My second daughter’s wedding is in a few weeks. I’ll be 55 on my next birthday. As a queer woman, I’m perhaps not under the same pressure to uphold society’s impossible beauty standards as most straight women feel they are. Except beauty standards are LGBTQIA+ friendly, and I’m still walking down and aisle, socializing at a reception with friends and family, and appearing in photos I’ll have forever. Ugh.
I’ve never cared too much about my appearance: I don’t wear makeup, my hair is perpetually in a baseball hat, ponytail, or both, and I make candles in flannel pajama bottoms and tank tops. For a number of years, though, I’ve been cyberbullied by a group of “haters” in an online sea glass community, and across the years it has caused varying amounts of pain and stress, including seeing myself referred to as “Leatherface.”
Spending money on procedures to fight aging is the last thing I want to do, but two years ago for my first daughter’s wedding I had some Botox and fillers done in an effort to “look refreshed.” I figured it was minimally invasive and wouldn’t affect my appearance too dramatically. I get Botox for migraine for free, compliments of my insurance company and the chronic lifelong migraines I suffer from, so the additional syringes weren’t terribly costly and fillers helped the photographer not have to airbrush any overly-dramatic “puppet lines.”
With the next wedding coming up, my aesthetician recommended something called “threads” which is a procedure during which two small holes are cut into the sides of your head at the hairline, and something very long is inserted inside your cheek. Then threads are pulled up and tied as you watch. Your face is numbed with lidocaine (and in my case, medical marijuana) so you don’t feel it per se, except you kind of feel the sensation, which isn’t unlike the sense that you’re a puppet and the aesthetician is the puppeteer. You watch as she sort of jacks your face up like the stitches of a teddy bear that had the stuffing falling out, tying the strings together on each side of your cheek. She said I “tolerated it well.” I said I have excruciating migraines all the time, gave birth four times (one of them without anesthesia), so I doubted she could come at me with anything more painful.
It did what it was supposed to. I look “more rested” or rejuvenated or whatever industry word you want to choose. Was I completely bruised and in pain for almost a solid week? Yes. I couldn’t go anywhere, see anyone, eat/laugh/yawn/drink from a straw, really do anything that required my mouth or face—I couldn’t even lie on my side to sleep.
When they say, “Beauty is pain,” this is what they mean. Ice packs to the face, steady diet of Netflix, weed, soup and Tylenol.
Whenever I’d look in the mirror the last few years, something I try to avoid, I’d hear the cruel whisper of the bully: “Leatherface.” Like my own haunting version of Judy Blume’s Blubber, and how sad that I have to feel that middle-school bullying pit-of-the-stomach feeling of dread and fear. Many people would be surprised to know who it is, too, she with her six-figure followers, preaching kindness and love; how many nights I’ve spent in tears and misery over her cruelty. It doesn't end; I have channeled many bizarre experiences from a surprisingly often toxic "beachcombing industry" into an upcoming book.
We don’t have control over those who mistreat us, only our reactions, so that’s what I work on. One of my toxic traits has always been trying to win over the bully: let me convince you that you shouldn’t hate me. So dumb. Why would I waste my time or energy doing that when I should be spending time with the people I love who love me back? 55 is going to be my new zero-fucks era.
Besides, one thing I know about leather is that it’s tough. And I do keep mine expensively moisturized.