Style & Beauty » Vol. 27

To Fill or Not to Fill?

By Alisa Singer

dermal-filler-face-map003Here’s the diagnosis: loss of volume, not (regrettably) from the hips, but from the cheeks and “marionette” area. Portions of my face are not only wrinkling, they are magically disappearing. Recommended treatment: injectable fillers (something like grout, I’m guessing). Also, the deep lines across my forehead are threatening to converge into a superhighway.  They will need to be paralyzed with bacterial toxins or, at the very least, stunned silly.

What now ~ undergo the pain and expense of a cosmetic procedure at this stage in my life? This is not necessarily the classic futile quest for eternal youth and beauty (at least I don’t think so).  My aspirations are rather humble; mainly, I don’t want to look older than I am. (I also don’t want to look older than my mother, who for the last 15 years has been making ample use of the free services of her son-in-law the dermatologist.  At 82 her skin is smooth as glass.) And I don’t want to look older than my friends, to be the one looking across from them at lunch thinking, “Didn’t we use to be the same age?”

And yet, if I could avoid this ordeal, I would. But it would take a blood covenant of all of my friends to refrain as well.  It turns out the critical pledge about growing old together isn’t the one between husband and wife (my husband claims he’s happy with me just as I am and I choose to believe him).  It’s the one between the girlfriends that counts.  And I don’t trust them ~ I’ve known them long enough to know better.
They’ll talk about aging gracefully, the need to celebrate each smile line on our face.  You know, so many wonderful memories…blah, blah, blah. But I can predict what will happen.  Like the big Wall Street firms touting investments in one branch and shorting them in the other, I’ll go grey and wrinkled while they discreetly slip off to their plastic surgeons. Conferring with a bevy of fancy beauty consultants, they will soon learn the difference between dermabrasion and dermaplaning and be capable of locating their nasolabial folds and glabellar lines blindfolded.  To me just figuring out what kind of cosmetic procedure I want seems as intimidating as ordering a gourmet meal off a menu written in a foreign language.

And then there’s the pain (discomfort is the euphemism) and bruising ~ not to mention the need to use precious work vacation time to hide like an injured animal for days (perhaps weeks) after each treatment until the self-inflicted wounds can be adequately concealed by makeup. And then there’s the cost, once every 4 to 12 months at around $750 a pop, maybe $1500 or so a year.  And for how long? Presumably forever, or until I let myself go, whichever will occur first. If I keep it up for ten years, that’s a $15,000+ investment in the infrastructure of my face. Can it possibly be justified? I mean, you don’t get it back on resale.

In my own agony of indecision I’ve become obsessed with looking at every woman I come across that appears to be around my age.  Does she or doesn’t she? Did she lift, suck, peel, fill, or are we talking just a bit of Botox? And though I’d love to take a magnifying glass to my friends’ foreheads, prohibitions of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy are well understood and I’m left to stare and wonder.

The other day I was studying a woman sitting across from me. Her face was pleasingly full and unlined. I wasn’t sure if she had work done or if this was just a happy side effect of being a little pudgy. Then it hit me ~ there are other ways to gain volume ~ other deliciously delightful ways. A few pizzas here, a hot fudge sundae there, a bag of M&Ms before bedtime, and soon instead of people saying, “Don’t you think she’s looking really old,” they’d offer up the classic fat girl back-handed compliment: “Her face is rather pretty ~ if only she’d lose a few pounds”.

I could live with that.  And $15,000 buys a lot of M&Ms. Just a thought.

Alisa Singer’s humorous essays have appeared in a variety of print and online newspapers and magazines across the country and in Canada. She is the author of various gift books designed to entertain and amuse baby boomers. Her newest book, When a Girl Goes From Bobby Sox to Compression Stockings…She Gets a Little Cranky, is available at You can learn more about her work by visiting her website: or contacting her at

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