Your bags will be on carousel B – that’s ‘B’ for Botox”.
This quip from the Virgin Atlantic flight service manager got a laugh from the passengers as we touched down in the City of Angels, Los Angeles, where agelessness is often at a premium.
But to many of Hollywood’s finest – and to the rest of us – staving off evidences of mortality is no joke, as the statistics show.
Last year Botox alone pulled in $0.7 billion dollars in America for its cosmetic uses. (It made as much again for its use as a medicine.) Its popularity continues to grow even in hard times, according to the Financial Times.
Its Pharmaceuticals section reported: “Sales of Botox continue to be robust in the US despite a sluggish economy, as ageing US citizens increasingly turn to the wrinkle-erasing medicine to preserve their youthful appearances”.
That speaks to the pressure being so widely felt to cheat the mortal coil and turn back the clock on our years.
In the stratosphere of stardom there are, of course, other ways to claim a tiny slice of immortality – like getting a five-pointed terrazzo and brass star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Here is a favourite star of mine immortalised in the Hollywood Boulevard sidewalk.
The Duke once offered a thought that has resonated with me since I first read it. Asked to analyse his music he pointed out if you cut up a rose to learn how it works you no longer have the beautiful rose.
Could there be a “Botox mentality” that is the self-image equivalent of that?
A friend of mine encountered something of the kind when she interviewed to be a model. The agency director offered words which cut like a scalpel. She recalls: “My hair was the wrong color for my complexion, my nose was too big, my eyes were too small, my mouth was out of proportion, my neck was too long, and so on”.
She adds: “It was devastating! I didn’t cry then, but I sure did when I got out to my car. When I arrived home I went directly to a mirror to confirm all of her criticisms.”
Most of us don’t need a model agency’s opinion to encourage fears of physical inadequacy. That mirror is enough in itself.
But is injecting a toxin, or any chemical, the most appealing or effective way of getting together a more beautiful you? One of the quirky side effects attributed to Botox is it also causes wrinkles.
That friend found a different way to nurture a sense of being beautiful, one that wasn’t effort-free but was painless and pay-less. She changed how she evaluated her self-image. Instead of asking her body or that inner critic she asked some more searching questions.
Walking through an art museum, she asked herself why it was that what is considered desirable differs from culture to culture and in the eyes of various artistic beholders?
And as a Bible reader, she asked herself why physical descriptions of characters in the Scriptures are at best sparse, if there at all. She noted it is spiritual qualities – goodness, wisdom, etc – which are used to identify them.
My friend concluded that physical beauty is “a series of passing phases not the most important thing in life”, and started a daily discipline of praying to know how to grow more beautiful in character.
Becoming more joyful, vibrant, kind, humble and unselfish – instead of critical, ungrateful, unkind, lazy or apathetic – became the focus of her self-image “rather than the physical attributes”.
A few years later the same agency director saw my friend – now a broadcaster – without remembering their earlier encounter. This time her former tormentor was profuse with positive comments on her look and presence.
What had changed?
As my friend says of the encounter: “I was looking in the mirror of character and even she could see the effects. It never was about too big, too small, too long, too anything.”
No stranger to beauty herself, Sophia Loren – another star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame – echoes my friend’s findings: “Beauty is how you feel inside, and it reflects in your eyes. It is not something physical.”
Before buying into the self-dissecting Botox mentality you might just want to pause and look into a different mirror. Take a spiritual measure of the unique qualities which make you invaluable to your Creator and to your family, friends and other neighbours.
You might just discover a truly beautiful you.