The nurse handed me a “gown” that was actually more like a paper tube top with a crinkly waterfall of blue paper flowing downward.
“Go ahead and change into this, and the doctor will be here in a moment,” the nurse said, her perfectly smooth face unmoving.
As I donned the fashionable paper garment, I looked around the dermatologist’s office at the various “before” and “after” photos. The place looked like Mecca from the outside, and was filled with gorgeous furniture and staff. A fresh bottle of Fiji water sat on the table next to my chair—no generic, store-brand water here, folks.
I was on the practice’s mailing list, and the e-mail with the headline “SUN DAMAGE TO NECK/CHEST?” had caught my eye. The e-mail had gone on to explain that researchers were seeking qualified female participants between thirty-five and seventy-five years of age for a three-month clinical study on aged, saggy, and wrinkled neck and chest skin.
I’d put down my phone and looked in the mirror, assessing. Was I willing to admit that I might have aged, saggy, and wrinkled neck and chest skin for the sake of some free, high-end prescription creams and a couple of Ben Franklins?
So there I was, ready for my pre-screening appointment.
Moments after I’d been transformed into a maypole with blue streamers, the nurse knocked to see if I was ready, and ushered in the doctor. He was youngish, with pale skin and wavy hair that set off his blue eyes.
Of course. It had to be a young male doctor examining my wrinkles.
He shook my hand with a friendly smile, and asked me to sit on the table. I awkwardly held the edges of my paper tube top to my sides.
He ran a finger over my neck, examined the skin on my upper chest area, and frowned.
Damn. He’s about to tell me that my skin is in bad shape and I look old, I thought. Steel yourself.
“She has some sun damage here,” he said to the nurse, who was waiting nearby with a clipboard. “And here there is a little neck sagging…”
“Well, I am forty-four,” I said, chortling. No one laughed with me as they continued to canvass my skin.
“…but unfortunately, the wrinkles just aren’t deep enough in her chest and neck area,” he continued, as though I weren’t sitting right there.
Then he looked up and said to me, “I’m so sorry. The company we’re working with has certain metrics that test subjects must meet in order to qualify for the study, and you just don’t have deep enough wrinkles.”
Wait. Did you just say that I don’t qualify for this study because I’M NOT WRINKLED ENOUGH?
The doctor continued to apologize and thanked me for my time to visit the office.
I puffed out my chest and said, “No apologies necessary. I’m thrilled that I don’t qualify!”
Although I regretted the loss of the potential earnings, I was doing a happy dance on the inside. An “I’m-so-happy-that-I’m-not-wrinkled-enough-to-qualify-for-this-study” dance. A “suck it, ex-boyfriends, look at me at forty-four with SHALLOW WRINKLES” dance.
The nurse put away her clipboard, and the doctor shook my hand and started to move toward the door.
Then I smiled from ear to ear, activating the wrinkles around my mouth.
The nurse peered at my face.
“We do have a five-year dermal filler study for your nasolabial fold lines,” she said. “I think you’ll qualify for that one pretty easily.”
My smile turned upside down, and my “eleven lines” deepened above my brow.
“We have Botox for that,” the doctor called out as he left the room.
I got dressed and stalked out. I didn’t want that expensive skin cream anyway.