Botox was once the vice, or luxury, of the One Percent. But in recent years, this appearance-enhancing injectable has permeated society — becoming cheaper and more accessible than ever. (Thank you, Groupon.) A New York Times article even reported that 1 in 20 U.S. women has had cosmetic surgery, and Botox procedures were up 748% in 2014 since the year 2000.
As the stigma fades, a new dilemma is rising: do our significant others have the right to determine whether we can or can’t get cosmetic procedures? Feminism dictates that our bodies are ours alone. But what if, in the campaign for female independence, this is one needle point that could damage our relationships?
A growing number of my friends have gotten Botox, so I asked: did they consult their partners? The answer was a resounding no. Not only did they want everyone to think they were naturally plumped and sans lines (no one else’s business but theirs), but they also rebuked their lover’s participation in anything regarding personal appearance: clothes, hair, cosmetics, etc.
So I asked my live-in boyfriend, Jose, about Botox. His reaction — something between horrified and dismayed — caught me off guard. “I don’t think you should do it,” he said. “I won’t tell you no, but I would find it unattractive.”
I was stunned. Because to me, Botox is like Starbucks: you never really want to get your coffee from there, but that shit is convenient as hell. Just because I don’t want Botox now doesn’t mean I won’t be glad it’s there 10, 20 years down the road.
In turning the conversation over, I considered my boyfriend’s right to voice an opinion. Botox isn’t the same as, say, fake eyelashes or a spray tan. This stuff has major implications. It’s expensive and (possibly) dangerous. If I splurge on injectables, it may affect our paying bills on time. Then there’s the whole issue of attraction. There’s a chicken-or-egg thing when it comes to confidence, especially in the wake of Botox: even if it does make me feel good, will that last if he hates it? Is not Botox, after all, a sort of race against nature’s clock?
Questions flooded out: am I on autopilot to not let a man influence my looks? This person is my partner — we make plenty of other decisions together. Does he deserve to participate? Would I expect him to tell me if the situation were reversed? If this were a same-sex relationship, would I hesitate before asking my partner?
And then there’s the argument that we, as women, should make these decisions on our own. That once we open the floodgates, it might be difficult to draw the line between where our partners’ opinions are warranted and just plain regressive.
So I spoke to Matt Lundquist, the owner and director of Tribeca Therapy, a center for psychotherapy.
“A terrible situation has been created in which women are expected to look young and in shape well into their 40s and 50s, but they don’t want their male partners to know how much work goes into looking that way,” Lundquist explains. “They don’t even want them to participate in the decision. Cosmetic procedures should be a joint decision. It isn’t anti-feminist. You wouldn’t make a big decision, like buying a new car, without asking them, so why should this be any different?”
But what if it’s just your car?
Lundquist urged me to look at same-sex relationships. Do these couples feel the same vehement hesitation before letting someone influence their appearance?
Wherever you fall on the spectrum — graceful aging, minor Botox, full-on face lifts —is okay. That’s your decision. But here’s the question, and I’d love to know what you think: if you’re in a committed relationship, should the decision around Botox — or any form of plastic surgery — be strictly yours? Or should your partner have the right to participate? If our hesitation stems from leftover feelings of female marginalization, then is it time to embrace the fact that it’s 2016, and today we treat our partners as partners? Is it time to buck gender norms and just be good significant others?