Have you ever made out with a cactus? Neither have I, but I’m sure it feels just like getting a vial of Juvederm in your lip, and I dare any man to try it.
This is why I think Botox parties qualify as “Fight Club” for women.
Allow me to back up.
A few years ago, my son was having a play date in the park. After the obligatory chitchat with the other mom, we segued into an exchange unique to women of a certain age, especially in Manhattan (or LA, or Miami). The moment where you both do a collective sigh about getting older and follow up with some sort of mutual admiration like “I can’t believe you’re 40-something…what do you do?”.
This is not a question. It’s a screening process that reveals whether the other person is part of “the tribe”. For example, if you’re with a woman who can’t raise her eyebrows, yet admits only to yoga, raw foods and sunscreen after you’ve divulged your trade secrets, you slap her and run.
Fortunately, this wasn’t the case with Bebe. We bonded over our dalliances with medical interventions to upgrade what Father Time was slowly stealing. More importantly, she was a knockout former actress with connections into the who’s who of celebrity plastic surgeons and derms. I wanted a name and I wanted in.
What I got was an invitation to a Botox party in an email to an undisclosed list of women. The event promised an intimate evening with friends and the injectable wizardry of *Dr. Bob, an ASPS board certified plastic surgeon in his Park Avenue office. But the real lure were seductively low prices on Botox, Juvederm and free pinot grigio. Even though I was no stranger to injectables, I thought Botox parties were the stuff of urban legends. Like key parties, I didn’t think they really happened except on “Real Housewives”. Naturally, I had to go.
Two weeks later, on a crisp Tuesday night in September, I take a deep breath; ring the buzzer of Dr. Bob’s office and hope for the best. Before I finish exhaling, Bebe flings open the heavy black door waves me in with an extended “hellooo” and double air kiss.
I’m ushered into a plush waiting room stuffed with Beatles memorabilia, a cheese tray from Whole Foods and four alpha women who looked like they were waiting for the gynecologist instead of a beauty treatment.
I felt for them; all we had in common at that point was Bebe and our full frontal vanity.
“Everyone, this is Becca,” said Bebe who was trying to bring an airy cocktail party vibe to an otherwise awkward situation. “Hi Becca” everyone grumbled in polite unison while fiddling with their smart phone of choice. “Hey”, I sheepishly wave back. Oh my God, I think this is what an AA meeting is like, except its Botox. I forgot how much I hate groups, like corporate off-sites with trust exercises and just about any school committee I ever seem to be on. I sat there with my Client face on, scanning the room for the free wine while trying to get to know *Blythe, the yoga instructor, *Viv the media executive, *Erin the documentary film director and *Maude the restaurant owner.
Finally, Dr. Bob finally made his appearance. The cynic in me wanted to dislike this guy, but Dr. Bob was a refreshingly earnest 50-ish guy who had a Beatles obsession. Rounding out the delightful Dr. Bob package was his physician’s assistant and wife, Ruth who took our medical history and made sure no one got too drunk. Although much younger, she was the antithesis of the plastic surgeon’s wife; freckled, natural, fresh scrubbed and not a hint of having anything done. And she was nice.
Meanwhile the wine was starting kick in, but the real icebreaker came when Blythe emerged with an ice bag over her forehead. “OMG you look great!” squealed Bebe, even though Blythe was red and the ice pack covered most of her face (and with Botox the results aren’t visible for a few days). Next up was Viv who got injected with the works and came out with a special escort by Ruth because she couldn’t see with the two bags over her eyes and forehead. The crowd cheered like she just made it back from a tour in Afghanistan. Maude came out with only one bag and a consult to come back to discuss eye-lid surgery, yet seemed elated nonetheless.
Two hours later, it was my turn and I was pumped. I had listened to “Hey Jude” about 4 times and was just buzzed enough to forget I wasn’t riding a mechanical bull.
In the privacy of Dr. Bob’s office, I was ready to take whatever I had coming to me. “Ok, now look in the mirror and tell my what’s bothering you” Dr. Bob asked. “You know, I’m just tired. I mean, I look tired. Just look at all my tired.” I said, not revealing I had Botox only 3 months prior and probably didn’t need much, but I wanted my ice pack. “And I feel my face has melted down to the bottom half. I’ve got the jowls, I think.”
Dr. Bob and Ruth examined my face, cocking their heads in unison. “Hmm…we could do a very tiny Botox touch-up in your 11s and crows feet, but then I would focus on using a little Juvy in your nasal labs and perhaps in your upper lip, but you don’t really have jowls” Dr. Bob offered. “Do you take numbing cream”?
“Nope” I say ready for battle. “You sure?” Ruth interjects with concern. “The lip is very sensitive.” “I take my injections straight, like my scotch” I said with the swagger of someone who has had a third glass of wine.
20 minutes later I emerge clinging to the ice bag on my mouth for dear life.
“You got the lip, you got the lip!” Bebe exclaims as she delicately removes the ice bag to see the results. “OMG you look so pretty, look at the pretty bow, look how pretty,” said Viv, dancing around me while holding her ice bag to her head. “Does it wook good?” I lisp “It weally hut” I say, reclaiming my ice bag but feeling victorious and secretly wanting someone to high-five me.
5 months later, in the dead of winter we had another Dr. Bob event. Some new members came, some went. This time, not as much wine was needed. Summer rolled round and with the sunshine came more Dr. Bob, more us. I started to sit out the injections , but provided ample cheering, encouragement and celebrity gossip.
That’s when it dawned on me; these weren’t Botox parties. This was “Fight Club” for women.
If you haven’t seen the movie, “Fight Club” is a thriller about a group of men who find camaraderie in getting together and beating each other up. Now before you judge, the premise here is that the pain of the physical fighting helps them connect and feel emotion in an otherwise cold, capitalistic world. They’re inherently contrary to “the man” and try to find meaning in life by creating mayhem as a way to establish their own value system. Whatever, the similarities aren’t so far off between the rules of Fight Club and Botox parties, which I’ve rebranded as, “The Sisterhood of the Injectables”.
We’re not causing mayhem or trying to topple the man and no one takes off his or her shirt (shoes yes). But over time the Sisterhood of the Injectables has evolved into to a secret safety zone where vanity is merely the catalyst for women to peel back our armor. Whether that’s revealing the stories we tell ourselves daily just to get by, the lies we tell our husbands, or sharing missed expectations, the filler we really needed was connection.
*Names have been changed to protect the injected. See rules # 1& 2