Saturday, August 7, 2010

Big Sur Bee-tox, Or, A difficult week in the beauty department

Well, I know how it happened, and there's no one to blame. That little girl bee (who must have been furious and scared) got under the bill of my baseball cap, and as we mutually freaked out (I batting her away, she, quickly stinging me and presumably dying) the poison entered the soft flesh on the point of my cheekbone, a finger's breadth away from my eye.

I turned and walked rapidly back down the mountain, cutting short my before dinner walk with my dog. While my face hurt, and I had a sense of dread about what would happen, but I didn't see any sense in getting emotional at that point. It was a beautiful evening, and I'd just had another Big Sur experience. It couldn't be as bad as a rattlesnake bite, or a scorpion's kiss, right?

When I reached home I realized the stinger was hanging off my cheekbone and so had my husband Toby pull it out with a pair of tweezers. Then we carried on with entertaining our guest, eating pasta, drinking lovely red wine, reading Tarot cards. As the evening wore on, both my husband and our friend commented on the transformation of my face. "I think it's not going to get any worse," said Peter, "I think it's as swollen as it will get." Dream on!

All night long I put baking soda compresses under my right eye (and watched the poison spread across my face). My left eye was swelling up as well, my cheeks were inflating. In the morning I put on a hijab and went to work (thinking I could take my mind off the pain) but an hour later two sweet guardian angels took me to our local clinic, where the country doctor gave me a steroid shot and told me I'd be fine in no time. Small town hazard: he teased me about blogging about my sting. Later he emailed me a link to an article he'd written about apitherapy, which the ancient Greeks practiced. Ouch!

Back at home I sank into the grass (ignoring the bees dancing around me) letting the blessed sun warm my body while I held an ice pack across my face. One of my guardian angels had given me a bottle of homeopathic anti-anxiety drops to offset the steroid's effects. That and some leftover codeine tablets calmed me down somewhat. The product, Dr. Garber's ANX, is Buddhism in a bottle: it promises to reduce anxiety, stop nervous irritability and obsessive thinking. Toby wants to buy me a barrel of it.

But massive swelling had yet to occur. Here I am at my worst, and now, perhaps, I can banish vanity from my life, at least a little. This is where I turned into a 100 year old Tibetan lady. My face became a mask of swollen skin. It hurt and it was scary. Worst was when I felt the venom flowing down my throat, enlarging the whole right side of my face and neck. A friend stopped by and was properly horrified. "I hope you get your face back soon," she said. So did I.

While I knew in my head it was temporary, and tried to feel compassion for those in the world who suffer more painful permanent conditions, it still, well, sucked. But here's the silver lining: I'd been standing on the edge of the pool, staring into that whole world of "women of a certain age" processes of expensive recurring treatments, wildly priced magical creams, a life of wearing hats and sunblock. Suddenly, the normal discolorations that happen on a late-40's face seemed just not very important to me anymore.

So, I guess I have to thank that tiny distressed bee, who gave her life so I could renew my dedication to growing old gracefully. Now, when I touch the spot on the tip of my cheekbone where the stinger deposited its poison, (it is still there, the littlest bump) I almost hope it stays. To remind myself that bee-tox is better than botox, and to be grateful for the face I have, which (Praise be!) came back.