by Elizabeth Spencer

Sometimes as we age, we depose the grander principles, the truths of the ages, the philosopher’s stone, for more modest guidelines. Something we can remember. We may downgrade our ideology to a snappy slogan, a beer ad, or the political wisdom broadcast during election season. Down here in San Miguel I’ve been musing and realized that one of the slogans by which I live is simply: Why not? It’s catchy. It’s short. It’s a rhetorical question.

Why not try ceviche? Why not that salsa with the four little peppers on the outside of the jar? Why not try a new haircut? Even if it’s awful, it will grow back and I’ve never been a woman who has put many coins in the purse of vanity. Why not drive to Xilitla and why not down that road? “Why not?” opens worlds. It is, for me, the considered risk. (Some of my friends think that I do not consider long enough, but I am a really, really quick consider-er. Certainly not impulsive!) When I live a “why not?” I feel more expansive, more capable, more ready for the next call for adventure.

So following that mantra I decide to explore the world––well, maybe a tiny island––of facial enhancement. Now I realize that this is potential quicksand. One tiny tuck leads to Michael Jackson, if one is not careful. It could go on and on. And here in San Miguel one can get a real close-up look at some of the fancier ladies who have evidently gone on and on. But in my case, not so much. Mine is more of a passing whim than real dedication. Real dedication costs some really real money.

I decide to go for a consultation with my more experienced friend visiting from the states, and with Liz, who is the absolute poster child for sanity and restraint. She’s just betting with herself as to where my consultation will lead.

The office is smallish, but sufficiently furnished with the appropriate brochures showing before and after photos of wrinkled lips and brows and necks. The receptionist is the doctor’s wife, a former school teacher from Georgia, and a walking advertisement for his work. Not too bad, I think. Just beyond the waiting area is another room that is the workspace of a lovely woman who does aesthetic tattooing: eyeliner, eyebrows. Hmmm­­––I think.

My more experienced friend goes first. She has an actual appointment for an actual procedure. In about 15 minutes she returns to us in the waiting room……looking darn good! My friend tells me that these are bargain prices for the procedures compared to the US. So, after consulting with a real authentic Mexican plastic surgeon, I can’t resist a bargain. I decide to have a procedure I have never even considered in the states.

Now I know that some of my issue is a genetic gift. Both my father and my children also are so gifted. But it is also a result of living, as I know, too, that I did not have this crease in my forehead when I was five. Over the years three lines have appeared atop my nose between my eyebrows. They have deepened into permanency. The middle line is a vertical cleft, a culvert that one could paddle a kayak down. It ain’t pretty.

I’m told that one aspect of the treatment…the Botox to paralyze my frown-y forehead…will last 3 to 6 months. Ok, I think, I can always let my bangs grow if this doesn’t work out. The other part, a filler named Juvaderm, is supposed to last a year. It’s supposed to gently lift that poor skin at the bottom of my crevice into the first daylight it has seen in 25 years. Ok, the bangs will cover that too.

I am sitting in the equivalent of a dentist’s chair when the doctor begins the 7-8 injections (or maybe 500?) with a teeny tiny needle. Think mosquito proboscis. It contains the Botox. It takes only a minute or so. Then he directs me to apply an ice bag…my very own self-administered anesthetic…to my forehead. After a bit I can feel the board-like ice bag giving way, curved by the heat of my forehead. Soon he whisks it away and begins to inject the filler. He compliments me on my high pain tolerance. “I’ve been tattooed!” I think. I am one tough broad. My only request is that he not make me look like a unicorn.

Earlier in the waiting room I had documented myself with my own “before” shots of my forehead with my cell phone. I take another as I am leaving the office. Over the next several days I continue to document. My friends begin to worry about my new compulsion.

On day two it still looks like a bleeding bindi or the claw mark of a small kitten. A red slash. Maybe it’s infected, I think. Or maybe that newly exposed skin is just sunburned. I am not yet certain that this was money well spent, nor that I will ever do this again, but, for me, this experience is filed under the “Why not?” category. Although I would prefer that the color of this landfill site fade to a nice skin tone pretty soon now, no, I do not look like Peggy Lee. Well, except for that little bitty resemblance to her in a postage stamp-sized area of my forehead.