Botox Gave me an Existential Crisis

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When I was a freshman in college, I had more than one acquaintance tell me I had a doppelganger on campus. None of them knew her, but they'd seen her and thought it was me until they got close up. Okay, whatever, I've also heard I look like the twin of Patricia Heaton and Roseanne Barr. But one day I was crossing the road to the student union and in the crowd in front, I see me. Well clearly not me, but my hair, my forehead, and brows. What the… and then the crowds parted and the woman did not look like me at all. But I then believed them.

I no longer have the same brows as my doppelganger. That is unless she also got Botox.

Other than middle school when I was saving up for a nose job or those couple of years in my 20s when I was trying to burn and/or sand the zits off my chin, I've found myself attractive. I like how my face is changing with the years, it's the coolest science fair project. Yep, there's those Dewey Beach summers and those college years spent in tanning beds. Oh, there's the chickenpox scar. There's the beginnings of an age spot on my forehead. The dash on my nose from my old nose ring. I've embraced them all. But the creases in my forehead were bothering me.

I don't desire any, “Oh no Allie, you look amazing!” responses. You know as well as I do that it doesn't matter what others think, it's you and your opinion that matters. And my opinion was that the creases in my forehead were detracting from the rest of me.

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My face immediately after Botox injections, still at the doctor's office. AKA my “Before” brows (not raised, this was my relaxed face)

So I decided to get Botox. I did my research and went with a highly-rated doctor who is super nice and easy to talk to and look in the eye. He loves his job so much he nerds out on the specificity of things. He walked me through it (and all who watched my InstaStories) and totally impressed me. He also showed how one brow was lower than the other and how he could even them out without freezing my face. 

A week later, the Botox kicked in. It looks pretty great. I don't look as though I'm made of plastic, my lines have smoothed out without disappearing completely. It's so subtle my mom didn't notice, my daughter didn't notice, and my husband didn't notice until I pointed it out to him.

But I see the difference, and it kind of freaked me out.

alison gary in 11th grade
Me, myself, and my high school never-tweezed straight brows.

Over the years I thought I was perfecting my brow arch with careful tweezing and the occasional waxing session. Little did I know, it wasn't perfecting the arch, but the tails of my brows slowly sinking with gravity and age. Look at pictures of me as a kid and I had straight brown rectangles over each eye.

Thanks to Botox I again have straight brows. And every time I look in the mirror it shocks me, like I'm looking at my doppelganger. Almost the same… but not quite. This isn't my face… or is it? If I had spent less time sunbathing and more time moisturizing, if I had drunk fewer vodka tonics and more water, if I didn't try to work two full-time jobs and raise a human being all at the same time… would these be the brows I'd already have? Is this looking like someone different, or a return to my original self?

When you tell people you got Botox, they either raise their eyebrows with shock or else raise their eyebrows with curiosity. More often than not it's the former with a healthy splash of disdain and judgment. Sure you can dye your hair to cover your greys. You can get LASIK to not have to wear glasses. Got tattoos? Rock on with your bad self. Pierce your ears, your nose, your lip, your clit but Botox? That's so vain/dangerous/ridiculous/expensive/self-absorbed/succumbing to the male gaze/worrying too much about what others think.

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The morning after my late-night brow freakout, still wondering who I was and what I did.

Mix that with a stranger's brow and an episode of Black Mirror and you can be having an existential crisis at your bathroom mirror at 11 pm on a Tuesday.

Was this foolish vanity? I thought I did this for me but did I do it for others? The eyes are the window to the soul and I just changed the drapes and the shutters. What does that mean for my soul? How does a face define a person? Who am I? Does any of this matter? Do I matter? What is the purpose of this face, of this existence???

A week later, my new face is my new normal. We've stopped being the person we see more than once in the grocery store to acquaintances. We're almost to the point that we may do a coffee date. I have a feeling within a couple more weeks we'll be BFFs. And eventually, I'll look back at this blog post and wonder what all the hubbub was about. I have to say this two-week eyebrow journey has been the most introspection I've done in a long time. And I'm glad I did it now and not when I was trying to handle two full-time jobs. New brows with no sleep would be cause for much more drama than what I experienced in my bathroom mirror that Tuesday night.

My brows are different, but that doesn't mean they're bad. And just like a horrible haircut, a bad dye job, and a belly ring it's not permanent. But like getting bangs or going platinum, once you get used to it you may decide this is the new and improved You and choose to maintain it. And sometimes the risks we take help us better understand ourselves. They say everything happens for a reason, and maybe my new brows had the purpose of reminding me who I was and how she's still deep inside.

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. This was inspirational! I am 36 and already had some eye work done (years ago at this point!). Genes blessed me with huge bags under my eyes, and I could no longer a) looking so much older or methed out, and b) having people CONSTANTLY ask or tell me I looked tired (cruelest comment ever, btw). I never thought of myself as the kind of person who would get work done, but here I am, and I don’t regret it one bit. There was a lot of mirror staring and internal questioning, though!
    A friend of mine was recently sting she wanted Botox and we all showered her in “oh my gosh, no!” And “you so don’t need it!” It I’m more and more coming around to the mindset of if it’s not changing you, and you feel better, eff it! (And I may look into doing something about my marionette lines..thanks genes!). I’m glad you tried it and got to the other side. Such a journey! And the good/bad thing about it is that it’s temporary, so if it feels too “not you” it’ll fade.

