I once had a friend named Nancy who came up with startling declarations -the kind that always made you think twice. Years ago, I remember her saying – “Ultimately, we all have the faces we deserve”. When I wondered what that meant, she explained that our emotions, attitudes and insight, our joys and of course our pains, all contributed to the expressivity and design of our faces. A face is a roadmap to an identity, a guided tour of a life’s story.
I lost touch with Nancy before either of us considered taking advantage of available cosmetic techniques to, well… if not change our faces, then at least highlight our strong points and minimize distressing signs of aging.
I’ve long wanted to reconcile Nancy’s “nothing but the truth” attitude with my own wish to be as attractive a woman as possible.
I turned 40, then 50 and am now edging up towards the fearsome 60-mark. Still, I take pride in setting my own standards, in never chasing arbitrary markers of beauty or status. If I am to be admired, it must be for the creation of an original style.
If I let Botox erase some of the worry lines of my forehead or sustain the dramatic arch of my brows, if I invite some filler to heighten the hollow of my cheeks, am I betraying personal integrity? Would it be more courageous to simply let nature take its course and appear, though a little worse for wear, with uncompromised pride for all the adventures and misadventures, highs and lows I had lived through thus far?
One day, decades later, Nancy got back in touch. (It’s easy these days with Facebook). She was getting ready for her daughter’s wedding and struggling with the same dilemma: She never wanted to be a victim of the media’s campaign to have all women look a certain way. But she also wanted to feel complete joy in her appearance, total confidence greeting a new family, and lasting gratification viewing the wedding pictures for years to come.
I was soon to go off on a mini-speaking tour for a memoir I had written. Like her, I had to “face” something: I was not happy to see myself wrinkling, growing sallow and just a tad saggy. I wanted to compel an audience’s attention- on stage and off.
I had just made an appointment with Dr. Susan Bard, recommended to me for her “less is more” approach to cosmetic dermatology. In one session I reclaimed the face that I truly recognized as my own. I recommended Dr. Bard to Nancy, mother-of-the-bride-to-be, who also came away with excellent results.
Nancy and I giggled over coffee on a downtown terrace on a first day of New York spring: This painless intervention could remain our own little secret. (The results were that subtle) but then it would also be fun to share this, with others. We were smiling at each other, at familiar faces that radiated our whole life stories.