Friday, June 22, 2012

Tales from the Crypt

As the saying goes, "Growing old ain't for sissies."  And it's not for the vain, either.  I have reached that wondrous, magical milestone where my choices are Do Something or buy a red hat.

I look horrid in red.

So I decided to Do Something.  I considered my options.

I could say I was 1/32nd Chinese...

Paying a fortune to end up stretched and scarred didn't seem that appealing.

Or I could get injected with bacteria that would paralyze me, and I could end up looking like this...

Gorgeous Carla Bruni after Botox goes horribly horribly wrong.
Which, though it is unkind of me to point out I nevertheless will, does not look like this:

Bruni as a Chanel model 

 Or even this:

Carla Bruni at 40

I have had laser stuff done on small spots.  Nothing major, and even that was hideously expensive.  And, as Jennifer Aniston attests, it's also not much fun.

 Battered burn victim.  Sounds lovely.

I figured I'd better Google the answer.  Everything is on Google. HOW TO REMOVE 10 YEARS. (Okay...15, but who's counting?)

I found the answer! The TCA peel. And it sounded amazing!  It said it was safe, appropriate for all skin types and that it did all sorts of amazing things. It would tighten the skin, build new collagen, burn off errrrrr....erase lines, remove freckling and sun damage.  Well, sign me UP!

However, the price for one peel in a doctor's office is around $400.00.  I would love to be that vain, but I just can't afford to be.  And they suggest 3 to 4 peels over a period of 6 months or so for the best results. YIKES!  I ran to the mirror and leaned in for a close look.  Up to $1,600 to lose ten years.  Cheaper than a facelift, cheaper than a full face laser peel, but considering that I was currently angling for a new dressage saddle, still out of my price range.

Again Google came to my rescue.  Another search and I discovered you can just buy the stuff and do it yourself! A-HA!  This was right up my alley.  Two of my most notable characteristics are being a Scottish skinflint and enjoying undeserved overconfidence.

I ordered it.  It arrived in no time.  And so began my Countdown to Glory!

DAY ONE: We arrive home from going out to dinner.  It's Thursday evening, and since I know I'm not doing anything over the weekend because, well...that's sort of my life and I can count on it...I prep my skin as per the instructions and put on the first layer. A little tingle. I wait for more. Not much. Not enough, as far as I am concerned. Never mind that the instructions say not to do more than one layer for your first peel. Screw that. I am not going to do this and have nothing happen. I need ten years...STAT.  I soak my cotton pad and put on the second layer.

It had been suggested in the instructions that I set up a fan so that the cooling breeze could minimize the "minor discomfort".  Of course I ignored that because the fan was up in the loft out in the garage and I wasn't about to climb up there.  Besides, I wouldn't need it anyway, I thought.  I'm tough.  Minor discomfort.  Hell, I've had two kids.  Bring it.

As I apply the second layer, something starts to happen.  NOW I feel it.  When it starts to really hit me, I remember the term "minor discomfort".  This is accurate if "minor discomfort" actually means "HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT! My face is burning off! I've been the victim of an acid attack by some Islamic extremist!!  Call the police!  Call 911!  Call Homeland Security!"

All I know at this point is that I am running around the house flapping my arms out of some mindless and autonomic need to dissipate the pain.  It doesn't work -- it so SPECTACULARLY doesn't work -- and after several pathetic seconds of watching me (no doubt with some level of amusement), my husband hands me my hair dryer. AAAAAHHH!  Now I understand the instruction that I set up a fan for the "minor discomfort."  Heartless bastards.  They should have been more insistent.  They should have said, "Set up a fan and have it running because this is going to hurt like a son of a bitch and you will NOT be able to think clearly by then. You will be a mindless beast roaring and gnashing your teeth and you will thank us for insisting you have that fan on."  Believe me, I would have thanked them - I would have sent them freaking flowers - IF they had said it like that.

But here's the upside of a TCA peel. It neutralizes by itself.  In a kind of gross but interesting way, when it's done "eating" the dead protein that it goes after, it just stops all by its little lonesome.  So after about 5 minutes spent regretting yet another DIY project gone terribly wrong, the pain stops and the peel is over.  I rush to the mirror.

White. My skin has a light "frosting" of white over the entire surface.  Yeah, baby!  That is what is SUPPOSED to happen.  I am on the right track.  The pain is forgotten.  I am going to be peeling off the years in no time.  I slather my skin with ointment, take two Advil, drink a large glass of water and go to bed.

DAY TWO:  HOLY SUNBURN.  I awake to a face that is unbelievably tight, swollen and painful; it looks like the worst sunburn I have ever had.  In my twenties I was vacationing in Acapulco and I got sun poisoning.  I swelled like a toad stuck to a hot windshield by some socially maladjusted eight year old boy.  That is how I look now.  Oh good Lord.  I slather on more ointment.  Ten years...ten years...$1, in the bank...

I hunker down.  It is going to be a long week.

