Monday, September 8, 2008


Last Wednesday afternoon, I did something I never thought I would do. I went to my first Botox appointment. Before you start wondering how I could destroy my acting career before it even begins (facial expression, after all, might be an actor's most useful tool), let me clarify: I went with my 35-year-old friend, who had decided that it was time to take her plunge.

There's so much I didn't know about Botox. It has a pretty bad reputation in the United States, where actresses are vilified for leaning on it a bit too enthusiastically. But here in South America, the world capital of plastic surgery, one gets a little nip here and a little tuck there as casually as one goes to the dentist, which is strange because South Americans are far less obsessed with youth than people in the U.S. Perhaps it's the low cost: U.S. $6 per unit. My friend decided to focus on the area between her eyes (20 to 25 units) and her still-invisible (to me) crow's feet (25 units, 12.5 on each side). Price tag: a whopping U.S. $300!

I tried to talk her out if it. Her wrinkles were only visible (to me) when Dr. Federico Zapata asked her to contort her face into the most unnatural positions. Dr. Zapata certainly seemed to know what he was doing, but when he showed us before and after pictures of satisfied customers, I was alarmed at how good the before pictures were. (Unfortunately, he couldn't allow me to take photos of my friend having the procedure done--something about a secret code among Buenos Aires' plastic surgeons.) Even the women in the waiting room--and it was like a scene out of Richard Gere's in Dr. T and the Women--were young, attractive and needed a shot of Botox as much as I do (and trust me, I don't).

But my friend was determined. So I sat back and tried to enjoy the ride. Now I've always been pretty brave when it comes to needles and doctors' tools. Several years ago, when my eye doctor in New York put a drill to my eyelid to drain a stye in my right eye, I hardly flinched. Thankfully, my friend also has a high threshold for pain because the sight of those needles going in nearly sent me running from the room. She teared up and squeezed the balls in her hand tighter. No pain, no gain, she seemed to be thinking. Minutes later, it was all over. Despite a few smalls welts that went down in a few minutes, there didn't seem to be any side effects. The doctor told her that the results would be noticeable in seven to 10 days. After he gave her some instructions--exercise your facial muscles every 15 minutes for the next hour, don't bend over or lie down for the next few hours--we were on our way.

A few nights later, on Saturday, I met up with my friend at a party. I'd forgotten all about the Botox incident. But as we talked, I kept thinking to myself how great she looked--happier, younger. Then she reminded me. Oh my God, that's right! I told her what I'd been thinking, and she was overjoyed. Maybe the Botox was already kicking in. If not, I can only imagine how amazing she's look when it finally does.

But I think Dr. Zapata may have created a monster--and a future loyal customer. Not only did she spend much of the party talking about her Botox experience and extolling its benefits (I've always been surprised by how open non-celebrities are about such things), but now she's talking about getting her boobs done. Someone told her she can get implants for $1,000 (plus $1,000 more for the hospital stay), a fraction of what they'd cost in the U.S. A week ago, I would have told her she's crazy. But now I'm not so sure. As long as she doesn't go for the Pamela Anderson look (my friend is, after all, a tiny girl), it just might be the best $1,000 she'll ever spend. 

The boys in Buenos Aires won't be able to take their eyes off her--or them.
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