But those frown lines—they furrow my forehead so deeply that you could sow in them the very seeds of displeasure—go ahead, there's room for the whole packet! Oh, I want more than not having the wrinkles; I want not to be making the expressions that create them in the first place. “I'm getting Botox,” I joke to my husband, Michael. “But not so I'll look younger—just to prevent me from scowling at all of you.” I am totally kidding—and then, suddenly, not. What if I were actually physically unable to pull my face into negativity? Perhaps I would be paralyzed away from my own bouts of bad temper. Studies have proved this, or something like it: A facial expression doesn't simply reflect your moods; it actually shapes them. Frown and you feel sad; laugh and your spirits lift. To experiment now, I pull my eyebrows together and experience instant crabbiness; next, I smooth my forehead, smile, and plunk baby carrots onto my children's dinner plates. They smile back at me, our faces glowing lanterns of contentment. Is mood enhancement one of Botox's promises?
I can't say for sure, since I'm too proud and broke to consider it seriously. Also the word botulism unnerves me. I picture those swelled cans of vichyssoise from the seventies, imagine a kind of rotten-leeks injection puffing my face with poisonous, soupy off-gassing. Instead I choose a moisturizer from the mile of products as specifically designated as greeting cards—”retinol for nighttime fine lines,” “retinol for light daytime protection,” “retinol for the person who is profoundly grateful for her health and happiness yet prone to crankiness and deep creases”—but massaging it into my rutted forehead gives me not only a drop-in-the-bucket sensation but also a scattering of pimples. (Wrinkles and acne—together? Can this really be the natural order of things?) Plus the cream is thick and satiny, yes, but it does nothing for my personality.
This is where the Scotch tape comes in. In the privacy of home, I start smoothing an inch of it between my eyebrows, like an old lady protecting her cabbage-rose upholstery with clear vinyl. Will my face become like the parlor of a fancy house—the place you keep nice only for company? Maybe, but it's actually working: Taped into placidity, I can't really scowl. And Ben can't stop teasing me. “Take the chopstick out of your nose, Ben,” he imitates, his eyes wide, his face pulled into smooth expressionlessness. “I said out of your nose.” But the more I don't scowl, the more my family smiles back at me, and the happier I feel. It's crazy, but true.