DAY THREE:  Not too bad.  The swelling is way down.  I even cake on SPF 100 sunscreen and take my horse for a ride.  My skin is starting to look thick, dark, dry.  Crunchy.  Not pretty, but not hideous.

DAY FOUR:  My husband rolls over to kiss me first thing in the morning.  "Ho-ly crap!"

"What?"  Horrified by his expression, I vault out of bed and crab-crawl over the end straight to the bathroom door.

He's laughing and choking at the same time. "You look like Lew Hayward!"

This is what my husband said I looked like. Yeah...I love him bunches.

By now my skin is grossly thickened, spotted, sickly brown and dried up. It cracks painfully every time I make the slightest expression.  Later that day I put on a hat and huge sunglasses to go out on a necessary errand and honest to God I do look JUST like Lew Hayward.  I hate my husband.  He thinks he's the funniest thing outside of stand up.  By evening I am way past my usual graceful and poised self, despite the wine.  When I can't get my mouth open wide enough to eat a hamburger, I lose it and start peeling strips of dead skin like some maniacal Buffalo Bill.  This results in my looking like a mottled pink and brown nightmare.

Yeah...just like that. Gorgeous!

I go to bed contemplating Ecclesiastes I:
All Is Vanity
The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

DAY FIVE:  I'm in full panic mode now. Apparently all that hideous skin I peeled away was supposed to be left just hanging there from my face.  NO. MATTER. WHAT.  I knew that, it was right there in the instructions, just after the whole fan thing, but I had failed to actually give it any real thought when I attacked myself last night. Now my face is red, inflamed and just looks PISSED at me. A quick (but day too late) Google search brings up horror stories of losing one's patience and digging in. Apparently this can lead to scarring and hyperpigmentation...which would necessitate another peel. Oh crap!  I smear my face with hydrocortisone cream and pray.  Not that I think praying will do much good.  I have found in my life that God is consistently disinterested in my screw-ups.

DAY SIX:  I am a vampire, shrinking from the light. I'm convinced that if someone shows me a cross I will burst into flames.

I have two decidedly red blotches on each cheek that are definitely darkening where I picked the skin off the night before.  I look like Seal with marginally better hair.

But the worst part now is my throat.  Oh yeah...I did that, too. My motto is always go FULL RETARD.  I mean, if you've going to do something stupid, what's the point in holding back? The best decision would have been not to have done it in the first place.  Am I right?
So now my throat is crackly, crepe-y, and itches. LIKE CRAZY! I'm talking burning, stinging, wild-scratch-at-my-throat-crazy kind of itching, as if I have poison oak without the lovely pustules.

Oh...and my neck looks 20 years older than when I started this little renovation project.  Just effing perfect.  More ointment.  LOTS more ointment.  I've had all the water I can drink.  I am not Namu.  I take my bottle of wine with me to bed and watch Firefly episodes until the wee hours.

DAY SEVEN:  Waiting it out. I peer pathetically into the mirror every five minutes to gauge the progress of my neck and the blotches on my cheeks.  The blotches have now turned brown and I'm convinced I will end up with hyperpigmentation - freaking dead center on my freaking dead face.  Lovely.  Making all kinds of promises to myself not to ever, ever, ever do anything quite this stupid again, though I know I will, almost immediately as a matter of fact, because...this:

I am desperately trying to not peel anything, despite the fact that every movement tugs and pulls, leaving me itching and crazy.  I can HEAR the crackle of dead skin and FEEL it flapping, utterly lifeless, every time I move.  Learning a lesson is one thing.  Having the discipline to change one's behavior because of this lesson is an altogether different critter.  I'm a picker.  And I'm no amateur.  When my little brother was small I would hold him down and peel his sunburned shoulders, saving the longest strips like trophies.  Good LORD!  I want to peel this mummy skin from my face and neck but I summon all my willpower.  Who knew that a TCA peel would end up building character?

DAY EIGHT: I wake to what feels, in the dark of the early morning, like a normal face!  I move my face cautiously.  Okay, not entirely normal, but soooooo much better.  Then I see the blood on my pillow.  SHIT!  I reach immediately to feel my two marred cheeks.  One is seriously crusted with a scab.  Damn! No point in rushing madly to the mirror.  The damage is done.  I drag myself out of bed and slump to the bathroom.  During the night the burns on both cheeks crusted over in another futile attempt to heal my impetuosity stupidity, but my left cheek's scab obviously was smeared off on my pillow.  All that ointment I'd slathered on had left it soft and vulnerable to my tossing and turning.  Now my left cheek sports a big, bloody, nasty scab.  My right cheek shows a lovely, large irregular brown scab.  Charming.

"I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille."


I am going stir crazy in the house.  I can't start drinking first thing in the morning and I can't bear to sit inside one more day.  I dump a bottle of SPF 100 on my face and neck and go out for a ride on my horse.  Not entirely retarded, I ride in the indoor arena, staying out of the sun as much as possible.

Today is Thursday and I have a business meeting Saturday morning, of all days, AND it is my daughter's 16th birthday.  Swell.  Just freaking swell!  I've got one more day to break the mummy's curse and become normal again.  If it's even possible.

This picture keeps coming to mind.  Granted, I'm not this bad anymore, but I am now deeply into drama and self-pity, so the screaming is still very much a possibility.

Here I am playing both roles, like Hailey Mills in The Parent Trap

DAY NINE:  Dare I say it?  My skin looks...well...improved is the best word.  Actually, it's the only word.  But I mean improved in a way that indicates that in another week or so my face will look FABULOUS!  The scabs on both cheeks are healing nicely and most of the peeling on the rest of my face is over - even my neck is better.  The fine lines around my eyes are virtually gone, my frown lines earned from years of intellectual contemplation of Serious Matters are erased!  And the overall texture and color are like a baby's butt.  Well, with a touch of diaper rash on each cheek...but...still...maybe...yessss...

I am suddenly giddy with optimism!

There is a God!  And He likes me!  I feel like Sally Field!

I am dancing around the house.  I scoop up the dog and we do a quick tango straight out of Dancing With The Stars.  I assure him that he is a fabulous dancing partner and so will be spared from Obama's crockpot.  At some point in the revelry, I realize there are shreds of dead skin scattered over surfaces from when I, desperate and inconsolable, had picked off a strip or two and just put them down anywhere as I stumbled around in my Quasimodo-like depression.  I make a mental note to do some serious house cleaning.  Either that or I'll have someone come in and give the house a thorough scrub down.  I just saved $1,600.00 for crying out loud!  I can afford a cleaning service.

And a new dressage saddle.

And champagne!

I'd post pictures, but then you would learn my identity and I would have to kill you.

Would I do it again?  I have it scheduled for the end of August.




  1. OH MY GOD! Buttercup! (Your secret true identity is forever safe with me--the world needs superheroes and heroes need privacy--but I have to share your hilarious misadventures.) Do you not yet understand that the easiest way to lose 10 years is simply to deny them? You are a great beauty, glowing from the inside out. Just dismiss unwanted years. If you take the time to cover your tracks, no one will ever know.

    1. HAHA! Certainly less painful, that's for damn sure!

      I have no intention of denying my true age. My deliciously selfish fantasy is to tell people my real age and have them gasp, "No way! Are you serious?"

      That is sweet sweet success.

  2. I love this post - you had me at "FULL RETARD". hahahaaaa

    Also wine with Firefly: hell yeah!

    1. I was drowning my tears of self-pity in laughter and alcohol. A decent combination. I laugh every time they say, "We're humped."

      I have the sense of humor of a retarded 12 year old.

  3. So, in Firefly terminology, you went from "totally humped", to "I'll be in my bunk". Or from Chinese swear phrases to "I'll trade you my rifle for the girl. Her name is Vera.".

    Brilliant Post. And, your secret is safe with me too...Mainly because I don't know the truth, but it is still safe!

    1. Then I won't have to kill you. Which is a good thing because I look fabulous now and don't want to spend any time behind bars.


      Yes. I get the giggles every time they break into that quasi-Chinese lingo when they "swear". And "humped" is my new favorite word.

      Jayne is the best. "I'll be in my bunk."

      Too much awesomeness in one package.

  4. The Jayne Song! My wife can sing the whole thing. Jayne is my favorite too, but Malcolm is the only reason we started enjoying the Castle show.

    And I forgot to mention how awesome I now think your husband is! The only Christmas movie I watch every year is SCROOGED. "We don't want to scare the Dickens out of people...Nobody gets that!"

    1. Well, your wife will think he is awesome, too. He's a veterinarian!

      And SCROOGED is the only movie REQUIRED every Christmas in our house.

      Favorite lines:

      "Now I have to kill all of you."

      "What day is it?" "It's Christmas Eve." "Yes, thank you! Call accounting and cancel his bonus."

      "But, PAID for the women!"

      "Don't let go! They'll think it's a suicide!"

      "You can barely see them nipples." "See? And these guys are REALLY looking."

      "They're like this every day of the year."

      And my husband's all time favorite: "If you can't work late, I can't work late. And if I can't work late...I CAN'T WORK LATE!"

      Soooo many great lines. HAHAHA!

    2. The Jayne Song

      "The man they call...meeeeeeee!"

  5. A vet? That is awesome. Why do you have to live in the PRC? Your husband's favorite is a top one too, along with "You paid for the women!", and 'Towel, towel... towel, VCR towel, towel, Grace most of these are towels, be wrong once.' Another one I love and I believe is Siana's favorite is when he quotes 'Dick' Burton and just mumbles, BUT with emotion! Don't even get me started on Bobcat's character. When he hunts down Bill, I am cryin' every time. That about firms it, I would try anything you suggest as well. I have never met anyone else who thinks Scrooged is one of the most necessary christmas movies ever. I say "Nobody gets that!" all the time to my wife and she giggles every time.