Discover more from How Not to F*ck Up Your Face
Hit the Ground Running
one of aging’s most painful truths
Again, my new favorite ritual: A moment at the top of these posts to thank you (now thousands of readers) for taking the time to read HNTFUYF. If you’re happy to be here, would you please tap the little ❤ above to let me know?
I have landed, finally, in Japan, where f*cking up your face could have so many different meanings, it makes me dizzy. (Or maybe it’s the jet lag.) “Face” is culturally important here in a way it isn’t at home. And though my Japanese in-laws are loving and generous and exceedingly kind, I always feel—after spending nearly 14 hours in a cold metal tube hurtling across the planet—as if I have been dropped into a place where the customs are so unfamiliar that I’ll never understand them.
Just before I left for Tokyo, as I was trying to pass an older couple inching along the sidewalk hand-in-hand, I fell. I was speed-walking in my Hokas, relieved and excited that I’d just aced the Covid test that would allow me into Japan the next day, when I slipped off the curb and tumbled awkwardly and painfully, eyeglasses flying, into the path of said couple—who now, gazing down at me, addressed me with the kind of concern reserved for old people who fall in the street. The knuckles on my left hand were scraped, dripping blood. I sat reeling on the ground. The woman asked me many times if I was all right, insisted I shouldn’t get up, and apologized for not trying to help me as she had a bad back. Looking at her, I realized she was probably younger than I. “I was trying to pass you,” I said with irritation. Then my Apple watch chimed in: I see you fell. Are you okay? My left arm hurt when I raised it to answer, afraid that if I didn’t, the watch would automatically dispatch an ambulance. I hit the I’m okay option. Are you sure you don’t need help? “F*ck off,” I said.
When I shakily stood up, assured the couple I didn’t want to go to Urgent Care, and watched them inch away, I had a very uncomfortable feeling, unrelated to my bloody knuckles and aching ribs.
I felt old.
Arriving at a certain age, you understand why some old people scowl when they walk. They’re scowling because it hurts. I already knew this before my doctor suggested I’d bruised—and maybe even cracked—a couple of ribs in my fall, but the unambiguous connection between looking youthful and not hurting became much clearer.
Even trying to maintain not hurting can make you feel vulnerable (and old). I recognized that as I crept down the steep Tokyo metro stairs the other day, my hand hovering over the guardrail, and explained to my four-year-old granddaughter, M, that my sole goal was to get to the bottom without breaking my neck.
“Why do old people’s bodies wear out?” she asked after watching me limp toward the bathroom this morning wearing what I can only imagine was a face most unyouthfully arranged. “Do you want the simple answer or the complicated one?” I asked her.
“A body is like a shoe you wear a lot. Eventually, the sole gets worn down and has to be replaced,” I said (thinking of my painful left hip).
“That calls for the complicated answer.”
And now for a straightforward Q & A as bathing suit season approaches…
“Ask Val” answers your urgent questions, Vol. 28
Yes, you in the first row with…is that a prescription for antibiotics?
Q: I recently had a bikini wax and I noticed the technician dipped the wooden applicator into the pot of wax repeatedly. Could I catch anything?
A: How are you feeling right now? Good? I hope so, because if a technician isn't changing the pot of wax for each new client (ask them; they may not be), you could catch a lot of stuff you'd be a whole lot better off without. You could be exposed to group A strep, staph, human papillomavirus (HPV), and herpes. Because waxing induces areas of microtrauma to the skin, there’s a higher chance of contamination from client to client.
A waxing technician should never double-dip an application stick between clients; they should wear gloves during your treatment; and they should put down new paper or sheets. If you're concerned about a facility’s cleanliness, better to take your waxable parts elsewhere.
Book Club News, ICYMI
Though I’ve been a latecomer to audiobooks, once I discovered them I couldn’t get enough. I borrow them from the public library, but as I’ve mentioned before, sometimes the library steals them back before I can finish. So I'm happy to share I'm partnering with Chirp to launch an audiobook club of biographies and memoirs called “Unfiltered Women.” It’s free to subscribe and Chirp offers great deals. Plus, you obviously get to keep the book to listen to at your leisure.
Full transparency: At this point, I’m choosing not to receive payback for sign-ups, but I do hope to get the benefit of introducing HNTFUYF to Chirp subscribers.
Here’s how it works: Every other month I’ll announce a new book club pick that we’ll listen to together. You’ll have a chance to share your thoughts on the book a few weeks later and hear what other readers thought, too. My first pick is the memoir Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton. I often encourage you to quit objectifying yourself and to instead turn your attention outward, where there’s so much to be appreciated. Hamilton is not only a master of extreme attentiveness, but also a gifted chronicler of what she sees—and she sees...everything. It’s enormous fun to follow her path from spunky kid and lover-of-backyard-barbeques to the founder of what was one of the most beloved restaurants in the world. Delicious reading.
To get started, go to chirpbooks.com/val and press FOLLOW to join my club. (Again, it’s free and there is NO commitment.) There, for a limited time, you can buy Blood, Bones & Butter for only $5.99, including a 50% discount with code VAL50.
Val Asks You
Don’t be shy! What’s your most vexing or intractable appearance issue? Send your beauty-related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. If I don’t have a good answer, I’ll find someone who does.
HNTFUYF, a Payola-Free Zone
Readers, a few of you have wondered aloud to me if I get a cut from sales when I mention a product. I do not. I only mention products I’d like to buy myself, and therefore think you might like, too. I share this so you know my recommendations are offered without obligation. The only financial contributions I receive from these posts are from those of you—thank you!—who have generously subscribed. There’s no paywall; all posts and the archive are free.