An alternative path to self-acceptance

This post takes place in Beverly Hills. I’m just going to tell you right now that I go there to get Botox. If anyone is surprised, I’ll be surprised. The path to self-acceptance is paved with injectables.

Step 1: Try to change yourself.

I was going to write a big post about how I’m confessing to getting Botox and then I thought better of it, that it would make me look too old. Then I thought maybe it’ll make me look rich. Because honestly, Botox is really expensive and it’s not just Botox but also fillers. I don’t even know what the brand is. I just go to the dermatologist and say “make me look younger.”

Well, actually it’s not the dermatologist. It was the dermatologist in West Hollywood but then she found Jesus, which I am not opposed to. After all I married a guy who dumped me because he’s a Born Again Christian and I’m not. Jews in general are not militant about religious decisions because if we were, most Jews would not qualify as practicing Jews and then the religion would be .02% of the world instead of 0.2% of the world.

So my dermatologist found Jesus. Fine. But then it wasn’t fun anymore to talk with her about bulimia. Bulimics are like alcoholicsyou never stop being one even if you are not practicing at the moment. So while she put needles in my wrinkles, we’d talk about how nice it is to come home at the end of a hard day and throw up.

But then she found Jesus and we had to talk about that instead.

Step 2: Deflect self-criticism onto other people.

And then she got a divorce. And she has twin girls, and I know you already know what I think about divorce. But besides being immature and selfish and awful for the kids, divorce is so boring. All divorces are all the same.

So all we had to talk about was how much she hates her ex-husband. I nodded sympathetically because, after all, I’m depending on her to make me young and I don’t want uneven lips. But if I were single I’d date him.

So now I don’t go to a dermatologist. I go to a nurse practitioner. I like talking to her.

She put fillers on the bridge of her nose so glasses don’t slip off. But I don’t notice her wearing  glasses. I asked where else people get fillers. She said there are lots of places to put fillers but the most surprising one she has done is knees. If you are a movie star and the director tells you your knees are sagging and you don’t have time for surgery before filming starts, then you can do fillers to fix your knees until you have time for surgery. She says, “The best thing is to do surgery proactively so the sagging never happens.”

I slip back to thoughts of dating my ex-dermatologist’s ex-husband because he’s a plastic surgeon.

Step 3: Focus on demographic trends instead of personal tendencies.

This is a good time to tell you that I think nurse practitioners will revolutionize health care. Doctors hate being part of a system that is inefficient, litigious, and rife with liars and cheats. Doctors want to go off on their own, but the skills that made them ripe for medical school make them terrible for entrepreneurship. So doctors sit where they are, in their hospital-affiliated jobs, moping about the system.

Nurse practitioners, on the other hand, are corner cutters—after all, they didn’t go to medical school—and they are great entrepreneurs. They will change how medical care is administered 85% of the time. Because most medical care is not in a hospital. We can do things differently. Nurse practitioners will lead the way.

For now, it’s in Botox. I like my nurse practitioner for Botox.

So I was in Beverly Hills for Botox but I was early, so I wandered around feeling fat and poor, because that is the only way anyone can feel in Beverly Hills. How rich you feel is relative to your surroundings.  If I had enough money to buy clothes in Beverly Hills I would not be shopping myself. I’d send my stylist. Which makes me certain that every single person walking the streets of Beverly Hills feels fat and poor. Well, maybe the stylists feel less fat, but they feel more poor so it evens out.

I took this picture at Cartier. Isn’t it cool? They curled paper clips into gorgeous shapes and hung them in a spotlight so the shadows spell phrases like, “To be irreplaceable you must be different.”

I became inspired. I went into a glasses store because Melissa says my glasses are bad. She told me to go on Warby Parker and get better glasses.

Step 4: Buy things.

I said okay because I want to be cool and I know Warby Parker is cool. I never actually knew they sold glasses. I didn’t know you could buy glasses online. I think I thought it was pens. You know, Parker?

But then it turns out that you can’t get bifocals on Warby Parker.

And of course then I feel like I’m going to die if I can’t buy anything on Warby Parker because who wants to say they are too old for Warby Parker? So I buy frames for the Farmer. He refuses to wear new glasses. Melissa’s frustrated sigh rings in my ears.

So, I walk into the glasses shop and say, “My assistant says these glasses aren’t stylish.”

