"DR. BAKER," I said, "I look awful."
He looked at me with a tragic smile and said, "Fear not. We can do a lift. You'll be just fine."
"I'm 56," I said. "And I think it's about time. Don't you?"
He put his arm around me and said sorrowfully, "It's time."
"Is there anything less invasive than a lift?" I had heard about a nip-and-tucky kind of thing.
"We'll fix you up. Don't worry," he said. "You'll look seven years younger."
"And how long will that me last?" I asked.
"Seven years," he said.
He gave me a mirror, a hand mirror, under the brightest of fluorescent lights. It said MAGNIFIER X8.
I looked in. I got dizzy and started to gasp. Clearly, there was no way out.
In the mirror I saw a wrinkled, witchlike, scrunched-up, squashed face.
The mirror spoke to me menacingly, whispering in my ear. It said, "Without any doubt, you are not the fairest of them all. You are not fair at all!"
I put the mirror down quickly so Dr. Baker would not hear it.
"How long will it take?" I asked the doctor cavalierly. "This new me?"
"If you do an eye lift, two weeks. Without that, maybe nine days," he said. "In any case, it varies. And you can tell them at work that you're going on a vacation."
"OK, I'll do both eyes and face," I said. I wanted to get it over with at once.
And the hand mirror said, though indirectly, I had no choice.
I made a date for the new me, three months away.
How would I face myself, I thought, with a new face?
And how awful I really looked! Why hadn't anyone told me?
But then again, not everyone has fluorescent lighting and a X8 magnifying mirror.
Most of my age-appropriate friends said I looked pretty good.
But let's face it, they had age-related dimming vision.
I left his office and hailed a taxi. My heart was still racing. Was I brave enough to go through with this superficial scalping?
To make matters worse, the traffic was awful.
I told the driver to slow down, please. He took it personally. He said he hadn't had an accident in twenty years.
I explained, with my regular excuse, that I thought I might be pregnant.
He looked in the rearview mirror, and this is the truth, he said, "You don't look like you could be pregnant."
OK, Dr. Baker. That was it.
The driver must have been a plant. The cab had been too easy to get. Baker probably owned the cab company.
We laughed a little, the driver and me, and I told him he was right.
I admitted to a bad back and told him I was 48.
Lying about increasing numbers had become part of everyday life.
I remember nostalgically the days when I asked them to slow down because of my pregnancy, and taxi drivers would congratulate me and ask if it was a boy or a girl.
And now I have to lie even more. I have to lie at work about going on vacation.
Lies, lies, lies.
But there was no other choice. It was now or never.
This was the right time to eradicate the old me. I knew it.
I must be perpetually one age — and I picked 51 and six months.
This would be where I would stay forever.
You see, I must be young at any price.
Young was in.
I worked in media.
Nobody wanted advice from an old broad.
My bosses wanted a young audience.