Everyone’s getting Botox® and Restylane® injections, chemical peels, microdermabrasions, and such like. Everyone’s getting all of this stuff but me. Having a little extra pudge under my skin has been useful; my wrinkles were naturally plumped, which gave me a more youthful appearance for free. However, thanks to Mike and Alyssa, my body-fat percentage is decreasing. I recently became concerned that I might be losing that extra facial pudge too, the very pudge that had been so reliably smoothing out creases. Might it be time for me to get some sort of anti-aging procedure? But even more important than whether I actually needed to have a procedure done, was the fact that I didn’t want to be the last woman in town to get one. I decided to get to the dermatologist lickety-split.
At the dermatologist’s office, I looked over a menu, if you will, of skin-treatment options. I was primarily interested in getting rid of possible pre-cancerous cells, sun damage, discolorations, and broken blood vessels. After reviewing my options, I decided against Botox® and other injectables, at least for the time being. I still have enough pudge to keep some of my wrinkles at bay, so those treatments can wait. Although chemical peels and microdermabrasions seemed like they’d leave me with younger-looking skin and so forth, it also seemed to me that there might be some unpleasantness involved, such as my face being peeled and abraded. I decided against those treatments too.
I picked one that seemed relatively harmless. I decided to call my chosen treatment “The Alan Parsons Project,” because it is done with something called a “laser,” well, a Candela Vbeam Perfecta Laser®, to be precise. To me, this didn’t sound too invasive. I imagined arriving for my appointment, sitting back in a reclining chair, and having a bright light make several passes over my face, kind of like the way that the light in a photocopier or scanner passes back and forth over an original document or photograph. I imagined leaving the appointment with a chic hat, large Chanel® sunglasses, and lots of sunscreen. (For this part of my fantasy to come true, I would first have to acquire a chic hat and Chanel® sunglasses, of course.) And I imagined that the most unpleasant part of “The Alan Parsons Project” would be wearing little goggles during the procedure that might smear my mascara. My overactive imagination and I scheduled an appointment for the following week.
I arrived on time for my appointment and was escorted back to the treatment room. I was seated in a reclining chair just like I imagined. I was asked to sign a form with a lot of fine print, which I did without reading. (Lawyers never read anything they sign.) The physician’s assistant was very nice, and asked if I was comfortable, which I was. Then she handed me two rubber balls. Looking at the balls, I rather glibly joked with her, “If you’d handed these balls to my husband, he’d have started juggling them immediately – by the way, what are these balls for?” She answered, “They’re stress balls. You can squeeze them when you feel pain.” I looked down at the balls again, and I noticed that they were yellow with little smiley faces on them. “Um, what pain?” I inquired. The physician’s assistant explained, “Oh, on a scale of one to ten, some people say it’s a ten, but most think it’s only a five.” “Um, level five pain from what?” I stammered. “They say that the laser feels like a rubber band snapping on your face,” she explained. “Oh, oh my, well, I must say this is surprising news. I don’t suppose there’s a way to numb my face first?” I said, trying to make my now-squeaky voice sound casual. “No,” she chuckled. I looked down at the smiley-faced balls, considered dropping them and bolting out the door, but then thought, “How bad are rubber band snaps really?” Besides, I had already ponied up a $100 nonrefundable deposit.
The doctor came in, introduced himself, and said he was going to do a test spot first. He placed cotton pads over my eyes and then covered them with goggles. Next, the doctor touched my cheek with something that I couldn’t see, but I sure did feel it. First there was an icy blast of air, and then SNAP, a hot rubber band hit my face. “How was that?” he asked. “Well, if that’s all you’re going to do, then not too bad. But if you plan on doing that over and over again, I expect it will hurt some after awhile.” He laughed, told me to relax, and then began snapping the living daylights out of my cheeks. Although I briefly considered grabbing his, I held on to the smiley-faced balls instead, but I tried to squeeze them surreptitiously so that the doctor wouldn’t think that I was a big baby. After a lot of snapping and me trying to pretend I was just fine, it stopped. Then I resumed breathing before the lack of oxygen killed off my last brain cell. Alas, the doctor quickly dashed my fervent hope that the worst was over when he said that he would now start working over and around my nose. He warned me that my nose would be more sensitive than my cheeks had been. Um, yeah, you could say it was more sensitive – a little less like snapping rubber bands and a little more like someone repeatedly snapping wet locker-room towels on my nose. I squeezed the holy heck out of those little yellow balls with their sadistically smiling faces.
They removed my goggles when it was over; the cotton pads underneath were soaked from my eyes having watered profusely during the procedure. The doctor looked my face over and said, “Hmm. Very nice results. I think you’ll only need one or two more treatments.” I looked up, too stunned to speak. He smiled and left the room. What the heck? I had totally imagined this to be a one-time deal, after which I’d live happily ever after with perfect skin. (My imagination apparently has ADHD.) Then the physician’s assistant asked me to wait for a moment while she got me an ice pack. An ice pack? “What might that be for?” I wondered. She returned shortly and told me to keep the ice pack on my face as much as possible to help with the swelling. “Swelling? Really? Huh. How much swelling will I have?” I asked. “Everyone is different, but most people have pain, redness, discoloration, and swelling for a few days, some for up to two weeks,” she replied. I should have read the dang paper I signed.
I headed home and didn’t feel much pain, really. I iced my face until I was sure that frostbite was setting in, and then went to my computer to answer emails and write blog posts and stuff. A short while later, as I was looking at the screen, I noticed that I could see my cheeks. Without looking down at all, facing the screen, I could see my cheeks. Uh oh. I got up to look in the mirror and could not believe my swelling eyes. My face was puffy, very, very puffy. But worse than the puffiness, was the fact that my face was fraught with fleshy white bumps and red valleys. My cheeks had more moguls than a ski run in Mammoth. In fact, I realized shrewdly that the bumpiness trumped the puffiness, making me look less like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and more like Tommy Lee Jones. All that I needed was a dark blue jacket and a Glock, and I could have been mistaken for the star of U.S. Marshals. I went for a fresh ice pack. Then I called Trish to cancel dinner that night lest I frighten little Henry. The next morning when I woke up, the bumpiness had somewhat subsided, but I realized that I must have been sleeping mostly on one side because the right side of my face was more swollen than the left, causing my right eye to appear droopy. I quickly accepted the truth that the onset of the drooping eye brought the demise of my chances for a part in the next Ghostbusters or U.S. Marshals sequel. On the bright side, I thought maybe it might help me land a starring role in Rocky VII.
After a couple of days, most of the swelling was gone. It has been over a week now, and I’m not sure if my skin looks that much different than it did before. But I’m going back next month to do “The Alan Parsons Project” again in case my skin might look even better. And besides, everybody does more than one treatment. Let’s just chalk this whole thing up to a bout of mid-life peer pressure, shall we?