God and Botox
â€œNature is a woman, with lots of wrinkles.â€ -- Anonymous
â€œIn 2001, more than 1.6 million people received Botox injections, an increase of 46 percent over the previous year. More popular than breast enhancement surgery and a potential blockbuster, Botox is regarded by some as the ultimate fountain of youth. Botox injections are the fastest-growing cosmetic procedure in the industry, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS).â€ -- Carol Lewis, Botox Cosmetic: A Look at Looking Good
â€œMy Mama never told me that there would be more than 3 billion people without enough food, clean water and access to medical care. She should have seen the traffic jams in Los Angeles and the good people worrying about wrinkles.â€ -- Forrest Shlump
Some Americans rely exclusively on prayer to relieve stress and the emotional emptiness that accompanies their work life. Others have discovered that more â€œscientificâ€ ways help them cope with the daily strain. The official Botox website offers highlights designed to relive the suburban professional coupleâ€™s nightmarish existence.
â€œMeetings . . . deadlines . . . chauffeuring the kids . . . picking up something to eat on your way home â€“ youâ€™ve got a lot going on. But you know you have to make time for yourself, too.â€
In the linguistic world of advertising, the enunciation of worries and woes means that you can find remedies. For example, â€œyouâ€™ve decided to try Botox Cosmetic. To help you get started, hereâ€™s some help with the first step: selecting a doctor.â€
Thatâ€™s right, some of the very people who have endured the vicissitudes of medical school can now supervise (and get wealthy quickly from) treating the ultimate in medical science â€“ or at least its appearance: stopping outward signs of aging.
â€œCould this be what youâ€™ve been looking for â€“ a procedure that can smooth those moderate to severe frown lines between your brows with no surgery and no recovery time? An improvement can be seen within days, lasting for up to 4 months.â€ Curing death may be just around the scientific corner!
To make sure, while on earth, two Botoxing parents of my daughterâ€™s friend attend church, teach their children to follow the Lordâ€™s word, and even vote Republican because itâ€™s the more Godly party. And then try to â€œimproveâ€ on Godâ€™s design by having venomous botulism toxin injected into their skin for the purpose of creating the faÃ§ade of youth.
In other words, they inwardly achieve the wisdom that comes with aging, but that wisdom outwardly clashes with the obvious signs of the process of acquiring: wrinkles. The advertisers who push Botox happen to be the same folks that offer daily illustrations that only life and the undernourished look signifies beauty, equated with good or goods. Not only is youth beautiful; it can be eternal.
Signs of un-youth are, by contrast, disgusting. What good is wisdom if it means ugly lines on your face, you ask? Wisdom in the fast-paced professional business world translates into not giving away any secrets â€“ including those about how old you are or how miserable you might feel. For Godâ€™s chosen people, honesty has become a professional and social anathema.
Lest any potential customer think that Botox belongs only to the feminine mystique, the website clarifies that it â€œis certainly not just for women. Women may talk about their looks more often, but men are concerned about their appearance as well.â€
A friend admitted that 90% of the professional women she knows have â€œhad alterations doneâ€ in their post-40 lives. The Botox manufacturer understands the fear of aging and, thanks to the advertising geniuses who peddle the skin presser, they can proudly claim that Botox does not discriminate against men.
â€œA man who has pronounced lines between his brows may be perceived as angry or stressed â€“and he doesn't want to look that way. That's why it's not surprising that men are also choosing Botox.â€
Nor am I surprised that the media cast its inquisitive and ever trivial eye on the youthful-looking (for his age) Sen. John Kerry who, of course, denied rumors that his new, â€œshinierâ€ visage comes from Botox.
Teresa Heinz Kerry admits to taking the wrinkle removing injections. Indeed, Teresa told Elle magazine, â€œI need another one. Soon.â€
But who would have expected the cadaverous Dick Cheney â€“ beyond Botox help â€“ to re-plant the Kerry rumor? At the March 7, 2004 Daily Standard Gridiron dinner, Cheney told Terry Hunt of AP that Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz had advised him on the matter and â€œThe Administration takes this development seriously. Botox, of course, is related to the botulism toxin, which can be processed into high-grade biological weapons.
