I knew something was wrong when my husband and sons greeted me one Saturday morning with breakfast in bed. I wanted to believe they were just being nice, but for weeks they had been walking on eggshells. My husband, David, had been saying things like, “You know I love you, right?” Conrad, our 10-year-old, started setting the table without being asked, and Dashiell, our 7-year-old, came up to me and said, apropos of nothing, “Thanks for being my mom.”
Other women would probably be delighted with their family’s spontaneous affection, but it just made me suspicious. Still, when that breakfast arrived and the boys snuggled up to me, I thought, You know, maybe it really is just love. I asked David to take a picture of us. And as soon as I saw the photo, I realized what the room service was all about. I looked angry. My family thought I was mad…because my Botox and fillers had worn off.
As I age, I don’t look older so much as aggravated. And I must have looked extremely aggravated after seeing the photo, because David said, “Let’s let Mommy rest for a while.” As soon as everyone left the room, I called my doctor Yelena Yeretsky and told her I needed a mood-altering appointment.
Dr. Y, as her patients call her, is a petite Ukrainian whose clients include international spies, escorts, hedge fund managers, and mothers like me—all people with something to hide, even if all I’m hiding is her bill. She doesn’t just examine your skin; she examines your lifestyle. If you appear tired, angry, or unhappy, she understands why and knows how to fix it.
At our appointment, I found myself talking to her more like I would to a shrink than a dermatologist. “I don’t even care about looking younger; I just don’t want them to think I’m upset,” I said. She studied my face, explaining that the pinched lines between my brows are my worry lines, the stationary lines under my eyes are my tired lines, the nasolabial folds are my sad lines, the shallow lines above my mouth are my bitterness lines, and the marionette lines on the sides of my mouth are my anger lines. Then she added, “The thinner your mouth is, the angrier you’ll look.” My lips are still fairly plump, but I knew she was preparing me for the future.
Yeretsky prescribed a combination of Botox to freeze away the wrinkles on my forehead; Radiesse, a calcium-based filler, to lift away my sad and angry creases; and Belotero Balance, a new filler for fine lines, to smooth my bitter upper lip. It was a lot. Forty units of Botox, three syringes of Radiesse, and one syringe of Belotero. It cost about the same as taking the family to Disney World, but I rationalized it by telling myself that the kids had been so afraid of me lately that they didn’t need a trip to the Haunted Mansion.
Almost immediately after my appointment, our house felt sunnier. Perhaps the old adage “When Mom is happy, everyone is happy” is true. I had cheekbones, my eyes were brighter, and I seemed, finally, content. David’s annoying “Is everything all right?” routine came to a halt, and the boys were clearly more relaxed, dropping the best-behavior act and telling fart jokes at the table again. It seemed too easy. But the actual proof that my injections were working their magic came after a game of backgammon.
My family is a competitive bunch. Fortunately, the boys have appropriate outlets like soccer and robotics tournaments. David and I, however, often let our rivalry spill over into many areas of our lives. We compete over who is more tired (I am), who can fold laundry faster (I can), who makes a better steak (I do), and lately we’ve become serious about backgammon. I usually lose, but since I tend to beat him in so many other areas of our lives, I don’t really care. According to David, though, I do, in fact, care a lot. As we’re closing up the board, he’ll say, “It’s just a game” or “You’re mad I won again.” Or the worst: “You’d be even madder if I let you win.” The more I protest, the more he reassures me. By the end of the conversation, I actually am angry.
A few nights after my refill, we set up the game, and as usual, he won. I braced myself for his customary maddening consolations, but instead, he studied my expression and said, “Wow! I didn’t expect you’d be such a good sport.” I don’t know what my face looked like—maybe amused. I just know that we were both grateful.
I used to think that people see what they want to see, but I’m now a firm believer that the right filler can change that. As David smiled at me, I felt as if a window had opened and all the bad feelings that had been trapped in our house had drifted away. I was relieved to know he thought I was happier—even if my face was so stiff it was hard for me to smile back.
Illustration by Jean-Philippe Delhomme