I tell him “my assistant” because I never know what to call Melissa. “Friend” seems too casual and distant to me. I want the guy to know that I’m talking about someone I’m really close to.

The guy is tall dark and gay so I trust him to dress me, and he says, “Your glasses are on trend for your age,” and then he shows me a photo of Diane Keaton or someone who looks like her, wearing the exact cat-eye glasses I am wearing.

The woman in the photo looks like she needs fillers.

Then the guy says, “Your assistant must be in her 20s.”

I say, “Yeah, she is.”

He says, “I bet this is what she wants you to wear.” And he hands me glasses that are exactly what Melissa wants me to get: Square, heavy frames.

I send a photo. Call her to get approval.

She says, “What brand?”

“I don’t know.”

“Ask him.”

I ask him. “It’s Oliver Peoples.”

“Great,” she says. “Buy those.”

And she tells me only a Gen Xer would not know the brand of glasses they are trying on.

In the past I’d have told her only a Gen Yer would care. But today I am tired of being old and I am willing to be a brand whore because in the era of Gen Y, that’s what being young means.

Step 5:  Accept shortcomings, one narrow arena at a time.

In order to write this, I had to call Melissa to find out how to get something to write with on the laptop I’m using because there’s no Word and there’s no Internet to write in WordPress or gmail.

“Command space bar.” she tells me.

Do you work closely with people twenty years younger than you? Because if you do then it’s certain they bemoan your technical skills behind your back. If you know what they say then you are a step ahead of your demographic.

I know, for instance, that Cassie and Melissa can’t believe how often I call someone instead of texting them. But it’s hard for me to hear because I was the girl so ahead of everyone else that I got paid $75/hour from a Fortune 50 company to launch their website by hand-coding HTML. I was the Lewis and Clark of online technology.

Ten thousand years ago.

Now I am the Lewis and Clark of bringing Botox to rural America.

Melissa says, “Why aren’t you posting?”

“I don’t know. I hate the pictures I take.”

“You sent me really good pictures.” [This is Melissa talking as my photo editor.] “Stop paying people to take pictures of your life. Only you can take pictures of your life. Only a Gen Xer would pay someone to take pictures of their life.”

I think of all the Gen Y wedding pictures that annoy me. “What about weddings?”

“That’s the only time Gen Y hires a photographer. Go look at the photos I edited. You’ll be happy. It’ll make you want to write.”

“Okay. Send me a link.”

“Send you a link? What are you talking about. They’re in the Picassa folder.”

“I can’t do shared folders on my phone. “

“You mean you can’t do shared folders anywhere.”

“Shut up.”

“I’m sending you my favorite one in email so that you want to write a post to put it in.”

I check email. The photo is good.

I am happy that I can take pictures like Gen Y even though I’ll never be as technically competent.

And to be honest, it’s harder to admit to that than to admit to Botox.


67 replies
  1. Erin
    Erin says:

    To me, you are beautiful. You turn sorrow into song. You create so many good things. Those good things don’t just ::poof:: appear out of nowhere…they grow out of your soul.

    Who cares if you’re competent at everything. You are who you are. You don’t need to be everything. Being “just you” is pretty fabulous.

  2. John
    John says:

    Incredible that Cartier has “To be irreplaceable you must be different” in its window, as it’s the ultimate terror of BH wives that they’re about to be traded in for a newer model.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      That is SUCH an interesting link! Thanks, Rufus.

      I like the term “vertical integration” – it really gets me thinking about business model possibilities. So often people think of business models that don’t scale very well, but vertical integration is a way to make anything scale.


  3. Sharon
    Sharon says:

    The beautiful Cartier window shadow lettering looks like it is the work of Belgian artist Fred Eerdekens.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      You’re right! I’m sure it’s Fred Eerdekens. Each day there is one thing that makes me totally adore my blog. Today it is your comment. I can’t believe that someone reading the post could identify the artist. That’s so cool.

      I looked at his site. I love everything he does. It’s a different way of looking at the world. My favorite one in this set of photos is “Holy Spirit Come Home” (scroll down)


  4. Kathy Donchak
    Kathy Donchak says:

    I love the photo’s, especially of you and the Farmer. If you had a number 4, I think it could be just writing about your wonderful crazy shortcomings makes them an asset because it makes you all the more real. Great post!

