Have I “had anything done”?

A certain person found out that I’m going to be 47 in three months. Not being one to hold back, he blurted, “No way!! Have you had anything done?!”  Complete with dramatic interrobang at the end of the question.

It occurred to me that I’m getting to an age where people might wonder if I’ve “had something done” if they think I look younger than I should.

The guy’s question made an impact in my mind because not long ago, Callaghan and I somehow became ensnared in Botched, a reality T.V. series about plastic surgery that horrifies and depresses me as much as it fascinates me. I always anticipate the cases where the patients got botched during surgeries they had had for medical reasons (birth defects, disfigurement resulting from accidents, etc.), rather than for cosmetic ones. Those cases seem to be rarities, though.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-Botched

 

I’ve never had anything “done,” and I don’t plan to ever get anything “done.” The idea of having non-medically-necessary surgeries is anything but appealing to me. I’d run from cosmetic procedures involving chemicals, lasers, needles, etc., too.

I have no problem getting shots and getting blood drawn. I’m fine with needles used for tattooing art on my body. I would not be fine with a needle injecting botulinum toxin into my face. I’m not judging those who do opt for such procedures – to each their own! – it’s just not something I can see myself doing. I wouldn’t get tattooed make-up, either; again, this is just my personal preference.

You could say, I guess, that I’m hyper-squicked at the idea of it all. I wouldn’t even get Lasik surgery! When it comes to surgery, words amounting to “medically necessary” have to be included in the documentation. If insurance won’t pay for it, I probably won’t get it.

I had a facial once, about 10 years ago, and even that was a little invasive for my tastes. The facial was a component of a spa package that someone had given me as a gift, and while it wasn’t a bad experience, I didn’t enjoy it enough to want to do it again. The aesthetician was gentle and methodical, and I remember that she used a botanical line of products, which I appreciated, but I found the whole thing to be strange-bordering-on-gross. I think I just prefer my own fingers and hands working with the skin on my face.

I’m particular about how I handle my skin, as well. I once tried a motorized facial cleansing brush after years of hearing people rave about their Clarisonic facial cleansing brushes. It kind of spooked me, and I didn’t like the way my skin felt during or after using the device. I gave it to Callaghan, who also tried it once and never used it again.

Body work – therapeutic massage therapy – makes me swoon. I love scalp massages even more. I could have my feet massaged for hours, which is odd considering that I don’t like people looking at my feet. And if I could hire someone to do nothing but trace designs on my back with his or her fingertip all day, I would. That spa facial, though! It was just kind of uncomfortably weird lying there while someone cleansed my face for me.

 

I'm really not happy in this pic that was taken last night, but a fake smile is supposed to lift your spirits somehow, so this was the experiment.

I’m really not happy in this pic that was taken last night, but a fake smile is supposed to lift your spirits somehow, so this was the experiment.

 

Of course I’m flattered when people remark that I look younger than I am. I’m not immune to vanity, I’m not a humblebraggart, and my mother taught me well regarding taking care of myself, so in a sense, the compliments are a tribute to her. But as far as anti-aging efforts go, I do my own thing, and whatever happens, happens. Just because I have a skin care regimen and use some products that say “anti-aging” on the labels doesn’t mean that I’m actually anti-aging.

Currently, in the morning, I wash my face and use an eye cream and sunscreen under my make-up (I apply the latter to my face, neck and upper chest, as the appearance of your neck and décolletage can make a huge difference)… and that’s it. I stopped using daily moisturizer on my face months ago. The sunscreen I use seems to do a good enough job, so I leave it at that.

At night, I remove any make-up I might be wearing, wash my face, and put on the same eye cream before misting my face with water and adding a layer of night cream. I do a mask once a week, usually on Sundays. I also spend most of the weekend (if not all of it) make-up-free, to give my skin a rest.

As for my hair… when I go gray, I’ll continue to color my hair, with the purpose shifted from enhancement to coverage.

So I do my routine, I make sure I’m consuming the right nutrients, and I drink lots and lots of water. I try to get adequate sleep (ha!). I avoid direct sunlight on my face as much as possible, and I avoid things like refined sugars and alcohol in my diet. After that, though, I’m eager to see what I’ll look like at each stage as I mature.

Because aging is life, and life is good.

Calf Encounters of the Third Kind.

Wednesday night after Body Combat class, I met Callaghan out on the floor, as per usual. [Side note: have I mentioned that I’m doing Body Combat class three times a week now, since our gym changed its group fitness schedule and replaced Wednesday night Boot Camp with another Body Combat? I love the extra Body Combat, of course, and the instructor is excellent, but “Find another way to get someone to kick my ass with a varied workout combining strength-training, compound exercises, plyometrics and cardio on a weekly basis during a day/time slot that works with my existing schedule” has since been a lingering, problematic item on my “To Do” list. I had relied completely on that weekly Boot Camp class for strength training, and one thing I’d especially appreciated was that the class was different every time. No two Boot Camp classes were the same, so your body never knew what was coming, and therefore, it couldn’t plateau. Plus, that instructor was excellent, as well.]

[Additional side note: Word did not recognize the word “plyometrics” when I keyed it in just now. This, I believe, points to a deplorable deficit in our system somewhere. I mean, what does it say about us as a society when Word doesn’t recognize “plyometrics,” other than the obvious conclusion that the people who develop that software must not work out?]

[Another additional side note: due to a recurring rib injury I was nursing at the time, I wasn’t even able to attend the last two Boot Camp classes, so I didn’t know it was going away until it was gone. I was still attending Body Combat because there I could power through the pain to the best of my ability and simply avoid the weight-bearing (push-ups) part at the end, but there was no point in attempting Boot Camp class at all with that injury.]

Anyway, so I met up with Callaghan – he lifts weights while I’m in class on Wednesday evenings – and as we walked out through the parking lot, he suddenly remembered he had something to tell me.

“Oh I talked to John tonight!” he blurted.

“John? John who?” I was thinking, John? Jean? Who is he talking about?

“JOHN, the Beautiful Calves Man,” he answered, leaving a silent “duh!” hanging at the end.

“Oh.”

“He told me that he’s a massage therapist,” he informed me.

“So are you going to get a massage from him?”

“Oh yes,” he said. “Actually, I’m going to ask him if I can massage his calves.”

We laughed at his joke. But I had to follow up.

“To see if they’re real?”

“I’m sure they’re real,” he replied. “Why would he put so much work into his body and then get fake calves?”

I went online last night in search of a video about calf implants, figuring I should educate myself. This was the first one I found:

 

 

So clearly, there’s a niche of jokes about calf implants out there. In a weird way, though, the video gives me additional impetus to find time for another gym session each week. I’ll have to give this challenge some serious consideration.

Meanwhile, Happy Friday!

Body Image and the Great Strip-Down

When I sat down to write about body image, I found myself mired in writer’s block before my fingers even touched the keyboard. Where could I begin to talk about this issue? It’s intimidating in its vastness, and thousands of articles on the subject have already been written. So many of us struggle with our self-worth where our bodies are concerned.

What came to mind first was the following incident:

When I was in Arizona, I had a boyfriend whose family lived in a large house in a semi-rural suburb. The lot on which it sat had a modest expanse of lawn and a scattering of shrubbery fringing the perimeter around the front yard. Though it could have used some work, the yard was by no means ill-maintained; still, the neighbors took it upon themselves to show up one day with hedge-trimmers, weed-whackers, gardening shears and the like. They stood on the front porch (I was there to witness it), ready to work. They exuded good intentions with the sort of self-satisfaction that goes with donating precious resources to a charity case.

You see, that yard just had to be brought up to “standards,” and if the occupants of the house weren’t going to do it, then by god, someone else had to. The yard was an eyesore, they figured. It was bringing down the neighborhood. Maybe the appearance of the yard would even decrease the value of their homes. This is all speculation; I don’t know what they were thinking, exactly. People can be persnickety.

My boyfriend’s parents were mortified. They stood on their side of the security screen door at a loss for words. “Thank you,” they murmured… because what else could they think to say at that moment? What do you do with unsolicited volunteerism to correct something of yours that you never knew was wrong?

Good intentions aside, the neighbors came across as critical, maybe even judgmental, and their collective action seemed more insulting and intrusive than akin to a random act of kindness. They actually took time out of their weekends to impose their aesthetics on someone else’s house. “We thought we’d get together and work on your yard,” their spokesperson announced in so many words, full of vim and vigor. I couldn’t believe the nerve. Plus, the yard really wasn’t that bad. In fact, I’d thought I’d seen the same or worse here and there throughout the neighborhood. It wasn’t like this was a shabby yard surrounded by “perfect” ones.

So what about this memory brings to mind the issue of body image? The concept of aesthetic “standards.” Other people’s standards, and the pressure placed on us to meet them.

