See what happens when I have too much unstructured time on my hands? The summer I graduated, I blew all sorts of money on an iphone. This time, I just had a slew of expensive dermatology treatments.
It was for purely vain cosmetic reasons --- I was putting on lipstick or something and used a mirror in direct sunlight a while back, and went "aiigh! My skin is terrible!" --- but I am really glad I went. Not only do I say it is a justifiable indulgence, my dermatologist took one look at the dark splotch I hate the most and said, "I'm not lasering that. We need to take a biopsy." Then he took a bunch of pictures on a digital camera and explained to me the differences between my little brown splotches and the big one, which is multi-colored and irregular.
See, here's an example I pulled from about.com:
(It's kinda hard to find good pics on the web that are not absolute worst case extreme scenarios. Most of the pics I found were in the "hundreds of lentigos, oh, and a bunch of melanomas too!" category)
So the dr. explained what a biopsy was and how he was going to do it, as well as gave a quick reassurance that if it was cancerous or precancerous, it was very surface and thus eminently treatable. Plus he said there was a very high probability that it was just fine and we could come back and zap that little sucker later, but it was just good to know that for sure before proceeding. He has had some examples of people going into a spa and having a melanoma zapped instead of properly diagnosed. I like this guy. He seems very trustworthy.
Then he talked me through the whole laser process and the aftereffects and the potential side effects and all that, and I agreed to have the other splotches zapped. He also talked me through the various post-treatment regimens to take care of my skin and not have stuff come back, and outlined various options for what would work. Now, the lasering and all these fancy medicines and sunscreens were very expensive, but I felt very informed about it all, and I think paying lots of money for stuff that has been proven to work and might actually prevent cancer is worth it. (Whereas dropping hundreds at, say, the MAC counter would be fun but not actually part of a health regimen, and more of a pure indulgence.)
I've been to this guy before, a few years ago, and he prescribed a skin lightener instead of the laser last time (which I didn't see much improvement with last time so I gave it up.) So I've been wanting to have this treatment done for a long time and just keep putting it off for money and time reasons.
Ok I forget what kind of laser it was but it is the kind that targets pigments and burns them off, not the "ablative" kind that causes the face to peel. I had to put gauze pads on my eyes to protect them, and then he would press this thing kinda like a big flat pen or marker up against my cheek --- pretty hard, as he said the pressure would prevent me from forming bruises --- and then there would be this little sting and the faintest burning smell. Yeah, that sounds really gross but it was a pretty easy procedure. The pushing against my face hurt the most, and that wasn't too bad. I could see the laser flash through my eyelids and the gauze. The whole thing including all the explanations took a half hour. And he said that while all the crusting and peeling he described would happen to an extent, he usually overstates things and patients come back and say there was almost nothing in terms of aftereffects. He certainly overstated how bad the process would feel, so I'm optimistic about the recovery being nothing much at all.
And now I am happy! At last I have done one of the things on my "I wish I could get rid of this" list.
Looking back at this post I am struck by how many differing patterns of rhetoric I use to justify my beauty choices --- isn't it weird that I have to do a lengthy explanation and can't just do it? And aren't beauty regimens the most Sisyphean tasks of all? Nobody stays clean. Hair grows back, armpits get smelly again. Makeup fades. (or more specifically, smears, cakes, slides, and gets transferred to various other surfaces.) Part of why I've wanted this treatment for so long is that it promises to be much less of a daily effort to improve (and more of the dramatic changes of the makeover instead) and yet, I'm still going to have to put on lightener and sunscreen every day after it heals. And, realistically, I'm still going to change a little bit every day, become a little bit older, a little bit different even though it will still recognizably be the same body. I guess thinking that you can permanently fix yourself in one state like a photograph, that's the real vanity.