Val Monroe decides whether she should get botox injections.
Photo: Jonathan Skow
Millions of women are looking remarkably fresh and rested thanks to tiny injections of a botulinum toxin. Why wasn't Valerie Monroe one of them? O's beauty director develops a few new worry lines.
It's not like my face is that symmetrical or anything—no more symmetrical than yours, I bet—but the idea of doing something to it that even in the slightest way might increase the chance that it could become lopsided? That put the fear of God into me. So I canceled my first appointment with a New York dermatologist who had offered to shoot me up with Botox when I told her I was considering trying it for this story. I called her specifically because I know she has used Botox on herself for years, and she looks fantastic, by which I mean she can smile and frown like a normal person and she has no issues in the facial symmetry department. The day before my rescheduled appointment, I Googled Botox, hoping for motivation. I saw before and after photos of men and women who had (purportedly) had it injected into their foreheads to reduce the lines between their eyebrows. A little note underneath the photos read: "Results may vary." And "Chances are, you'll like what you see!" How much may the results vary, I wondered, and what, exactly, are the chances?

I was late for my appointment (snarled crosstown traffic and...ambivalence). As I sat in the calming, all-beige waiting room, I leafed through a couple of magazines—the way you do in that too-fast, aimless way when you're anxious—thinking about why I had decided to get myself shot. Did I look in the mirror one morning and see something—a wrinkle, a crease, a spot—I couldn't live with? Did I realize that I had lost my youthful demeanor and suddenly wish I could have frozen it in time? No. But it seemed that almost everyone around me—professionally, that is—had tried Botox, and, no doubt about it, many of them looked way more relaxed and less troubled than they probably should have. Plus, none of them were lopsided, or limping around because their legs had gone numb, and, as far as I could tell, their brain function seemed just fine. So I thought, "What the heck; why not go for it?"

In the treatment room, the doctor, gracious and attractive as ever, sat down with me. She handed me a mirror. "So, what do you see?" she said. I looked into the mirror. I saw a very worried face, and told her about my fears. What if my brow drooped from too much of the stuff? What if it leaked into another part of my body? "The treatment is really safe," said the doctor. She told me that she'd been using Botox for many years, on patients and on herself, and had only had good outcomes. She stared at my forehead for a second. "I could get great results for you," she said, and patiently showed me where she would inject me: between my brows and just above them. Four little shots. She might give me a little under the sides of my mouth, she said, where it was starting to look a bit droopy. She told me that I might be slightly red at the injection sites for about 10 minutes, that I should move my forehead muscles for a half hour after the shots to distribute the Botox, and that I probably shouldn't lie down for several hours after the treatment. Move my muscles to distribute the Botox? Don't lie down? 

Feeling acutely anxious and at the same time oddly curious, I resorted to an impersonal, reporter-like agenda. As if we were talking about some other woman in the room, I asked the doctor, "What else might you suggest?" "A bit of filler under your eyes would soften the bags," she said. "And your upper eyelids are beginning to sag; if you had an eyelid lift, you would look absolutely fantastic."

I picked up the hand mirror and peered into it again. This time, I looked old, frail, and terminally exhausted.

"All right," I said. "I'll do the Botox."

A nurse appeared with a consent form. I ticked off the boxes, agreeing that various unlikely mishaps, should they occur, were my responsibility. Then, feeling sad and vulnerable and somewhat feebleminded—I had given in, given up, I was damaged by the ravages of age and I needed fixing—I signed the form. I put the pen down. And in that moment, it felt as if a switch went off in my brain, or my heart. "No," I said. "No," I said, "No. I don't want it."

"That's okay," said the doctor, kindly. "That's the right decision for you. Would you like something else?" she said, as if I might find another, less invasive choice from her menu of treatments more palatable. "No, thanks; I'm good," I said. And I fled.

In the cab on the way back to the office, I was both disappointed and happy. Disappointed because I actually would like to see the lines between my brows diminished and I would like to look less tired. And happy because I felt that in a small way I had practiced a kind of acceptance I believe will be valuable to me as I get older. It's hard to come by, this acceptance, especially in my business, and I refute it often: I'll continue to color my hair as it grays; I'll use a retinoid cream to keep my skin in good condition, and probably have some laser treatments. But for now, I won't be injecting anything into my face. Not Botox. Not fillers. You have my blessing to do it if it makes you happy. Maybe it will make me happy one day too.

But it isn't what makes me happy today.

As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.


Next Story