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Sprucing Up

Or, aging isn’t for sissies

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OF A CERTAIN AGE Everyone has a different idea of what “aging gracefully” means. For some women, it includes a little Botox. For actress Diane Keaton, it includes her ubiquitous turtlenecks. (Illustration:

Fifty-three, and I finally understand why Nora Ephron felt bad about her neck.*

At first, I thought it was just 2020 and Zoom, with all the weird camera angles and screens with colors they tell you “look different than they do in real life.” Surely, the computers created colors and shadows – very unflattering shadows – that didn’t exist naturally.

But four years later, it’s not Zoom. My bathroom mirrors – and car windows, and glass doors, and anything else with reflective surfaces – are verifying what the computer screen suggested. Which is, I have a 53-year-old neck.

Even writing that makes me cringe.

Not for the fact that I’m 53. No, I know far too well that reaching a certain age is something to be thankful for. Not only that, but my mother always told me that after 40, you just don’t care about what so-and-so thinks of your shoes, or whether they’re talking to the other moms about you skipping out on the school auction committee. (Maybe that’s not entirely true: I will always care about the mom who was in the corner at a Halloween party whispering that she couldn’t believe my six-year-old daughter had lice. And I will always smile remembering that her son showed up with bugs in his hair two weeks later. But that’s about my children, not my shoes.)

Also, it’s not so much that I care about what other people think of my neck. It’s just that it looks to me like not me when I catch sight of it – or of the crow’s feet around my eyes or the wrinkles between them or the vertical lines sprouting up and down from my lips. And that is where my experimentation with Botox started. 

I’m not new to those shots that are supposed to freeze our muscles in order to freeze our expressions in their youthful states. In fact, I am a multi-year subscriber to the smoothing benefits of a few little pokes of a needle. It’s the best kind of torture. Once, my spin instructor at The Houstonian said, “I want you all working so hard you’re grimacing. That is, those of you who can grimace. You know what I’m talking about.” I did.

What I am new to is the full-on mortification that came a few weeks ago, when the Botox turned on me.

This is what happened: Those vertical lines on my mouth plus the bathroom mirror were finally too much. So while I was in the dermatologist’s office to relax the lines between my eyes – simple enough, and something most women I know have at least attempted – I asked if there was anything minor she could do about the lines on my lips, save for fillers, which are another level I didn’t want to reach. Two tiny shots of Botox, she said, and off I was into the world of women with smooth, unpuckered lips.

For a couple of days, I swore I saw what was supposed to be “subtle” improvement, somewhat softened lip lines that surely nobody else would notice, but that made me excited. A few more days into this happy state, my lips and I went to a mah jongg game with new friends – two women I knew a little bit, and five more I had never met. We sat down to play, and I ordered a Diet Coke with a straw, a big treat. That’s when it happened. I took a sip of Coke, not a giant sip, nothing out of the ordinary, and before I could swallow, the Coke came spewing out of my new lips. Not dribbling down my 53-year-old neck but projecting out onto the mah jongg tiles.

Thank God only one of my new friends saw this play out. All I could do was shrug and say, “Botox?” She understood. Also thank God this state only lasted a few days. I am again happy with my lips and unafraid of straws.

Sadly, as far as I know Botox doesn’t do anything for a turkey neck. There are experts who have other solutions for that, but they’re out of my comfort zone. At least for now. 

For now, there’s Diane Keaton, queen of the turtlenecks. Diane Keaton can make a turtleneck look like the chicest thing you could ever wear. But Diane Keaton is an icon, and most of us would be hard-pressed to pull her look off, especially in Houston.

So collars, especially popped, are my dear friends. I just need to remember to give them proper protection next time I decide to sip a Coke after a visit with the dermatologist.

*Nora Ephron’s book I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman was published in 2006 and remains a classic account of what it means to age in a world where we often think aging is something to be “fixed.”

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