A first date with me usually goes a little something like this: I show up late and frazzled, offer a bunch of apologies, and order a drink. The standard small talk ensues — "How was your day?" "What's the worst Bumble experience you've had?" Will anyone ever love me? — and then, we get into the job-description thing. I explain that I'm a beauty editor and that I write about hair, makeup, and skin care for a living. The guy proceeds to incorrectly refer to me as a fashion editor for the remainder of the evening. Then, the second drink arrives. Halfway through that drink is when dates usually start getting fun. You move a little closer, maybe there's some hand-on-leg action, and the conversation gets deeper. This is when, inevitably, the "Do you love what you do?" question gets thrown out. (And this isn't some fictional formula I'm making up for the sake of this story — like clockwork, everyone asks the same exact questions, making them all weirdly blur together.) My answer, the last four times: "I do, yeah. I know being a beauty editor sounds superficial and like I'm just testing lipsticks all day, but it's so much more than that. I find the psychology behind why we do what we do to look the way we want so fascinating, and I'm really into injectables, plastic surgery, and the science of skin care." Well, if insanity is repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, then I must be crazy, because none of those first dates have led to second dates. And yes, there could be a million other reasons, but speaking as a straight woman, I'm leading with this one for now: Injectables and plastic surgery freak dudes out. And a 26-year-old woman who says she's interested in them is even freakier. The men pull away imperceptibly, raise their brows (which creates so many lines! Relax your expression!, I want to say), and ask: "But you'd never do any of that, right?"
My theory is that men don't like when we break the illusion, when we admit that society's expectation for us to be beautiful and young and effortless and natural actually takes really fucking hard work.
Maybe I should lie. For the sake of maintaining pleasantries, it'd be in my best interest to. But I have this self-defeating disease that only lets me lie about how much I paid for shoes; never the personal, this-stranger-doesn't-need-to-know-this stuff. So, instead, I basically turn into a pharmaceutical sales rep and launch into my spiel about how much I love getting Botox, why it's preventative, how filler injections can actually boost collagen production long after the hyaluronic acid has been absorbed — and, oh yeah, I got a nose job when I was 16. We move on to other topics, a third round usually gets ordered, sometimes we make out by the subway entrance. Goodbye, the end, that's all, folks. Recently, one guy asked where I'd draw the line: "Would you get a boob job? Calf implants?" (The real question, I assume, was: "Just how fake are you?") The hypothetical answer, for me, will always be yes — I'm not closing myself off to the choice to make any alteration to my appearance (for any reason), from now until the end of time. But it just so happens that I like my breasts, lips, and, I guess, my calves as they are right now. In my mind, there's no distinction between a woman who gets lip injections and a woman who bleaches her hair from brown to blond. Only one of those comes with a heavy stigma, though. My theory is that men don't like when we break the illusion, when we admit that society's expectation for us to be beautiful and young and effortless and natural actually takes really fucking hard work — from no-makeup makeup to no-injections injections. "No one wants to know that Oz is just a regular, old guy," agreed my date. It's also true that injectables and plastic surgery have gained a bad reputation — mostly for being done poorly. The average person only knows Botox and Restylane as they relate to the Real Housewives, so they assume expression-less faces and blown-up lips are always the end result of these treatments. "Men think of the L.A. woman who has the Range Rover, the bag, and the face. It's a status symbol to have that injected look, but it doesn't have to look that way," says Lisa Goodman, PA, founder of GoodSkin LA, which takes a European approach to injectables (read: very subtle, very gradual). No one notices all the great work because, well, that's the point. It's why I could say I've never had anyone touch my face and people would believe me. But, clearly, that's not my M.O.
Instead, it's apparently just the idea itself — that a young woman would do something that she doesn't necessarily "need" to do for the sake of vanity — that the men I've met have found so unappealing. It's true, I don't need Botox. I just like it a whole lot. I like the way it lifts my eyes and makes me look less tired; I like the way it erases the two fine lines permanently etched across my forehead and makes my makeup look smoother. And, yeah, I'll say it, I like that when I lift my eyebrows, my forehead doesn't transform into an accordion. No one needs teeth-whitening or eyelash extensions, either. No one needs any of it, but that line of thinking misses the point. I don't hate the way I look, I don't think I'm ugly, and I don't suffer from low self-esteem. And although I think hardly anyone is really, truly immune to the subconscious influence of advertising, Hollywood, and airbrushed magazine covers, I'd be hesitant to blame any of that. I go to the derm's office every four months for the same reason I apply mascara and blowdry my hair: It makes me feel more beautiful. Simple as that. Why anyone cares what means I take to get to that place is beyond me. So when the subject comes up, I'm going to keep admitting to Botox, the fillers I'm getting in my chin, and my nose job, because I'm not ashamed of any of it. And soon, one of these first dates is going to lead to a second date, and I'll find somebody who loves me for me — frozen forehead and all.