Embrace the Face You’re Living

Anne Mason and Thea Mason

For all this talk of female empowerment, injecting Botox into one’s face seems anything but. Let’s embrace the face we’ve lived, and let’s free ourselves from this prison of artifice and illusion.

Join my sister Thea Mason and me as we discuss and examine the impulse behind the Botox trend, and a different way of conceiving our wrinkles, gray hair and…gap teeth:) And how these badges of experience serve to empower us.

And if you haven’t read it yet, please check out my related article: Gray Hair & Wrinkles Mean We’ve Arrived!

Transcript below:

Anne:                                         00:01                       Okay. Hi Thea.

Thea:                                         00:03                       Hi.

Anne:                                         00:05                       So we are recording this evening for the first time in the evening, and you are also recording from the road, so we’ll see how the signal works. So this conversation we want to follow on last week’s. Last week’s, we called “Claiming Our Authority.” We were discussing the fact that it seems we’re living in a culture in which people seem to trust outside authority over their own. And we think that’s a problem. We think that people need to get more in touch with their own inner compass, inner guide, inner voice than they are right now. And that’s not to say we don’t value the advice of trusted friends, family, therapists or whatever, when we need perspective and help, but there seems to be a pattern a trend toward looking to experts for almost everything these days.

Thea:                                         01:27                       Handing over one’s own authority, one’s own responsibility, self responsibility to another figure.

Anne:                                         01:37                       Yes. Yes. And as we discussed this, we, we linked it to this, to the fact that image is such a predominant theme in our world, image over essence. You have used this, you’ve articulated this a lot. And the artifice and pretense at work in our world. And we determined that the direction we need to go in to help people reclaim or claim their authority is too recognize image and the value of image––the value of image as a model sometimes for something to aspire to, and to imitate, perhaps ? You had discussed, you had used as an example, like your teacher, you know, who do you sound like at first when you’re trying things out? You sound like your teacher until you make it your own. But it seems as if we’ve gotten stuck in the image and imitation and not moved it to the essence.

Anne:                                         03:00                       And it then led us to an off-camera discussion about, you know, maybe just little steps like you know, we’re makeup free gray hair, not a lot of pretense here, I think. And you hilariously made the joke back to me saying “And I’ll raise you one gap tooth.” And we realized that’s the starting point of this next one. We need to talk about this. We need to talk about your gap tooth and how you came to terms with your gap tooth and the process you went through when you suddenly had a gap tooth as a grown woman.

Thea:                                         03:45                       Yeah. Okay. So I’ll make this real quick. So this gap tooth is made by orthodontia, essentially, a misdirected well-intentioned parents following directions of an orthodontist. And so I had a fake tooth for many years that never felt comfortable. And because of the way the orthodontia experience went, had created a crooked tooth in my mouth, they had like made my front tooth crooked, which had actually given me headaches for years, which led me towards different healing modalities to heal myself when I was young. So, you know, I learned a lot. And then at one point, I guess I must have been in my thirties and my fake tooth that was glued into my mouth had fallen out for a weekend when I was traveling in Indiana, where we’re from. And I was like, darn darn darn it. Here I am! And and it was out for a few days and I felt extremely vulnerable and insecure at first. Very exposed. But in those couple of days, because this tooth had been yanked to the side and was crooked and had been creating pressure in my skull, I started to feel this deep release through my whole being, not having the fake tooth in there.

Thea:                                         05:18                       And so I knew that I needed to take it out. I knew I wasn’t quite ready. I was going to take a little bit of the pain for my vanity or something for a little bit, but I had sort of given myself a timeframe. And so from that point, I think it was about a year later, I took it out. Because I had been sort of just working with envisioning myself with a gap tooth so that my tooth could relax. And you know, I happen to work with children, and I play games as has come up many times. So I took it out and my first day back at school, you know I was a pirate playing a pirate game. So just “Arrgh!” And I really kind of stepped into it and took it on and became really open. And it literally has changed my life.

Thea:                                         06:14                       I was in a relationship that was not super positive or healthy, and the person I had been in this relationship with had even remarked, “You have not been the same since you took out your tooth.” And so that has given me this journey to myself.

Anne:                                         06:35                       All right, we’ll see. We’ll see how this signal goes. The signal’s coming in and out. So you were, you were saying, so this relationship that you were in at the time…

Thea:                                         06:45                       This relationship that I had been in for many years with the fake tooth in my mouth this person had remarked that once I took it out and, and life, you know, I was changing and claiming more of myself and my right to be and to yeah…

Anne:                                         07:08                       Your authority.

Thea:                                         07:10                       My authority. And you know, this person had remarked that I had never been the same since I took my fake tooth out, which, you know, had freed me from some idea of how I was to be. And I do remember, I mean, I was definitely feeling vulnerable and exposed with it for a period of time in the beginning. And I remember probably remarking to you, or at least to myself, that this is kind of like, this lets me know who someone is right away. This is something that stops someone’s way of relating to me, I’m not interested. You know?

Anne:                                         07:56                       Right. It kind of culls the herd right off the bat, right? Yeah. I mean that, that to me, I mean, so many people would have gotten work done to mask a gap in your tooth right there, right? And to go through that process and be uncomfortable over and over meeting the world, you know? That is, that’s growing, right? That’s growing. And that’s, that’s so freeing to get through that and come out the other side. Right? And well that leads me to, so talk about what we were, we had been talking about a little bit and I just wrote a little article about it too––but the topic of cosmetic work and or Botox injections or whatever has been, has come up in my circle of folks of women too. And then you and I talked a little bit about that where I’m trying to get my head around that. That idea of taking measures, which is essentially injecting poison into your face to paralyze the facial muscles so that they don’t move. So it doesn’t form wrinkles, so that we look younger than we normally would look, right?

Thea:                                         09:40                       Young? I mean, can I say younger? I mean, that’s not…

Anne:                                         09:47                       That we look, we look less wrinkly than we otherwise would, right? And I, you know, I touched on the fact that I think there’s, I think there’s a problem with that. And I, again, I acknowledge that, you know, I’ve always been content with the way I look. So yeah, I’m grateful for that, you know, so I understand. I haven’t walked in everyone’s shoes. But you know, I, I like my gray hair. I like these crow’s feet. I like these lines. These lines represent my experience! My, like I put it, my legitimacy. It is who I am. And, and I bring that to the table, right? So this obsession with looking other than we are is something that I think is getting people stuck. You know, it’s not just, I mean, that follows that we get stuck otherwise as well. Right? If we’re perpetually seeking to look different, be different, look different.

Thea:                                         11:16                       Well, actually making this body stuck. I mean, actually, that’s what it’s doing—is making it stop. And that is the opposite of growth and flow. That’s not what we are here to do or to be.

Anne:                                         11:37                       Well, and you know, honestly the way I look at it is kind of like, I mean, we’ve got a life and then we’ve got death, right? So I’ve always looked at it as if our lives and the way we live our lives prepare us for that next very beyond unknown adventure, whatever that is. If we get stuck holding on to something and not moving past it, whether it’s image or other, then I would imagine it’s going to make that stepping through that next doorway a lot more challenging. Right? So you know, and I say, well, we’ve gotten a bit off track here.

Thea:                                         12:27                       We have a little bit, but, so maybe we’ll just find where we’re going and if it’s not, it’s not, but what that makes me think of a little bit is I mean really in this aging, I mean, you’re saying “This is who I am.” This isn’t who you are. I know that’s not what you mean. Like you aren’t your lines, but this is the story of your life that you’ve carried. Right? And really it seems like as we age, the idea is to be able to drop this more easily. This whole thing. Yes. And instead, people are going to the gesture of grabbing it and holding onto it while they decompose, you know?

Anne:                                         13:13                       Yeah. It’s holding onto the artifice. Isn’t it? Holding on to artifice. So I’ll share a little story too. And I wrote about this as well, but I look at womanhood in basically the three archetypal stages of maiden, mother, crone. And I, I feel I’m in the mother stage right now. I mean, I am, I’m, I’m mothering my kids are halfway there, I’d say. And I remember, yeah, right before I embarked on this journey of starting a family and having these children, I was sitting with a filmmaker who liked to just randomly just take pictures as you’re sitting there. And I knew how to take pictures quite well and I knew how to pose, and in that moment, I made this conscious decision as, as he pulled the camera up, to not pose. To just look straight at it, because I realized I was walking through a doorway as I was embarking on this new life and I was no longer the, the maiden. I was no longer the, I wasn’t the ingenue, right? I was owning my, my entrance into the next stage of motherhood, womanhood. And that was very significant to me. But it was a conscious decision, conscious choice. Right? So as I also had mentioned in this article, you know, there’s a place for each stage. We need the maidens and their fertile, supple bodies. But what, what comes with that is also a naivete. And, a hopeful naivete, which serves us very well and serves the world very well, but that also needs to be tempered by the mother, that next stage of woman who has experienced and who has honed her purpose and brings her experience to the table as well. We need her as well. And we also need the crone in her wisdom, in her deep wisdom of life’s experience having gone through maidenhood through motherhood and grandparenthood and even beyond because our perspective changes greatly as we move through life.

Anne:                                         16:16                       But if we’ve got a bunch of we’ve got the maidens sitting at the table, the, the women trying to look like maidens sitting at the table and the crones also looking like maidens something’s off whack and we’re not going to move forward. Right? So I guess let’s wrap it up by, by just, you know, concluding that there is such a liberation in shedding that one stage. And that identity, right? I’m not the pretty young thing anymore. Right?

Thea:                                         16:58                       Right. Well, yeah, I mean sure, yes. Pretty young, I dunno. I just, you’re very pretty. And I think getting prettier, you know, is, is the other thing. There’s, there’s something to a person, inhabiting themselves more fully and completely that is breathtaking. So, so that’s the thing. I mean, I, I think what I would want to take us to a discussion next time is what is it we really find appealing and attractive in people, in our friends, in our lovers? What is it? Because it’s not the lack of wrinkles, right? Wrinkles and gray hair can be just the sexiest, most delightful thing ever, right? So, why? What is it we’re holding onto there? What is it that we are, in a culture, still trying to hold in our hands and we name it as smooth skin. Like what is that? Is it, is it hopefulness? Is it that that’s actually what’s being lost? And so holding onto the image of what we were when we were hopeful? You know, there’s a whole lot in there.

Anne:                                         18:25                       Yeah. and also to kind of, to explore who is driving this, too, in a way. Like, we talk a lot about female empowerment, but this is anything but, right? So are we mistakenly seeking something that is not even that, which is something to aspire to even even on a superficial level? Right? Are women doing this for men? Are men doing this for women? I know some women will talk about the fact that it will up their confidence to look better, to look more youthful and that aids them in all areas of life. But that still comes from some, some original impulse that that youthful look is something that is so highly valued even when you are almost 49 years old or whatever it is. Right? Or 70 years old.

Thea:                                         19:45                       Right. It’s so hard for me to really grasp that, that I just keep thinking that it’s actually we’re grasping after a feeling rather than a looking. Right? And that’s where the image part is––what we can look at in a picture and see ourselves when we were young and didn’t have wrinkles and remember the state of mind, maybe? Or the state of feeling that we were in, and that’s what we’re reaching for rather than actually this skin. I, you know, I don’t know.

Anne:                                         20:19                       No, you got it. You got it. It’s the tangible, it’s something that we can, we can grab basically. So perhaps it goes much deeper than that, but, but the only way we can quantify it, materialize it, is with Botox or facelifts or something.

Thea:                                         20:38                       Or the only way we think we can, yeah. Right?

Anne:                                         20:41                       Right. So next time we’ll talk about that. We’ll see how this one turns out with all your frame stuttering.

Thea:                                         20:49                       Yeah, sorry.

Anne:                                         20:50                       No, hey, it is what it is. We roll with it. Right? It’s all about the substance and not the image. All right. Let me end the recording. Thank you for doing this. Hold on.

Thea:                                         21:02                       Thank you. Thanks for all of it.

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Gray Hair & Wrinkles Mean We’ve Arrived!

by Anne Mason

We put so much effort into toxin free living, why would we then inject it into our faces? Let’s embrace these badges of experience and wisdom instead of trying to diminish, mask or erase them.

My girlfriends and I enjoying a day out in nature together––sans Botox, facelifts or make-up.

The topic of Botox, facelifts and aging has come up a lot recently in my circle of women. I’m almost 49, and my circle of friends includes thirty, forty and fifty something women. Like most anyone, I had encountered or knew women who had had cosmetic surgery or botox injections done, but I’ve only recently become aware of how widespread a practice it has become. And I’m quite shocked.

I’ve apparently been completely out of the loop, but I had been under the impression that the plastic surgery trend had peaked in the US in the 80s/90s and was on the decline. And while I was aware of the practice of injecting something into one’s face to reduce lines and wrinkles, I had the impression it was primarily employed by Hollywood actresses and occasional Ladies who Lunch.

Not so.