    • -k-
      -k- says:

      Yeah, usually this format works out in the end but today the “ramble about some random topics and add headlines” thing did not pan out. Maybe the editor is on vacation.

  5. Rashelle
    Rashelle says:

    Wow, great post. The last line tells it exactly how it is: Getting older sucks. Aren’t there some advantages to being of GenX? I am trying to think…

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Yes. We are way way more innovative than Gen Y (because we have nothing to lose, whereas Gen Y was raised to believe they are great and special and will do great things). And we truly care about building community whereas Baby Boomers feel community is made to serve them.


  6. Tony
    Tony says:

    Just curious what made you interested in dating your dermatologist’s ex (assuming you were single)? Listening to divorced women talk about their Ex’s, they are very keen on convincing people “the Ex” belongs in the 9th circle of hell.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      When you hear about someone’s ex you hear about all the stuff the spouse hated. If you’ve been married you know that everyone is a pain to be married to, so you have to pick the pain you can deal with best. His annoyingness is not stuff that would annoy me very much: Arrogant, self-involved, stubborn. These are not traits that really bother me.


      • Lucy Chen
        Lucy Chen says:

        What are the traits that would bother you, Penelope? If you don’t mind me asking :)

        And your post touched me very much. My heart ache slightly for you, but also feels some joy. It’s hard to explain. Thank you.

  7. Kim B
    Kim B says:

    Thank you for putting such a big smile on my face this morning! One of the reasons I love your posts is that the timing is usually perfect with whatever has been on my mind but I don’t talk about. They are often like little unique, clever, brave, touching, hilarious reminders that I’m not crazy, I just think differently and ought to embrace that more openly.

    It’s my birthday today and an alternative Botox lift on self-acceptance is just what the nurse practitioner ordered. I even need new glasses, haha.

  8. Steve C
    Steve C says:

    Nice writing as usual, but sorry to hear about the botox. My understanding is once you start, you can never stop, and if you do stop, the results are far far worse than what would have occurred had you never done so. Must be a less destructive way to minimize wrinkles.
    As for the glasses, don’t get pushed around by a bunch of GenY/Millennial trending BS. Try all the options on, pick the pair(s) that make you feel good when you look in the mirror. You, not Melisa, made yourself who you are. You did a pretty exceptional job, apparently.

  9. clark
    clark says:

    I am fifty so I’m barely even GenX — I’m a cusp BOOMER of all things. Been doing technology work for ca ten years and I am miles ahead of most of the genX and genYers that I work with. Maybe that’s bc I work for a shitty company though

  10. Logan
    Logan says:

    If you do a bit of research, you will find that Botox is a poison which will probably increase your chances of getting cancer.

    Also, no one likes looking like those celebs who can’t move their faces. They might look great in still photos, but their faces lack expression that is good on camera and In the flesh.

    If you want to get rid of wrinkles, there are a hundred more effective treatments: a. Stem cell injections derived from your own fat b. vitamins such as melatonin and taurine which increase elasticity and collagen in your skin c. face creams from Whole Foods Market. My favorite is Source Naturals Skin Eternal Day cream which can basically renew and regenerate your skin overnight. Those expensive brand name creams such as Chanel et al have loads of toxins which actually age your skin and make people reliant on them, due to their silicone content similar to the marketing of Botox. Silicone temporarily makes skin smoother while suffocating it, bereft of nutrients your skin needs to renew itself. If people knew that Botox actually destroys the integrity of collagen fibers, no one would get them.

  11. Linda Black
    Linda Black says:

    Funny with all this trying to stay and look young forever, the artist you like so much and whose work is really interesting is 63 years young. Maybe getting older has some advantages after all?

  12. Laura
    Laura says:

    When your boys are teenagers, you’ll feel young again (in a strange way) because you’ll be immersed in the latest trends. For the first time in my life, I’m ahead of my peers regarding what’s hot and what’s not.

    • rebecca@midcenturymodernremodel
      rebecca@midcenturymodernremodel says:

      This comment is so true. My son is 15 and all his cousins are two to eight years older than him. I now know again, what is in, cool, and on trend. Snapchat. I know what that is! Amazing in my age group. I don’t understand what it is for but I know what it is.

