It’s ten days before Christmas so I am going to write ten Christmas stores although I may need to draw on themes other than Christmas. So the title of this series is “Ten Christmas Stories that May Not Exactly be about Christmas.” This is #1. It’s called “Scarface.”


Jan - Purple 2

Several years ago, I laid on a table at the salon while an aesthetician painted hot wax on my right eyebrow, laid down a strip of paper, and screech-ripped it off. She didn’t apologize, assuming, I think, that at my age, I must have been used to this. I didn’t have the nerve to tell her it was the first time I’d had my brows waxed.

She repeated the screech-ripping on the left eyebrow, then used a magnifying glass to search for tiny hairs that might have escaped the was. She rolled cold, smooth stones over my eyebrows to reduce the redness. I was silent for most of this. She was so intense that I felt that talking would have been considered a bizarre distraction like chatting up your doctor during a colonoscopy. Better not to engage.

But I couldn’t resist. It was my first time in the land of hot towels and bubbling wax caldrons, dim lights and soft music.

“What would you recommend that I do for my face?”

She stood back from her eyebrow work to consider this.

“What have you been washing your face with? It looks like you’ve been using soap.”

She nailed me. Ever since I’d bought my last jar of the magical, soothing, high school problem-dissolving Noxema, I’d grabbed whatever was in reach. I would never in a million years go to bed or go to work without washing my face. Oh no.

“And are you using a moisturizer at all?”

I didn’t want to tell her that I’d recently bumped up my regimen from Pond’s to Oil of Olay. What could I say? I was raised in a dime store family and was still pretty much a dime store girl.

“At this point, there’s not much you can do except see a plastic surgeon.”

That stopped the conversation. I was beyond hope. I was beyond being charged for false hope. Think about that for a minute, it’s really deep. Like the crevices on my face. Part of me wanted to explain to the aesthetician that my face was the result of years of smoking. How could I be blamed for an addiction? These were scars, I wanted to say. But it wouldn’t have been the truth.

Oh sure I smoked. A lot and for a long while. But what ruined my face was how good it felt to have the sun on my face, to swim and sit on the sand, to have the car window down and the wind and sun streaking my face, to look in the mirror and see freckles and a tan, and to feel healthy and fine. I never thought about the price to pay later. I never cared about later. I only started caring when later came.

I emailed my daughter a few days later, she of the perfect skin, the hat wearer at all times, the one wise about the things one does to be beautiful. I thought it would be good to get her opinion. It was important to me what she thought.

“I’m thinking of getting a face lift.”

She responded in minutes.

“Oh no! Your beautiful face.”

I put away the impulse to change my face. I decided to keep it, own it as it were.

What my daughter said to me, what seemed almost like a reflex for her rather than a long thought-out response, was a gift I’ve kept all these years. A little treasure. It changed everything.

This post was written in reaction to a beautiful post written by a fellow friend blogger at A New Day in which she reflects on how our concept of beauty changes with age. Her post really spoke to me so this piece is just a wee answer back.

2 Comments on “Scarface

  1. Oh Jan, thank you for the most beautiful gift I could receive. I do enjoy life to the fullest and my body is the living, breathing memorial to that life well lived. And my artificial knees are a gift to my Grandmother who had very painful knees but loved me with all her heart and soul. I think I feel another post coming on – which of course will be linked back to yours.

  2. this is a beautiful story, jan. and what a turn-around in perspective. like you, i worshipped the sun, and had no beauty regimen i could share with someone had they asked me. what a wonderful and heartfelt response from your daughter. i’m glad you spoke with her first, before going through with your plan ) beth

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