Saturday, July 16, 2011

Keep the wrinkles

I watched part of “Burlesque” the other night on TV. The movie was quite awful, but never mind - the really terrible part was seeing what beautiful wild-child Cher has done to herself.
With my aging face looking back at me every morning from the mirror, I completely get the pull of cosmetic surgery. A tuck here, a lift there - would that be so wrong?
Fortunately, Cher and a long line of other celebrity beauties who have tried to stave off aging are out there to remind me of the enormous price to be paid for giving up your real face.
I’m as susceptible to wildly overpriced potions as the next person when it comes to promises of firmer skin, fewer wrinkles, more lustre or less droop. I don’t pass judgment on any woman for the crazy things she may try in an attempt to stop a completely unstoppable process.
But cosmetic surgery - that’s just not going to be my thing. And I’m thankful to the celebrities for helping me see that. As much as I hate the aging process, I know from looking at them that I’d hate even more to go through it with a face that didn’t belong to me.
I read a magazine article years ago offering tips for preventing wrinkles. The main advice was to smile less, because every smile pressed wrinkles into the skin.
You can laugh at advice like that, as I did (and wrinkle up a little more). But cosmetic surgery and toxins like Botox take that article’s premise to a whole new level. We’re actually altering our faces’ ability to smile at all.
When Cher smiles now, what you see is a slight lifting at the corners of her mouth, a Mona Lisa version of the great big smile she once had. A heavily altered face like hers is just too tight, too stuffed, too deadened to produce a full-on smile anymore.
I can hear every anti-aging salon and cosmetic surgeon in town - and there are a lot of them - preparing retorts right now declaring that great progress has been made in cosmetic procedures, and that there’s no need to look anything other than “refreshed” if you get the right work at the right time, done by the right people.
And that’s probably true to a point.
But think about this, people: Celebrities have all the money they need to buy the best cosmetic procedures out there. They’ve got access to the latest stuff and the most renowned professionals.
And yet their faces still end up ruined. They get maybe five or 10 more years of looking better than expected for someone their age, but then it’s a hard, rough fall from there. 
You think it’s going to be any different for the rest of us?
As the procedures pile up - because really, is one facelift, one eyelid tuck, ever going to be enough? - the price of messing with Mother Nature is revealed.
There are the ridges up high on the cheekbones. The tugged, cat-like eyes. Lips so big and tight they look painful to the touch. A mouth line that pulls horizontally rather than vertically.
Cosmetic surgery doesn’t stop you from feeling emotion, of course. Just don’t expect them to play across your face like they used to. Excess cosmetic work leads to a face so devoid of affect, it wouldn’t be out of place on someone with Parkinson’s disease.
Worse still, everyone starts to look alike. It’s as though Kenny Rogers and Joan Rivers and Dolly Parton were siblings from an odd-looking mannequin family, having given up their former faces for the remarkably similar one that emerges after too much cosmetic surgery.
 At this point, I wish I could trot out the old saw about taking pride in each and every one of my hard-won wrinkles.  Truthfully, were it really possible to hang on to a firm, fabulous face at 54 through some Benjamin Button-like miracle of science, I’d definitely be checking it out.
So I won’t lie and say I like the two crescent lines that now bracket my mouth. But I do like the thought that they’re there because I smile a lot.  I don’t like the furrow between my brows, either. But if that’s what a rich, emotion-filled life with frequent eyebrow contractions leads to, so be it.
Youth is a beautiful thing. But only on youth. Hate the wrinkles, love your face.

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