My mom taught me to take care of my skin from a young age and I’m grateful she did. And now in my early thirties as my skin starts to change and my face starts to look different, I can be caught asking – does something need to be fixed here? stopped? is something happening that shouldn’t be happening?
I tried watching a new Netflix show about a middle class family and the mom character’s forehead was frozen. I have no judgement about women’s choices and in fact when a girlfriend was telling me about the work she was going to have done on her face, her pure ownership and excitement about her decisions made me excited for her. And now that I feel the pressure, I understand these decisions in a new way, but regarding the Netflix show, I couldn’t figure out how to watch the show without this being addressed—am I supposed to pretend this is what average north American women’s faces look like? Did the character get botox? I wasn’t able to watch the show because of how distracting I found it to be.
The more inundated I am with images from social media, TV, movies, advertising, the more I will see and accept this as the norm. I already see that in myself. And that would be ok except when I see myself start to question my own face’s legitimacy, when I start to think, “is this something I have to spend my money on? Is this something worth considering, fixing, fighting?”
But then without intending to, I had a moment passing a mirror the other day and I thought, “No. I want it all.” I want to know what’s behind the curtain, at the end of the line. I want all parts of this life. The parts my culture supports and the parts it doesn’t. I want to experience the changing face and body. I want to be my whole self despite what culture tells me is shameful, valueless, unwanted. I don’t have the energy to fight culture, to make big change, but I will fight like hell to preserve the curious part of me, the part of me that’s rooted in something deeper than what I’m being shown.
Letting go of one thing doesn’t have to be sad. It can be hard, though. When I see too many skinny bodies and smooth older faces I start to ask myself if I’m wrong. If maybe everyone else knows something that I don’t? When I see only smooth and shiny faces on women over 40, how do I look at my own face differently and the faces of women I see on the street and at family events? I’ve even started to wonder, would I have had my breasts reduced if breast size doesn’t “Say So Much” in our culture? I don’t regret the decision, we make choices with the information we have, but I do have questions. Culture is flawed and I don’t want it determining what I’m afraid of, decisions I make that I can’t undo, what my life is grounded in. Separating myself from it is hard. But every now and then I have moments like that one in front of the mirror where some deeper, truer, more sure part of me says, “Fuck it. I want it all.”