Botox has become an increasingly common procedure even offered at beauty salons and spas, and women of all walks and ages seem to be jumping on the bandwagon. I recently learned that women I know in their thirties have been getting routine Botox treatments. And I hear it’s now recommended that women even in their twenties get started on this procedure, ostensibly to prevent wrinkles from even developing in the first place in the normal course of a lifetime of smiling or furrowing one’s brow.

What the….?

I had no idea what Botox actually was. I wasn’t even aware there was any difference between that and collagen injections. There is. Botox is what actually causes BOTULISM! It’s the toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum bacteria which causes the flaccid paralysis which leads to the respiratory failure associated with botulism food poisoning fatalities. People now pay to have this poison injected into their faces to paralyze the facial muscles in order that they don’t move and cause wrinkles.

I can’t really even believe that I’m typing that as if it’s a normal thing. Isn’t this insane? Isn’t this another huge warning sign that our culture is heading in the wrong direction? And even more bizarre, many women who engage in this practice are the same women who advocate for organic, non-GMO food, and who strive to live as toxin-free lives as possible––for themselves and for their families.

How can we resolve this disconnect?

I understand I haven’t walked in everyone’s shoes. I also understand I’ve been blessed with an appearance I’m content with. I’m a pretty healthy, active, and fairly fit 48 year old woman. My parents raised me with an emphasis on physical exercise and health, and I’m sure that’s served me well as I’ve gotten older. And I live in Northern California, where it’s conducive to be outdoors a lot, breathing in the fresh air and taking in the healthy sunshine. All good ingredients toward physical health.

However, I’m still trying to get my head around this idea of trying to look younger than we are. Especially for a married woman who has already had her children. Why would I want to look younger than 48? I am 48!

I know this isn’t the norm, but in my 20s and 30s, I looked forward to reaching my 40s. My younger self felt that by 40, I would have reached an age of legitimacy. An age by which I had gained enough life experience that I would have enough of a clue to be able to own my space here on Earth. That I would legitimately have a say about how things are done. That I would finally touch what it must feel like to be the respected elder in the society.

“Female Empowerment” is a popular slogan these days. A forty something year old woman paying someone to inject paralyzing poison into her facial muscles in an attempt to look younger than her maturely wizened self seems anything but empowered. It suggests she does not want to be who or where she is in life. It suggests she regrets her life’s experience. It suggests she wishes she were younger.

I enjoyed my youth, and I enjoyed my twenties and thirties. But I think most women would agree that there is a unique pleasure in reaching one’s forties. I think we kind of catch up to ourselves as we shed the maiden self in need of approval, protection, acceptance. Women in their forties stop caring as much about what others think or want them to do or be, and they begin to inhabit themselves more fully. Women in their forties take their life’s experience and apply it to new endeavors, new careers, new companies, new directions. In my and many of my peers’ experience, the forties can be a lot of fun. We’ve taken enough turns around the sun to know what life’s about, and we start really enjoying and understanding this human female experience.

I don’t want to return to the naivety of my youth, when life was more overwhelming, and decisions more fraught with worry or anxiety. The future is now, and I embrace all that’s led me here. I regard my gray hair with reverence and respect. I consider it powerful. It represents my wisdom and experience. My smile lines and crow’s feet indicate a life fully experienced, felt and lived. My forehead lines indicate years of expression and contemplation. This is what I bring to the table. This is what demonstrates my authority. My age. My experience. My wisdom.

I am not the virgin maiden anymore. I am a mother and a wife, a homeowner and a business owner. I gave birth to two kids and breastfed them, and it shows. My tummy is not as taut or flat as it was before motherhood. My hips are wider. My breasts are saggier. My body has done the beautiful job it was blessed to do. Why would I want it to look as if it hadn’t been through that blessed experience and rite of womanhood passage?

This life is a process of growth and stages and development. I perceive the three distinct stages of a woman’s life––if she’s fortunate to live long enough––as the archetypal maiden, mother, crone. The fertile maiden brings a supple body and a fresh and hopeful naivety to the table. We need her. The mature mother brings a capable body of experience and honed purpose to the table. We need her. The crone brings the wisdom of the years of maidenhood, motherhood, grandparenthood and beyond to the table. We need her.

But if all we’ve got sitting around the table are maidens, mothers trying to be maidens, and crones trying to be maidens, how far can we go? How powerful can we be? How can we move forward into the future, when we’re desperately clinging to some illusion of the past? If we want to be treated with reverence and respect, we must behave like grown-ups. We should allow our physical selves to reflect the experience we bring to the world, and we should embrace the power in that. And stop injecting poison into our bodies in order to look like little girls.

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