This is a story about my new face. Well, not exactly new, but definitely improved.
Suddenly and without preamble Chris focused on my face. “You’ve got to get rid of those,” he said, examining the area of my right temple from a distance of inches.
“What?” I said, as if I didn’t know what he meant.
I knew. Sun and age marks on my face. And if a good friend like Chris just blurted it out, I could be assured that others noticed too.
A couple of months passed as I periodically looked in the mirror and considered what time and ill-advised pursuits—skiing all day as the sunblock eroded, playing in the waves as the sunblock washed off, tennis with no hat—had wrought.
Naturally Patti came to my rescue. She had discovered a new medical spa emporium, Le Jolie (yes, French for beauty), right down the hill from us, also in Studio City. One Sunday I sheepishly followed her inside, where the usual beauty-procedure chairs in an outer area caused the standard male-cringe reaction. Yikes! It looked exactly like a hair salon!
As we sat I observed the ranks of beauty creams and lotions nearby. Meanwhile a looped video of young women obviously not in need of any help at all played on a big flatscreen right in front of us.
Would my paintball buddies spy me in there? (No I do not have paintball buddies, or play paintball, but you get the idea.)
After a few minutes, Sharona Rafaeloff appeared, smiling and welcoming. She is the proprietor of Le Jolie, opened in March, and she has a decade’s worth of experience in things medi-spa in Beverly Hills, which is of course the center of the cosmetic-upgrade universe.
Then Sharona’s mom showed up, fresh from a meditation session in back. Mom is Parvaneh Rafaeloff, M.D., whose main medical practice is in Glendale. She grew up in Iran and the family endured an escape through Afghanistan in order to emigrate to America. She received her medical degree in Iran but trained further in the U.S. and served her residency at the Kaiser hospital in Los Angeles. Her fine steady hand was honed by executing Persian miniature paintings as a young girl. She does the procedures that require a physician. I would be her patient.
After such initial chitchat, mother and daughter then gathered in front of me to stare at my face from several angles. I was ushered in back, where procedure rooms are stuffed with mysterious equipment. I was instructed to lie down on a surgical bed as Dr. Mom swabbed areas of my face with alcohol and then wielded a syringe to inject a numbing agent into several places. Not fun but not bad. I had my eyes closed.
Then came the heavy artillery in the form of the Hyfrecator 2000 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8udqFWLyFU, an electrosurgery device that shoots electric current from its slender tip to vaporize unwanted bits. All I could think of was the arcing electricity in Frankenstein. And I was the monster.
Dr. Mom is good at this. She worked fast while images of Sparky the unpredictable electric chair shot through my head. It didn’t hurt much. Much. What was disconcerting was the aroma of burning flesh. My flesh! I mentioned this. “You’re smelling the barbecue,” said Dr. Mom airily.
There were two such zap sessions separated by a week, and then I was told I would need something called an acid peel to “even things out”. Meanwhile, my face had begun to shed brown swatches of skin. I did not yet look lovely.
Then came the acid peel, applied by Dr. Mom from a container of honest-to-goodness acid sitting right there for everyone to see. For the sake of accuracy and from a safe distance, I observed what was written on its label: Trichloracetic Acid 50%. Clearly this was potent stuff, and yes it did burn, really burn. Mostly I bore my misery in manly silence, though a few whimpers may have leaked out.
After several minutes a series of cool patches was placed on my scorched skin. I was assured I looked just great, something not exactly confirmed by the picture Patti snapped. What I looked like was someone who should have had a tag on his toe.
I’d like to quote Warren Zevon here: “Poor poor pitiful me.”
But guess what? A week later my face had pretty much peeled and healed. Most of those gnarly bits were gone. I was good as new, if by new we can agree that means much improved.
I met for lunch with Chris the other day for the first time since my Le Jolie makeover and I displayed my upgraded face for him. I imagine Heidi Klum does this sort of thing on a daily basis, but in the surroundings of the Palm in West Hollywood it seemed a little out of place. He nodded with approval. Then I ordered a martini and he got a manhattan. Things were back to normal, though facially speaking it was a new normal for me.
Le Jolie Medi Spa, 13041 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, CA. 818-501-1114; www.LeJolieSpa.com.