In this era of obsession with physical perfection, very few of us feel that we look “good enough” to count as worthy. So how to overcome the persistent messages that being attractive (according to other peoples’ definitions) should be a paramount goal in life? How to become impervious to the messages of society-mandated physical perfection plastered all over the media? How to not care?

I thought about it. For me, I found that the answer lies somewhere in this truth: My body is my house, and it’s prime real-estate… because it’s mine to do with as I please. It’s the only thing I truly own, me, by myself. I live here, I want to shout to the tentacles of the media. Get off my lawn!!

The space I inhabit within my body is the same as the space I inhabit within my home, and it’s no one’s business what I do with those spaces. Those spaces are sacred to me. I’m not okay with “good neighbors” on my doorstep telling me what’s wrong on the outside, and I’m absolutely against the idea of intruders coming in to dictate what will happen on the inside.

It seems that we’re fixated on altering our bodies for the gratification of others and to match the innumerable images of what “desirable” looks like. Though men aren’t entirely exempt from the bombardment of these subtle and not-so-subtle directives, women remain the central targets. Focus on women’s bodies far exceeds the focus on men’s bodies. Feelings of physical inadequacy aren’t quite the equal opportunity demons they should be.

My thoughts keep returning to that house and its yard. How the neighbors came with their gardening tools to trim, shape and prune the vegetation until its contours resembled their own ideals of not only acceptability, but desirability. When did it become permissible to judge the exteriors of our homes to the point where others will come to impose their ideals on us? The problem is that when any space we inhabit is regarded with a critical eye, it’s difficult to avoid self-consciousness… and self-consciousness brings us down. It can lead to irrational thinking about how we can “fix” ourselves. It can lead to self-starvation and self-mutilation in our quest to comply with the beauty ideals of our time.

It’s like comparing our living spaces to those of others. We find ourselves examining the walls that surround us, becoming as critical of them as our critics… maybe even more so, since it’s true that we’re often our own worst critics. Suddenly, what we have isn’t good enough. Where we are isn’t good enough.

Then we think about it. We take stock of what we need, compare it to what we have, and then realize how lucky we are. We have a functional structure in which to live.

We have somewhere to lay our heads when we’re tired. Somewhere to bathe our bodies. Somewhere to sit and think and be alone. Somewhere to spend intimate time with others when we don’t want to interact in public. Somewhere to store, keep, admire, use and enjoy the things we have.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could feel this appreciative and secure within the homes that are our bodies?

Now that current economic realities have somewhat stifled the “keep up with the Joneses” mindset that influenced our sense of self-worth in the extravagant ’80’s, why can’t we nudge ourselves out of that same mentality where our bodies are concerned? Why continue trying to “keep up with” anybody in terms of how we look?

There’s just no point in comparing ourselves to others.

So I ask myself this question: If make a list of things I need in order to feel good about myself, what would it look like?

I came up with this: Lasting harmony, growth and passion with my life partner. Mental, spiritual, physical and emotional health. Contentment and joy. Accomplishment and satisfaction. Triumph and progress. Acceptance and dignity.

The list isn’t without its “oh my god impossible” factor, but it’s invigorating nonetheless. I feel motivated for the right reasons. It’s time to separate my body from my self-worth, and I can start by trying to shrug off the bullshit messages of our body-centric society. In doing so, I’m freeing myself to nurture and enrich other areas of my being and my life. I’m happy with my aspirations to focus on interiors, rather than exteriors.

For one thing, I know that when I look in the mirror, there are more terrible things I could see than my physical “imperfections.”

I wouldn’t want to look in the mirror and see money I don’t have, and feel poor. I wouldn’t want to see what’s gone from my life, and feel a desperate vacancy. I wouldn’t want to see what’s been taken away, and find ghosts where my reflection should be. I wouldn’t want to see the pride I can’t swallow or the temper I can’t control. I certainly wouldn’t want to look in the mirror and find a guilty conscience in the aversion of my gaze, because above all, I have to be able to look into my own eyes. That is where I should see beauty. And that’s where others should see it, too.

What feels healthy and good on the inside diminishes the importance of what people see on the outside, and that renders them impotent. My self-worth becomes immutable.

So this is the strip-down, the way I see it. I’ll make a point of baring myself to the elements every once in a while, just as a reminder of the value of what’s really there. I could stand in my entryway completely naked while I’m at it. Come and tell me what needs to be fixed. I might hold a mirror up to your face before I quietly close the door.