Chapter 4 | F*cking Botox

Updated: Jan 22



January 2018 - Three days after the botox.


My voice had always been the ticket to sculpting my world. I loved that my voice could make people sit up and pay attention. My frozen vocal cords axed all of that. Fucking botox.




It wasn’t all bad. It forced me to sit still and meditate for hours. I returned to my soundtrack for death, Gorecki’s symphony #3. The first time I played Gorecki on a loop was in the summer of 1994 after a singer friend was accidentally killed. Two months after that, my grandmother died. Then my mother buried herself in her own mother’s basement. For three months she purged and packed to ready the house for sale.


We spoke once a week and fought about how I needed money to feed the cat and me for God’s sake. She’d panic each time. And each time I’d scream into the receiver, “Mom, I have to feed the cat!” The next day I’d arrive home from the university to the scent of her perfume in the apartment and cash hidden under the silver tea set. But I wanted to see my mother, even if it was just to explode. I was chasing her to pay her bills, but what I was really chasing was her attention. I had lost my grandmother, the woman who practically raised me. I realize now my mother was stuck in her own grief, but at the time, I was deeply entrenched in my own pain, which prevented me from acknowledging hers.


So I just got busy. I sang. A lot. I went to classes, rehearsals, and performances. I studied on the bus to and from the university. Then, one day, a stabbing pain immobilized me. The cost of the chiropractor freaked my mother out. “What am I supposed to do? Just live with it?” I said. She cried. And then she gave me the money.


I worried about money at every appointment. And that worry bled into every aspect of my life. And when you sing, whatever you’re thinking about shows up in your sound. If you get too emotional your voice will crack, or worse, it’ll get you fired. On top of that, in the singing world, the general rule is, if you don’t like someone’s voice, you probably don’t like them either. So, I earned a degree to make my voice likable. I won a spot in a prestigious opera ensemble where I got paid for my likable sound. And I could have bought a small island with the money I invested in maintaining that likable sound in between my mostly likable performances. It wasn’t intentional. It just was.


But a voice is more than a likeability tool - it’s an emotional Rubik’s Cube where every twist and turn could destroy that perfect wall of colour. In my case, it was sound. As a kid, when I couldn’t solve the cube, I’d just exchange one coloured sticker for another. Voila! Puzzle solved. As an adult, when I peeled off an emotion to trade it for a more convenient one, my life would click and turn to expose whatever I had tried to hide. And again, I worried about money. I had to re-train in another field. I obsessively sought help to release the tension wrapped around my throat. The time, effort, and experts drained me. But I didn’t know how to do anything else. I didn’t know any other way to be. So I held onto whatever was left of my voice and kept twisting and turning.


Where was I? Oh, yeah, the video. I felt like I had a leash around my throat. One time, I had to snap and wave at my husband in the middle of the grocery store like a crazy woman, “Do we need lemons?” But he has trouble hearing in one ear so I stomped and waved even more furiously. By the time we got to the checkout, I was practically in tears. At restaurants, servers would raise eyebrows when my husband ordered food for me because I couldn’t speak without choking or spitting.


What would happen to me if I didn’t get my voice back? I already felt powerless. I had been trying to micromanage the problem with my voice for almost five years. The botox was my last resort. It had better work.


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Photo by Gwendal Cottin on Unsplash