Tuesday, August 3, 2010

An actor gets new skin

Beauty Cub strikes again. Recently I completely dismayed the Lando bear as I calmly tried to tell him that I simply must spend money I don’t have. There could be a healthy argument made that I was even spending it on something I don’t need but I can assure you that angle would fall on my deaf ears. All this Cub modeling has been doing a number on me preaching self acceptance to the “would be” Bears out there. I had been getting a few face bookers beginning to ask what was going on. Recently my status would blurt about eating less and considering a little scalpel work. In all seriousness I wasn’t really interested in going under the knife to improve my appearance but I was considering "lasering" my skin to perfection. All these improvements seemed antithetical to my “be yourself be beautiful” sermon.  Wasn’t I out there posing in barely there bear wear to make a statement that having a pot belly is a beautiful thing? Well yes …but I also feel that if you are genuinely unhappy with how you look then you SHOULD do something about it-provided SOMETHING can be done about it. For example-I had gone back on South Beach Last month because some of my favorite pants were no longer beginning to fit. Skinny is something you will never hear as an adjective to describe P.A. Cooley, but hey, clothing is expensive and I didn’t want to adjust my entire wardrobe to accommodate my expanded 37 inch waist. I had to get it back to at least to a 34. After a slightly difficult 2 weeks the weight seemed to melt off and voila! My pants fit again.
Me and Dad
Now what has been bothering me is the sudden tan splotches and light brown speckles that were appearing more on more on my face. I would take a look at all these photos that the photographer had shot and go “what the hell is that?” I’d run to the mirror to confirm what I’d seen. It’s as if a cup of dark tea had been spattered on my face. Most disturbing were these two tan circles appearing between my eye brows. I don’t think I would’ve minded all this marking if it took on a leopard design that kind of wove up from my neck to my forehead like a cool character from Star Trek but no. It didn’t look cool. It didn’t look flattering. They resembled the liver spots that dotted my father’s face. He is over 80 for crying out loud, so did it really start this young??-40 years earlier? Really God?  You mean to tell me dear Lord up above that I am not going to be a cuddly little old white man in an off-white cable knit cardigan smelling of a nice woodsy cologne that all the young gay male nurses in the home love to hug and keep in clean diapers? Instead I’ll be this speckled toad sitting in a ratty run down old house in Vermont with my two goddam brothers- untouched and unloved because I am so unpleasant to look at? Really God??
Orlando reminded me drily that while my father doesn’t wear cologne, nor is he hugged by Gay Male nurses, a lot of people hold him in high regard despite his be-speckled face. He actually still has a great deal of charm and good looks. I don’t mind resembling my father all that much. It seems to have served him well through out the years but I have a vision of my dotage and it DOESN’T INVOLVE ME HAVING AGE SPOTS AND SUN DAMAGED SKIN. Dad drives a tractor all day and we all wonder if he remembers to wear a hat. It’s doubtful given what I am seeing on our Skype conversations these days. My eldest brother, Danny is also “blessed” with this extreme Caucasian skin. He is a college professor, but spends many sunny days outside at the U Mass Orchards looking at apples for …little brown spots. Huh? How bout them apples?  Both of them have had cancerous spots removed. Not too long ago I had heard that my brother had his whole face burned off to avoid any further skin cancer occurrences. Perhaps I exaggerate a bit because he looked fine the last time I saw him. Maybe it was just the outer layer of skin he had burned off.  In fact, My over 50-something Cooley brother looked pretty darned good. Very few wrinkles and speckle free!  My other brother Peter has some stray American Indian blood genetics in him and doesn’t have skin vs sun issues that we boys of proper English descent have. ( It’s okay – we love him anyway.)  So judging from big brother Danny’s experience, I figured if MY Doctor would simply say there was some skin cancer on me then I could have the whole thing paid off on my Insurance. I am very sad to report that he wouldn’t agree to do that. (Some nonsense about it being fraud.) So instead my little procedure is considered “cosmetic” which translates to costing money. Money I shouldn’t be spending if I have put myself on a debt diet…you see? Imagine the Lando bear’s face crumpling in frustration as I exhibit yet another similar characteristic of his ex of 11 years. The love of Gourmet food was the first sign that made him nervous. My fascination with Christmas tree ornaments almost put him over the edge. My mismanagement of funds has him pulling out the few remaining hairs on his adorable head. Hey – if I can learn this weird new thing where I have to keep my apartment tidy, I can learn how to get my debt in order. (And for the record folks…there’s a very good chance that YOUR debt is waaayyyyy worse than mine. I compare with random strangers on the bus all the time.) 
See the speckles? See them?

