Short of spending every waking hour engaged in antiaging treatments, is there anything the average woman can do to shave even a few months from her appearance? Do any of the miracle creams, procedures, or magic potions actually make a person look more youthful? Does a woman have to worry about her nasolabial folds if she doesn't even know where they're located on her body? Veteran journalist Beth Teitell aims to find the answers to these questions and many more in her hilarious travels looking for the elusive elixir of youth.
If you feel bad about your neck (or any other body part), if the idea of Botox-filled syringes fills you with horror, if you don't want to empty your wallet to pay for $475 serums that promise to cheer up aging skin or the hourly cost of a facial-fitness coach, or if you don't believe the claims of antiaging gummy bears or age-defying bottled water, then Drinking Problems at the Fountain of Youth is the book for you. There's not a woman in America who won't see herself in Teitell's struggles or come away feeling that the enormous amount of energy, time, and money we spend trying to restore our bodies to the way they were when we were twenty could be better spent elsewhere.
With honesty, outrage, and wit, Teitell goes deep into the youth-at-any-cost culture and takes it apart from the inside out. And then she reassures us that there is hope—there are things we can do to look and feel younger, and ways we can learn to stop worrying about looking older.
Drinking Problems at the Fountain of Youth is for every woman who isn't as young as she used to be—a book of wisdom and advice, and a laugh-out-loud look at our age-obsessed culture.
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About the Author
Longtime journalist Beth Teitell is a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. Her humorous essays and other articles have appeared on public radio's Marketplace, on Huffington Post and Daily Candy, and in Time, the Washington Post, Shape, and the Boston Herald. She is the author of From Here to Maternity: The Education of a Rookie Mom, and lives in Boston with her husband and two sons.
Read an Excerpt
Drinking Problems at the Fountain of Youth
Einstein's Theory of Relativity as Applied to Crow's-feet
Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little.
Friends don't let friends undergo minimally or maximally invasive procedures. Why? Because every wrinkle your friend freezes, every jowl she tightens, every crease she plumps, only throws your own imperfections into greater relief. It's like Einstein said: Space and time are relative, rather than absolute, concepts. In appearance terms, his theory of relativity means that the younger those around you look, the older you do. Okay, Einstein himself never said that exactly, but you've seen pictures of the man; I'm sure he'd agree.
The problem is that life's one big bell curve and some of us are ruining it for the rest of us. (You know who you are.) It doesn't take an Einstein to see what's happening to those too risk-averse, financially challenged, delusional, or complacent to go under the knife. We're being shoved into an emerging and highly undesirable demographic: the "cosmetic underclass."
This sad new group of victims was identified in a 1996 article in the London Times. A mere four years after the Environmental Protection Agency concluded that exposure to secondhand smoke presented a serious public health threat, the dangers of passive cosmetic surgery were also recognized. "Disfigurement is the last bastion of discrimination," Gus McGrouther, Britain's first professor of plastic surgery, told the paper. The article went on to question "where imperfection stops and deformity begins. With our cheque books,probably."
And how prophetic that story was: as matters now stand, you needn't have a procedure to put yourself at risk. Mere proximity to someone artificially enhanced is harmful...to your ego. We've got to do something to slow the trend. Statistics from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery show that 2.1 million cosmetic surgical and 9.6 million cosmetic nonsurgical procedures were performed in the United States in 2007. Once you remove the kids and the guys from the population count, that's something like one procedure for every ten women. Or worse. In beauty danger zones like Miami, the Upper East Side, and Beverly Hills, it's probably closer to ten procedures for every one woman. And those 11.7 million procedures represent a whopping 457 percent increase since the group began collecting such statistics in 1997. The Centers for Disease Control hasn't used the word, but it's clear we've got an epidemic on our hands.
No one's safe. Not even the rich. I know women who studied hard to get into good colleges, worked their connections to land enviable jobs, married well, produced children who could pose for Ralph Lauren ads, vacation on the right islands with the right beach towels and the right heiresses...they have fractional ownerships in Cessnas, for heaven's sake...and yet if they have furrows and hints of upper-lip lines and puppet mouth when those around them are smoother than freshly ironed Pratesi linens, what's it all worth? In a word, nothing.
Self-help experts always advise against comparing yourself to others, and it's wise counsel. I pass it on to my kids all the time. But what happens when you accept your position in the appearance pecking order...you're not the most youthful fifty-year-old around, say, but not the most aged, either...only to find that you are the old crone? That while you've been foolishly priding yourself on "aging naturally"...there's a retronym for you...others have been slipping off to the dermatologist's office. By staying still, you can actually be moving backward.
Unfortunately, I'm speaking from personal experience. The following tale doesn't make me look good, but then again, that's the whole problem, isn't it? A woman I've known since we were both dewy twentysomethings (and didn't appreciate how good we had it) recently informed me of her decision to Botox her brow furrows. I love her like a sister, so of course I want her to look her best, but from my perspective, her unilateral move was an obvious violation of our (admittedly) unspoken treaty to age at the same rate. She pulled the beauty equivalent of doping, and in this scenario I'm the athlete who's playing by the rules and being penalized. It gives me even more sympathy for Tour de France cyclists and baseball players competing without pharmaceutical help. We should start testing civilians for appearance-enhancing drugs.
I'm not trying to claim I was thrilled with the way I was aging before my pal pulled her fast one, but prior to her little trip to the doctor, procedures, like weekend jaunts to Paris, and Hermès Birkin bags, hadn't penetrated my inner circle. Surgery and injectables were all available, but I was an onlooker, not a potential participant. I didn't consider myself the kind of person who has work done. Actually, let me clarify that: I'm not the kind of person who thinks there's a kind of person who has work done. That's too judgmental, which I'm not. Just sort of jealous...and sort of disappointed that options have become available. Nothing's more stressful than missing an opportunity you wish didn't exist.
I'll never forget that cold, cold day in August when my friend called and, twenty minutes into our chat, just happened to mention that she'd Done It.There was no "Sit down, I have some difficult news," no "I hope this doesn't come between us." She lives just a few blocks from me, but she didn't even pay me the courtesy of telling me face-to-face, although, to be fair, that might have been even more upsetting, as my brow wrinkled in horror and hers stayed enviably smooth."What?" I said, sick to my stomach. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I just did."
Technically, she was right. I guess what I meant was: "Why didn't you consult me beforehand so I could scare you out of it, under the guise of concern over potential side effects?"
I ran to my bathroom mirror. Wrinkles that had been merely disappointing were now unbearable. Over the course of a few seconds, I'd aged twenty years. What had I been thinking, letting myself go like this? "You must look great!" I said tightly, not even adding our usual disclaimer, "Not that you needed it."Drinking Problems at the Fountain of Youth. Copyright © by Beth Teitell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
What People are Saying About This
“This is a wonderful book! Just the right blend of both hilarious and brilliant insights into modern women and our day-to-day struggles to keep up. A perfect book to share with your best friend.”
“Using her inimitable cocktail of self-deprecating humor and incisive wit, Beth Teitell throws a wake-up drink in the collective faces of a world obsessed by youth.”
“Beth Teitell hilariously debunks every trick, gimmick, and potion promising eternal youth, and offers a low-tech exit strategy from the madness. DRINKING PROBLEMS AT THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH is essential reading.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A wildly funny expose of the cosmetic extremes women reach for in order to preserve their youth -- or create one that never existed -- all driven by the beauty industry. Dermatologists barrage Teitell with different opinions, cosmetic companies hawk miracle elixirs, and star hairstylists promise life-changing transformations for a three-figure price (not including airfare). Reading this not only made me laugh, but cheered me about dropping out of the beauty race long ago.