We have dispatched Dr. David Kay ... to search for the bio-warfare agents we believe hidden in Senator Kerry's forehead. If Senator Kerry has used Botox as part of a wrinkle enrichment program, he is in violation of U.N. Resolution 752. Upon receiving Dr. Kay's report, the weapons of mass destruction that Senator Kerry so adamantly insists do not exist ... may well be above his very nose."
If youâ€™re not a billionaire and worry about losing work time, the website assures the wrinkle-faced client that â€œsuch treatment requires little time out of the office. So, itâ€™s possible to have the procedure done during a lunch hour and head right back to the office.â€
After reading those words I thought of the story of the amiable but homely man who at his wifeâ€™s urging undergoes plastic surgery and emerges as a handsome old lion. But as he leaves the hospital with his new comely face, a taxi hits him and kills him. He confronts God, in Heaven, pleading: â€œYou could have put the brakes on that cab. After all, Iâ€™ve been a pious man all of my life. Why didnâ€™t you let me enjoy my new face for at least one day?â€
God replies: â€œHonestly, I didnâ€™t recognize you.â€
Indeed, did God create Botulinum, a protein complex produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, to cause food poisoning or did he really intend it to be injected under the skin to erase frown lines? Mary Schwallenberg, â€œa pharmaceutical sales representative who is excited about her next round of injections, says she wants to look her best for her job. â€˜That's corporate America for you,â€™ she says. `I have a lot of energy and I just wanted to look good.â€™â€
In some particularly anxious, but less than totally affluent circles, events called Botox parties, seminars, evenings and socials take place. The pushers offer Botox treatments at reduced prices and simultaneously calm apprehensions by creating group confidence that the toxin injections wonâ€™t kill you or cause chronic diarrhea.
The over forty coeds nervously imbibe in a common area until their names are called, one by one. They go to an examination area where the doctor collects his fee and the patient signs the consent form. Sometimes the plastic surgeon will provide a local anesthetic, but usually a number and a tranquilizer will suffice. The injector of eternal youth then squirts a few ccs of the Ponce de Leon drug into the facial muscles, usually in the forehead. The newly inoculated one then rejoins the not yet youthified.
Dr. Scott A. Greenberg, in Winter Park, Florida, told Carol Lewis that since April 2003, when the FDA approved the face ironer, he regularly hosts â€œBotox Happy Hoursâ€ in his office. For Greenberg the Botox parties â€œare an opportunity to treat a lot of people at one time in a relaxed but professional atmosphere.â€
How does oneâ€™s brain integrate such events in a world where 3 billion people fear starvation? When Hollywood and Madison Avenue mount their next pitch for America before and after the next war with Iran, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, you pick it, will they include Botox treatments as one of the selling items, alongside reruns of â€œJerry Springerâ€ and â€œWho Wants to be a Millionaire?â€ Instead of having to endure starving children in the Sudan, the natives could experience vicariously the thrills and tribulations of teenagers being filmed in life-style experiments: Reality TV. Now, thatâ€™s exporting culture!
In Iraq, some ex-Baâ€™athists (Saddam Husseinâ€™s Party), have produced a hit show, â€œa version of extreme home make-over called Labor and Materials,â€ according to Mark Dunn in the July 28 Melbourne Morning Herald. The show involves â€œrebuilding battle-scarred homes and filling residences with new furnishings.â€ What a wonderful idea! The United States military destroys homes and a new TV show is born to rebuild them! Now thatâ€™s the entertainment equivalent of applying Botox to aging (destroyed) skin.
Landauâ€™s new book is THE BUSINESS OF AMERICA: HOW CONSUMERS HAVE REPLACED CITIZENS AND HOW WE CAN REVERSE THE TREND. He teaches at Cal Poly Pomona University and is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies.