Snatched Too Close To The Sun
Crimes of the faccia
Having a face is fraught business. I thought of this while watching the delightfully kooky, spooky Wednesday Addams show on Netflix, which includes a common horror trope that never fails to creep me out: people with no faces (click at your own risk). Agh! So creepy! Why is it! A thing! I mean, faces are a person’s primary mode of expression and where most of your senses are sensing. It’s body HQ. To blunt it off is very disturbing to me, as a person with a face. Imagine not having one! I guess my morning routine would be a lot quicker.
The prosthetic work is impressive — seamless, as if real. I’ve seen less realistic cheekbones on supermodels. Although, nobody really knows whose face is crafted by genetics and whose is a result of synthetic intervention anymore, anyway. A face too beautiful is always suspicious. There’s no such thing as natural beauty, in the words of Dolly P.
Beauty is the one pursuit in our meritocracy that is considered a merit undercut by the effort made to achieve it. Resenting beauty’s labor despite (and especially in the event of) its plentiful returns is a corset around the mind — keeps it tight and narrow. Within it, the only permissible beauty effort is one of self-flagellation. Vanity is full of irony that way. Behind every snatched jawline or fox eye is potentially a network of PDO threads marionetting one’s brows towards their temples, or else strategic rivulets of Restylane Lyft buttressing one’s jutting angles heavens-ward. Cleanliness is to godliness is to how keen one’s hand is with Adobe’s liquify tool. Beauty is not just a performance, it’s a whole production.
As someone who appreciates having a face, I do put it through quite a lot. Just the past month, I subjected it to four rounds of EmFace — a thing astronauts do to their bodies to prevent their muscles from atrophying in zero gravity, which has since been co-opted by Beauty™ for giving us earthbound civilians a snatched visage (and also abs). It was for a story assignment (one in which I was mostly chasing a paycheck more than a treatment for once).
Three electromagnetic pads stuck to your cheeks and forehead deliver high intensity facial electromagnetic stimulation to your facial muscles to train them upwards and back. The electro pads are clipped to these tentacles attached to a very large machine. It’s bigger than my air-conditioning unit. I guess it has to house all the energy that vanity demands. Kind of like the very first supercomputer.
In all its non-invasive, needle-free glory, Emface feels most similar to microcurrent in my experience (which feels like when your eye twitches, but in other parts of your face and much more intensely). You simply recline back as your face spasms for 20 minutes and the machine beeps rhythmically, keeping time like a friendly metronome until you’re gorgeous (*ding* I’m cooked!).
This kind of treatment (it’s $6000 btw) (not that I paid for it) is not necessarily targeted towards the likes of me, by which I mean, a person of my years sculpted by the generously plump hand of melanin. But as Beauty™ reminds you in its technically not incorrect way, you can always be beautying at any time. We now have many subtle and sophisticated defenses for vanity’s primary antagonists (gravity & time) in varying degrees of expense and efficacy. It’s funny; the more individual authority we’re given removed of gender, the more we’re able to perform our gender (or just fulfill the expectations of it) in new and innovative ways.
In our relatively new attention-based economy, invisibility is not unlike irrelevance, which is not unlike death. And most women understand that past a certain age, we become invisible. Aging is only a privilege in a society that considers healthcare a privilege. More accurately, aging is an inevitability. You can pay extra for its discretion but not its defeat. Beauty doesn’t change until our values do. You can indulge your fear of death, or you can embrace an unknown rebirth. Both can be as colorful as you like.
For the first time, since I started professionally fucking with my face, I noticed a difference after Emface (not when I’ve gotten lip filler, and not even when I’ve gotten masseter muscle botox have I noticed any marked change). I’m not going to call it an improvement because objectively it’s not. But I have noticed a slight uncanny valley-like alteration that I have started referring to as The Snatchening. (Also, a friend I hadn’t seen in two weeks noticed it, so I’m not just being biased here.) My eyes seem more alert…or something? When I smile, my cheeks lift more upwards than outwards. HIFES is a relentless conductor in our age of techno-vanity.
Faces say a lot, even when you aren’t. I always want to say beautiful things I don’t know the meaning of, and sometimes beauty’s minor metamorphosis is the only way to communicate that. Sometimes involving Pat Mcgrath PermaGel Ultra Glide Eye Pencil (makeup has too many middle names, calm down), sometimes involving the acidic brushstrokes of bleach. Maybe most people I encounter will see only black lines and blond streaks attached to dark roots. Maybe other people will just see a girl who’s trying. And maybe some will understand that beauty is one mercy we’re afforded in time’s grasp. Beauty is an ambassador of love, is it not? I don’t know, but I’ve been re-working my eyeliner skills.
Love is a sentiment I’ve not as of yet been able to decipher without the proper punctuation of laugh lines or crow’s feet, both of which I notice most during a smile. I need to see the accumulation of again and again and again etched onto a face to know you mean it. Faces are much more resilient than we give them credit for; they’re often a reflection of our own generosity.
The tautness of fear is a dead giveaway. I guess if you can afford to reach certain heights, you can take pleasure in those fears. That’s one way to get a grip (literally) on your anxieties. Control is a liquid aesthetic. Too much gets slippery. In a year’s time, gravity will resume its post on vanity’s watch. But who knows? In the meantime, we can imagine so many more ways of having a face.
“Beauty is the one pursuit in our meritocracy that is considered a merit undercut by the effort made to achieve it.“ One of many excellent points you made in this essay. Thanks for writing!
Your words resonate within my soul. I would have written these exact words had I been any good at #1 - writing (describing with words any experience I’ve had or intend to have on any given day) & #2 - slowing down enough to realize that I still need to take roll call in my life and be held accountable for things as well. Thank you for this article. From the bottom of my heart.... thank you.