  13. Maria Killam
    Maria Killam says:

    Whenever I read your blog and I see that there’s more than one picture I’m always excited because you always choose good ones :)
    Great post Penelope, I might have to break down myself very soon.

  14. Kerri
    Kerri says:

    Thanks for owning up to the botox. I was finally going to come to terms with it and then I got pregnant. But seriously, everyone is doing it and not admitting it. At least that is what I tell myself.

  15. Ellen Chamberlin
    Ellen Chamberlin says:

    Totally confused as to why everyone loved this post so much. You’re naturally beautiful and already married and successful, why get botox? And when you live on a farm, who cares about wrinkles or what kind of frames you wear?

  16. Dannielle
    Dannielle says:

    Penelope, this is one of your best ever! Funny and light and self-deprecating and warm and insightful. G-d bless you and your beautiful family. I respect you and your choices – such a good soul.

  17. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    “Step 5: Accept shortcomings, one narrow arena at a time.”

    Yes. That’s the beauty of getting older -becoming more humble and vulnerable as we get to know ourselves better gradually over time at a pace that works for us.

  18. Karelys
    Karelys says:

    I am a fan of natural, barely-adorned beauty. I am a fan of being okay with growing old and having gray hairs and everything that comes with old. Except disease.

    So my first reaction was that I disliked Penelope so much and that I am going to stop reading her column because she’s annoying.

    Then I realized I was trying to separate people into camps of those who do and think as I do and those who don’t. Which is pretty annoying. So as much as I think Penelope is shallow and some of her thoughts drive me nuts, I put myself in the camp of people I would dislike because of my arrogant attitude (and arrogance drives me nuts…in others. In myself is hard to detect.)

    So anyway, this post was so helpful. I don’t know how many times I’ve read about her bulimia. But I battled with it. And up until today I felt like it was still that part of me that I walked on egg shells.

    Reading this post first seemed like she was being flippant about something so serious. Then I realize that sometimes you must mock something to steal the respect and weight you’ve casted on it. So no more.

    And I am freer of it.

    I still she’s shallow and ridiculous sometimes. But I think that she’s so helpful so I’ll continue to read more.

    • jessica
      jessica says:


      Whenever I read your comments I wonder if you keep a journal?
      I think that would be very useful to you.
      Most of your writing is very scattered thoughts and personal to you. It reads as a huge self reflection that comes out as soon as you read a post.

      And you’re ok with it, because you’re 26, 27? Things change….. ;)

      • Karelys
        Karelys says:

        Things do change.

        I don’t know that it’ll ever really matter much. At least not in a detrimental way.

        Sometimes I post self reflections and sometimes a question. I think I’ve grown comfortable in this place so I don’t feel like typing something needs a certain amount of performance anymore.

        When I’m insecure I talk and write in ways hoping to be impressive or something like that. When I’m comfortable I’m just myself and I figure that whoever connects with the thought will do so and have a conversation with me. I like people who speak well but it’s not a requirement to have a conversation with a friend because even when they can’t formulate their thoughts well I pick up on what they want to say and continue talking to them.

    • YMKAS
      YMKAS says:

      I like your comments too much for you to stop reading and participating!!! So I’m glad you changed your mind.

      I’ve started to get some gray hair, very sad. But I’m not going to dye it, because once you start you just keep going forever, and I decided I am going to embrace the gray.

      When it comes to plastic surgery, that’s such a personal decision. My pregnancies gave me excess loose skin, it makes me feel bad about myself. I don’t want my husband to look at me because of it. So we both agree that I’m going to get a tummy tuck for it once I lose my last ten lbs. It’s not a vanity thing for me. It’s getting me back to how I was before kids and being comfortable wearing a bathing suit in the pool again.

      Botox is poison… I’d probably start with a skin peel at that age before I went straight to injections.

      • Karelys
        Karelys says:

        I grew up in a time when people tried hiding that they had surgery for cosmetic reasons.
        It’s hard to judge because even cosmetic stuff that could be seen as a preference crossed the line into a need depending on everyone’s situation. Not that people need reasons to judge. Those who will judge will do it no matter what, those who don’t won’t.

        I think a lot of the stigma is lost once you put it out in the open. You stop being afraid of it.

  19. Natalie
    Natalie says:

    Today I realized how much I really enjoy reading the comments to your posts. So this is just a little thank you to you, for creating such an interesting community, and to those that participate for engaging in it. I learn so much from you all.

