As I approach my 33rd birthday, I’ve been thinking a lot about how one’s face and body change over the years and what constitutes healthy and graceful aging. I think I’m doing okay so far; I have a few very small lines around the eyes and some parts of me are less perky than they used to be, but no gray hairs or jowls (yet). Overall, I have nothing to complain about.

For the past few weeks, professional shopper/Stepford Wife Alex Kuczynski has been all over the news shilling for her new book, Beauty Junkies, in which she examines American women’s (and her own) obsession with invasive cosmetic procedures. Ms. K had a lid lift and liposuction at 28 and followed up with several more years of collagen, Botox, and other poisonous injections in her face. She claims she hasn’t had any cosmetic procedures in 2 years, to which I call bullshit: Her face is so frozen that she can barely move her mouth to talk, let alone express emotion. She has done all this in the pursuit of looking young, but has ended up looking exactly like what she is: a woman nearing 40 and terrified of it.

What really got me in one interview is that, when asked why so many women opt for these procedures, she answered in all seriousness, “I think it’s because so few women are truly born ‘pretty.'” My mind immediately yelled, By whose standards? By the standards of women who carve up and distort what they were born with so that nobody can recognize or appreciate what’s real anymore? I started thinking about the women I know, of all different ages, shapes, and sizes. Probably very few of them would live up to Special K’s nipped and tucked standards of “truly pretty,” but all of them are beautiful in their own way. A good friend of mine–beautiful, smart, and stylish–is the first of my peers to go down the cosmetic dermatology road. I’ve been gently scolding her for weeks for attempting to fix what ain’t broke. She says she’s doing it as “preventive maintenance,” which to me is like calling bulimia a diet. What ever happened to eye cream and sunblock? I eventually gave up; she’s a big girl, it seems to make her happy, and it’s really none of my business. And then I recalled something I recently read on the blog of a man in his early 40s who has been coming to terms with his own aging process: “I like the idea that life etches itself on people’s faces…that the body gets frayed–and yet the spirit within continues to shine.” I really wish more women could see themselves like that; at the very least, I hope I can see myself like that 10 years hence.