So I arrive at Kaiser with the new credit card in hand and met two nurses who were very kind. I lifted my chin and said with as much dignity as I could muster and said that I model frequently for other photographic artists but the pay wasn’t that great so try not to charge me an arm and a leg just to get rid of a few liver spots ok? They looked at each other blankly for a second and then the older one said, “Well we could try something more aggressive?” I was intrigued and terrified at the same time.
IPL(Intense Pulsed Light) technology improves the appearance of photo-aged skin, removes age spots (sun-induced freckles), most benign brown pigments, and redness caused by broken capillaries through a process called photo-rejuvenation for face and body. The process is ideal for patients with active lifestyles because the procedure requires no downtime and has a low risk of side effects. IPL systems work on the same principles as lasers  in that light energy is absorbed into particular target cells with colour (chromophores) in the skin. The light energy is converted to heat energy, which causes damage to the specific target area. IPL systems are different to lasers in that they deliver many wavelengths (or colours) in each pulse of light instead of just one wavelength. Most IPL systems use filters to refine the energy output for the treatment of certain areas. This enhances penetration without using excessive energy levels and enables targetting of specific chromophores (these are skin components that absorb light).

IPL therapy is considered a non-ablative (meaning not sandpapering your skin)  resurfacing technique, which means that it targets the lower layers of skin (dermis) without affecting the top layers of skin (epidermis). The results are not as dramatic as ablative resurfacing where both the dermis and epidermis are injured to produce a much more noticeable overall outcome. Yet I wanted a noticeable outcome so the ladies came up with a more INTENSIVE version. You understand? We are damaging the damaged cells deep down further to allow them to heal. –and baby…it hurts. It stings. It feels like tiny pins being PUNCHED into the skin very quickly. The older nurse gave me squeeze balls to squeeze. Yeah…they didn’t really help. Eventually I convinced the younger nurse to wait every 6 stings so it wasn’t quite so fucking awful. Actually….it was her idea. The older nurse’s duty was to distract me from the horrible ordeal by talking to me about my inane life.  Blah Blah My love of older people and when will my partner find a job here in the bay area etc etc etc They didn’t warn me about that scent. One doesn’t forget the smell of burning flesh.
After the pin stabs and bright flashes of light then came the funny cool sprays. They younger nurse seemed to be in charge of the pulses while the older one monitored the laser. It was explained to me that within a few days I would get these coffee grounds on my face. Coffee grounds? “You mean burned skin” I asked? “No!” the younger nurse exclaimed, “ It’s new cells under the older ones. Eventually it will slough off. I spoke in a serious tone and repeated in a statement. “You mean burned skin” –she didn’t answer.   I forgot to mention that I wore these funny stick-on sun glasses but the funny sprays required additional sunglasses over the ones that they placed on me. Then a cream was applied that was cortisone for pain relief and a strong sunblock. That was it. After a significant charge on my credit card I was done. I kept thinking about the Ipad I wanted and maybe a new camera lense but no I opted for clear skin. My face felt …burnt. I panicked as I typically do when I spend money I don’t have and rushed across the street to a Kentucky Fried Chicken to nibble on a few wings to settle my nerves…I would be okay. This was the right thing to do. I would feel better about myself. Really I would. The tea stains would be significantly lightened and I would just have to do this again in four little weeks.

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