  2. I have wanted botox for quite some time, as I have pronounced “11” wrinkles between my brows. I am excited to read about the rest of your experience.
    I also relate to your introspection – but mine recently came from getting onto anti-anxiety meds! Obviously my change was less physical, more mental/emotional. But confusing to me as well. Who was this new, calm, reasonable person? I was happier, eager to experience every moment without debilitating fear – but was I still me? Had I lost myself somewhere in these pills? It’s been a few months now, and I am enjoying the “new” me more than I would have imagined. (And I know my family is as well!) I suppose any change to oneself takes an an adjustment period. Thank you for yet another timely post.

  3. Thanks for putting this out there. Something a lot of us contemplate but very unsure about. Might have to check it out myself! Thanks! Great article

  4. I would do this in a heartbeat. I don’t have a lot of wrinkles but I have what I call “puppet mouth,” those IMHO ugly on me vertical lines from the edge of my lips down my chin. My father had them, too, and he always called it “puppet mouth.” I will eventually have my droopy eyelids (again, thanks Dad!) fixed as one eye is noticeably smaller than the other and eventually, it will occlude my vision. When I have this done, I’ll also have my Asian eyefold fixed. The idea of not knowing your own visage is familiar to me: when I was about 30, I did WW and lost 70 pounds. For months afterwards I would catch my image in a mirror, or a store window, or even a photograph and not recognize myself. It was somewhat disconcerting.

  5. I’m 46, and I have NO wrinkles on my forehead – not even when I raise my eyebrows. I credit oil of Olay from age 12 through 40, plus good genes. I use argan, rosehip seed, jojoba, coconut and tea tree oils for most of my skincare now. I have considered Botox to prevent migraines. But unless there’s an obvious physical change in my appearance, I don’t see the point. I love your results, and I think you look lovely either way!

  6. Thanks for sharing what you’ve learned with us. Introspection is the scariest, yet most gratifying work I ever do and I’m glad to know I’m not the only one!

  7. I wouldn’t have noticed the change with your eyebrows until you mentioned it, though I probably would have though, “Hmm, something’s different, but I can’t tell what.” You do look fresher and younger, but, to me, it’s no so drastic that you look like so many actresses with the forehead that doesn’t move when they are thinking, frowning or crying. I know you feel it’s a big change, but I think it’s a minor change and you’re still very pretty.

    For years, I thought about getting Botox between my eyebrows to remove or minimize my frown. Maybe that’s part of the reason why I wear bangs all the time, though I’ve been told that I’d look pretty without them. But, one day I’d like to go back to wearing my hair parted on the side and letting my face be seen in its entirety. I’m still thinking about it. I’ll be following your posts to see how your adjustment makes you feel as you grow accustomed to it.

  8. I wish I could write this comment as well and from my heart as you wrote about the use of Botox on your furrowed brow. The outside of your head looks wonderfully well and matches the great brain inside.

  9. For starters, you look great. And your honesty about the whole experience is wonderful.. I get Botox from time to time for my frown lines – when I catch myself in a mirror and look like I’m frowning when I don’t feel cranky, then I go back for a refresh. I probably only get it done once a year or so. But it makes me feel more like myself. I’ve been getting it since I was about your age, and no one has ever noticed (or said anything) …

  10. I have been getting botox, off and on, for about 9 years. I prefer, at 51, to get a bit of an “eye lift” which actually brings my brows to where they were when I was younger…gravity, sheesh. I have never had the “eyebrow lowering” sitch you’re experiencing but many of my friends have and it’s not uncommon. If you miss the lift, your doctor can fix it, cinchy. Either/or…botox is great, you look great, it’s all good, cut yourself some slack, we’re all just walking each other home.

  11. I completely agree with Vildy AND add that I snorted when I read your use of the other c-word 🙂 Keep rockin’ lady!

  12. Long time reader, I’m used to your radiant smile. I always have to ask myself if it’s the clothes that are so very nice or has Allie imbued them with joy. 😀 You’ve really conveyed your introspection here. You look like the hauntingly beautiful heroine of a French philosphical thriller. Delighted or pensive, man are you ever expressive.

  13. Thank you for writing this and sharing your honest reaction. Also, I had NO IDEA that Botox could release forehead wrinkles like that–I thought it was a preventitive only. You look fab 🙂

  14. It’s so refreshing to read something like this. About a year and a half ago, I had a breast reduction. It was something I had desperately wanted for over 15 years, my surgeon was amazing, and the results are better than I even expected… but, to my shock, there was a definite period of debilitating depression afterwards. I felt like I didn’t know who I was anymore, like I was out of place in my own body, and even though I preferred the new body, it wasn’t MY body. I did some searching and found that this is actually a common reaction, but people rarely discuss it. I’m grateful you were willing to be vulnerable and bring it out in the open this way.

  15. Thanks so much for writing this! It is good to hear honestly what the psychological side effects are as well as the physical. I hope you feel more at home with yourself soon!

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