. After all every line and wrinkle and crow's foot is part of the language used to tell my story and I quite like myself, and where I've been, and what I've done, so why shouldn't I value the end result? With this in mind I just spent ten minutes, stark naked, staring at myself in my dressing-table mirror and can confidentally say that's not a good idea. Probably best to start a little slower.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Botox - believe it or not!

Well, all I can say is thank-you very much [coat with sarcasm please]. With over 400 women connected via email, plus nearly 200 via the survey and another fifty or so via the discussion groups, I found only ONE (uncontactable) person who admitted to using Botox. Now either that says that we are a remarkably sanguine lot, or well-preserved, or totally at ease with the middle-aged-ness of our faces. The latter of which was not particularly reflected in survey answers, where wrinkles ranked right up there as things we're not too keen on. So that leads me to suspect a few more women are having foreign substances injected into their faces, but they just don't want to talk about it. Fair enough. But this left me in a bit of a pickle - how can I write about Botox with no information? Which brings me back to my original (sarcastic) thank-you because it meant I had to - after making and breaking two appointments over Christmas - drag my saggy, baggy face down to the local salon and be my own source. Yes, that's right, my name is Ilsa Evans and I have now been Botoxed. Gulp.

When I say Botoxed, I have to admit that I opted for a minimal amount over a minimal area - which will no doubt result in a patch of pristine skin that only makes the rest of me look even older. The truth is that I would be laughed out of Wisteria Lane, but it's good enough for me. And I now have something in common with all those shiny-faced celebrities - except for the fact that I'm admitting to it and they are not. Who me? Never. It's just genetic good fortune, darling. All the women in my family are wrinkle free and trout-mouthed even at eighty. Honest.

I have to say it was a rather fascinating experience. And informative. I arrived with half-baked perceptions of women trapped within tangled notions of self-esteem, fragile egos quivering with desperation, dark sunglasses in the waiting room, and frozen smiles at the checkout. Wrong on every count. Jessica, the nurse, who kindly answered all my questions, says that for most of her clients, it's more about erasing life's little tragedies. Women who have gone through some sort of trauma, such as a death in the family, only to see this written across their faces. And wanting it gone. While that may well be correct, I'm guessing it's also about vanity, and wanting to wind back the clock, and rejuvenation. After all it's why we pay big bucks for the latest gamma-beta-globules of virginal seaweed kelp - if we're told it'll do some good.
So after our interview came the big question. Yes, or no? And by then I felt a little like I did at five years of age when Daryl Thatcher dared me to put my bare feet into gumboots full of tadpoles and then walk around the pond and back. Which, now that I think of it, was probably a lot more traumatic for the tadpoles than for me. So I did it (then and now). Putting myself in Jessica's hands - literally - and even following her advice that if I was going to opt for the minimum, then I should hit the crow's feet. I have to say the most painful part was the ice-bag that was used to numb the area - that killed - with the injections themselves paling in comparison. Then came the instructions - do not expect instant results as Botox takes between four and fourteen days to work (seems a bit lazy to me but what do I know?), and do not, under any circumstances, rub and/or massage the area for four hours as apparently the stuff can travel (wtf?). Whereapon I was immediately struck with an almost overwhelming urge to rub and/or massage said areas, and this urge lasted for exactly four hours. Necessitating quite a lot of time spent sitting on my hands.
In the waiting room were several women who glanced at me curiously so I did my best to look nonchalantly urbane as I strolled through and out to my car. Instantly forgetting that windows have glass as I examined myself every which way in the rear vision mirror. But nothing had changed, and two days later nothing has changed yet either. Except that my daughter spends quite a lot of time examining my face (much like she used to examine seedlings when little, waiting impatiently for a sign of life), and my mother gave me a look that I haven't seen since I was a teenager and did something particularly daft. But it doesn't feel any different, and most of the time I forget I even had it done. So will I ever do it again? I doubt it, but stay tuned.