  20. John Fawkes
    John Fawkes says:

    This one cracked me up- especially the bit at the end about younger people always being better with technology. As a guy in my 20’s, I often get roped into being tech support for my parents. What really cracks me up is when they end up filling the same role for their parents. When I hear my 63 year old father walking his 85 year old dad through a computer problem on the phone, I just can’t hold in the laughter. Love your writing Penelope!

  21. JD
    JD says:

    Joy erupted in my soul when you mentioned all of the Gen Y wedding pictures. They weary me. In their quest to be unique they are looking like duplicates of one another. Granted, earlier generations’ wedding photos also look like duplicates of others’ ceremonies, and etc. However, they don’t seem to have been quite so intent on being o-r-i-g-i-n-a-l or edgy. P.S., I’m not a photographer.

  22. Leah McClellan
    Leah McClellan says:

    Dear Penelope,

    When I haven’t stopped by for awhile, and then I do, I always feel so much better.

    At one point in reading this I thought “I love you!” But to say that except as a reaction I had at one point in reading this sounds weird, since I don’t really know you, but still. I love you. You’re amazing.

  23. Liz
    Liz says:

    Matthew looks totally hot with his current frames. I agree, why change? But wait, I just noticed that he is being called the Farmer again?

  24. Christine
    Christine says:

    If it makes you feel any better, as Gen Yer, I already feel like I know nothing about technology because my 3 year old niece is better with a iPad than I am.

    It’s not really unique to any generation to be better at technology than their predecessors, and worse than their successors.

    • jestjack
      jestjack says:

      Thank you for sharing your battle “to hold back the tide of time”…what a hoot. Will share that I feel a bit sorry for the “youngsters”…. Just take a look at them they are forever on their electronic devices…Failing to take in the day and the opportunity it brings. Perhaps we are a bit TOO connected….I do agree Nurse Practitioners are going to change how healthcare is provided in this Country…

  25. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    My favorite line is “If anyone is surprised, I’ll be surprised”. Though, to be honest, I was a little surprised.

  26. Cathy
    Cathy says:

    This article was great to read. A real eye opener about the different paths that people need to take to achieve self acceptance.

  27. Marie-INFP
    Marie-INFP says:

    Burst out laughing….

    I tell him “my assistant” because I never know what to call Melissa. “Friend” seems too casual and distant to me. I want the guy to know that I’m talking about someone I’m really close to.

    …and followed a link and bought a pair of Ray Bans for birthday coming up. Want to stay young and hip, and everyone says I look like Beyonce ( really it’s the same round face and crazy wild blonde fro).

    So since Beyonce looks good in Ray Bans figured they’ll look good on my face too. Besides can’t stand going into stores to try stuff on. Rather guesstimate and live with the mistake, if wrong.

  28. Scarlett
    Scarlett says:

    Haha. This one made me laugh out loud. My Warby Parker glasses just got stolen out of my car.
    And I love the part that Gen Y ers would never pay someone to take their photos!

  29. Chelsea_Gerrard
    Chelsea_Gerrard says:

    Absolutely Penelope, this is what I often feels :) I would agree that change is required! It is said to be the law of nature and constant is nothing but redundant. And criticism, I guess it lands us nowhere. Well, thanks for your wonderful words, they are as precious as the rain of bliss :)

  30. Almagreta
    Almagreta says:

    It’s a wonderful post. This story is really good and it is a funny one, too. Thanks for sharing this extraordinary experience of getting a botox in Beverly Hills. I think everyone is beautiful but I totally respect those who get botox and who want to look younger. I am really glad that I got to read your articles especially this one. They are just exceptional and very interesting. I believe that you can definitely inspire a lot of people with your stories. It was fun being in here; I had such an awesome time. By the way, I love the pictures in this post.

  31. Heather
    Heather says:

    I like that you mention about putting fillers in knees. I’m thinking getting my knees to look younger is in my future and I thought that was an odd thing to think about.

  32. m
    m says:

    Dear Penelope,

    This is almost a prototype for the kind of blog you tend to write. It is ostensibly about self-acceptance but it is really just you putting in salacious details of your alleged life just get a higher number of views. I suppose you succeed.

    Are you really bulimic? Do you really have Asperger’s? Who knows?

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