Sleeping With Your Face Off the Pillow

by May 9, 2024Uncategorized0 comments

Hey queen,

My hope today is for you to recognize your inherent beauty – not the kind curated in the mirror, but the kind that is reflected from your unique collective of memories. It is the kind that we feel more than we see. You are forever beautiful, let’s anchor into that belief together. 

 

I stare back at my own bare faced reflection in the mirror. Something looks… different. I don’t feel tired or dehydrated, I’ve been doing my skincare and I’m wearing makeup, so why do the bags under my eyes say otherwise? Lately I notice crows feet representing my happiness in photos. I notice fine lines running across my neck from staring down at my phone all the time. I notice that if I don’t do corrective exercises for my posture I have neck and back pain and my head protrudes forward. It strikes all at once; It’s happening… Age is inflicting upon my beauty. Something must be done.

I text my esthetician’s office and book a Botox appointment for next week. I decided to stop getting injections six months ago but then what was left in my bloodstream faded away completely and now I’m left fighting my own facial expressions to avoid scowling at everyone I listen to intently. Fuck it. There are millions of toxic chemicals and I consciously avoid many of them, we have to pick our battles, right? 

I sit down in the doctor’s office seat underneath a beautiful chandelier and say to my esthetician, “I’m not feeling my best. I don’t know if it’s all in my head, but I feel like my face is changing. I look different.” Part of me naively expected her to respond with, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, you look as beautiful as ever!” but she nodded along, pulled out a hand held mirror and slipped right into her Zone of Genius.

She begins to explain everything happening beneath the surface of my 27 year old skin. The “fatty pads” in my face are diminishing and my tendency to sleep on my left side is revealing asymmetrical grooves where there was once plump, full skin. She recommends cheek filler in my left cheek and around the grooves of my nostrils. She explains that sleeping on one’s side 8 hours every day compounds with time and basically smushes our face and eventually makes that side of the mouth droopy and frowny. “It’s a real mess to correct.” Images of 60 year old women flash through my mind like a slideshow, I know what she’s talking about and for the first time I feel like I am one with all other women on the planet.

My esthetician is so beautiful and radiant and in no way “overdone” or obviously full of filler. When I first met her I thought she was in her late twenties. I was about 15 years off. She goes on to explain how she sleeps on her side, but with her face off of the pillow. She lays the back half of her head on her hands to demonstrate. I stare back at her with a blank expression as I try to imagine sleeping on my back or with only the back of my head supported on my side. I can do that, I think.

She explains to me that in utero, faces develop starting at the back of the spine and wrapping around towards the front on each side. This is why the facial profile looks different from the left view than the right. If we cut one side in half and replicate it, it’ll look like a literal alien while doing the same to the other side will look like an A-list celebrity. Ah, now I get it. This is why the Kardashians are absurdly attractive – they’ve edited the alien side to look like the beautiful side. What an illusion. 

I nod along, processing my new perception of the world, as she walks over to the counter and calculates the cost of my symmetrical, 22 year old face returning. $1275 for the left cheek filler alone. This does not include the Botox every 3-4 months, the lip filler I’ve been getting for a few years or the filler around my nose. I mask my sticker shock with a gentle nod but she sees right through it and goes on to express her gratitude for her chosen profession saving her $10,000 a year. 

I immediately feel disoriented by the normalcy of this prescription. So this is what women do? How common is it to get this work done? There is a secret underground world of beauty. It settles in that this is the perceived standard women are dealing with. Empathy floods the space that once poked fun at the women with duck lips and frozen faces, the ladies in their seventies who have fought every single sign of age until they become fascinating just to look at. As a woman, fading beauty is fading relevance – of course people are fighting for it with all that they are, no one wants to be discarded into the “used to be beautiful” category. 

We grow up in a vortex of Victoria’s Secret models, hairless bodies, facial filters, and a massive makeup and skin care industry… all harmoniously sending women the message that desirable beauty is not natural, but curated. If we don’t curate our beauty, it is simply not enough and we are not special. Beauty is power and we will always be behind if we don’t leverage it. 

I feel ambivalent about the female beauty standard. On one hand it is clearly absurd, unfair and far too much to try to keep up with. On the other hand, the cosmetologist in me comes alive and loves this opportunity to express herself and play dress up. I feel grateful for all the tools and resources we have to feel confident and untouchable. There are more layers of stigma between men and cosmetic products and procedures, but there is also less pressure for them to look like Ken dolls. 

Beauty has always been a catch twenty- two for me. I’ve always cared about my appearance and as a child this has set me up to be perceived as a “dumb blonde” or “slut.” These words sound harsh, but I use them because I have been told blatantly many times that this is how I was perceived before people grew to know me more deeply. I vividly remember being mocked in front of a whole class of peers by a teacher when I was kneeling down at my desk. Something about “spending a lot of time on my knees.” I was a straight A student who had not yet even had sex, but for some reason I guess I looked the part. Beauty has made me fight harder to prove my intelligence, but it has also played the role of a safety net for me, if all else fails and I trip and fall on my face… At least I looked good doing it. At this particular moment on this particular day, I have no idea what to do with this internal conflict. 

I return home from my appointment and the rest of the day feels dampened. I look back at photos from when Alex and I started dating and admire how soft and fresh and alive my face looked. I had no idea what I had back then, and someday I’ll say the exact same thing about my present day face. I don’t like the cynicism oozing out of me right now, it feels trivial and melodramatic. 

Years ago when I was a hairstylist one of my clients, a woman in her forties, said something I will never forget. It was her birthday and unlike most women her age she was delighted to celebrate. She said, “We either get older or we die.” This stark contrast awakened me to how only the human race can take something so miraculous and positive and find a dark side. Statistics show that simply being born a living, breathing baby with a unique set of DNA is a 1 in 400 trillion chance. That’s not to mention all the infinite ways each of us could have died between then and now – car accidents, illness, violence, fluke accidents, etc. Every single day we wake up is a miracle. Every line in our skin represents a story, a lesson, a memory that no one can take away. 

How have we become so desensitized to this magic and so infatuated with the idea of appearing young? How has youth outweighed the beauty of life itself? Aging may include facial asymmetry, wrinkles and bigger noses, but it is an entirely different beauty of its own. The beauty of age is wisdom, adventure and love that runs deeper than we had the capacity to feel at the nubile age of twenty. The beauty of age is the ability to become calm in the storm and steady in the perpetual changing of the seasons. It’s learning to glide through life instead of running and rushing. It’s recognizing that the little things are actually the big things, and that life is only a series of small precious moments. Age is its own kind of beauty. 

That night I attempted sleeping on my side with my face off the pillow. I’ve tried many nights since and not surprisingly, it sucks. I do not recommend it. Maybe I’ll find a way to comfortably sleep without squishing my precious youthful skin, and maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll make the investment in the symmetry of my face someday, maybe I won’t. I know this journey is just beginning, so I’m casting my anchor today, at age 27. Nothing can rob me of the beauty within that is expanding with every single day of life. Nothing can inflict upon my worthiness unless I allow it to, and I refuse to let my own reflection become my detriment. 

Whether you have been alive for 19 or 59 years, I hope you look in the mirror and see belly aching laughter and the sensation of a magnificent view. I hope you smell fresh spring air and taste your favorite food. I hope you see the healing and growth you’ve experienced through the waves of love and pain. I hope you see past your skin and into your soul, where the memories and passion and purpose will only shine brighter with time. 

 

Here’s to celebrating the beauty of age

Xo – Kari 

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