Botox, Buddhism, and the Search for Authenticity on Passover

This Passover we struggle to hold onto our past selves and histories, even as we re-invent ourselves.

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It’s authenticity, indeed, that is at issue when my beautiful friend, Felicia, calls to tell me that she’s depressed because she looks old (she is over 40), and perhaps she should go to some Buddhist retreat and come to some sanguine acceptance of aging. A few hours later, as I lean my head back into a sink in a hair salon in my quest for the most natural shade of blonde, I tap out a text message to Felicia. “I plan to fight against time, and I hope u will join me in the trenches!” Unlike Felicia, I don’t think that looking my age renders me a more genuine person, nor do I view my surface concerns as being at odds with my spiritual leanings. Maybe they are perversely a part of the same thing: an attempt to achieve verisimilitude. Like the modern-day Samaritans who dress up in white robes and appear to have just crossed the Red Sea, when those thin needles filled with botulism erase the lines in my forehead, it’s as if I’ve returned, albeit virtually, to my younger, past self. I’m not fooling anyone, or myself, that I am authentically 30, but it’s nice to play pretend.

Exiting the superficial, secular world, and re-entering the world of macaroons and matzah brie (Passover "delicacies"), I realize that a number of my friends are not racing hither and thither, hunting and gathering grape juice and eggs, because they are going to kosher-for-Passover hotels! I’m not the Passover Police, but honestly, is matzah with a shmear of Mickey Mouse truly the way in which the holiday was intended to be celebrated? On behalf of the ancient Israelites, I feel indignant that my fellow Jews aren’t slaving and suffering. It’s not that they are less authentically Jewish, just because they haven’t run their dishwasher through two cycles or turned their stove on high for two hours to render their appliances kosher for Passover, just as bleached-blonde hair and a botoxed visage shouldn’t cast suspicion upon one’s depth of character. But still, both seem a little bit like cheating.

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Putting aside how the holiday should be celebrated, there are scholars who doubt the veracity of the event itself. Some believe the Exodus from Egypt never happened, period. Others think that it sort of happened, but on a much smaller scale. I say, if it didn’t even happen, then why am I buying copious amounts of heavy-duty tin foil?

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