"Mom, don't get mad, but I've decided to get lip injections," I boasted over the phone to my lovely English mother.
I was pacing around my brother's Los Angeles apartment in hot pink Betsy Johnson leopard-print pajamas with last night's eyeliner smudged across my sore, swollen eyes.
I was feeling reckless and hungover, and whenever I'm hungover, I'm just fueled with this bizarre desire to shock my mother.
"You're going to do what? Darling, what?"
"Get LIP INJECTIONS, WOMAN!" I cheered, bracing myself for a motherly lecture.
There was a loaded, pregnant pause over the crackly phone line.
"Really?" she asked, sounding unexpectedly intrigued and excited.
"Yes," I assured her.
"Oh, well, as long as they're subtle, that sounds like a fabulous idea, babe! You know what I always say: You only ever really notice the bad ones," Mum chirped into the phone.
I imagined her driving her chic, white, MILF-y SUV down the wide Florida highway, gazing into the sunshine with her very trendy Ray-Ban aviators resting against the tip of her nose.
God, my mum is the fucking coolest.
"I can't believe you think it's a good idea! I'm shocked! You've always been so anti me getting work done," I gasped.
"To be honest, I've been considering getting a tiny drop of Restalyne in my top lip for awhile now. When I last saw Dr. Graham for my injections, I thought about it. I'm curious to see how yours looks."
"Do it!" I cooed, thinking it could be an annual mother-daughter bonding thing we do together (eventually).
"Now, you need to go to Whole Foods right now and buy yourself some Arnica tablets and Arnica cream. Start taking the tablets NOW. Otherwise, you'll BRUISE. Do you hear me? You'll BRUISE. Take the Arnica."
"OK!" I squeaked, knowing full well I probably wouldn't get it together to buy the Arnica.
I mean, I was in Los Angeles for Christ's sake, and I don't drive! It's impossible to get anything done when you're car-less in Hollywood.
"I have to go, I'm on my way to a Brian Ferry concert with girls."
"One last question!"
"Make it quick, darling."
"Does it hurt?"
I knew I was screwed. My mother never swears unless she really fucking means it.
He's the real deal, honey. He has over 20k followers on Instagram, works on celebrities and is — get this — the creator of "the nonsurgical nose job."
Sounds like my kind of guy!
And look, I might be a die-hard, born and bred New Yorker, but even I know if you're going to get anything injected into your face before the age of 35, do it on the west side of Los Angeles babe.
Trust me: Some things are just better on the West Coast, and plastic surgery is one of them.
The night before my appointment, I sent Sarah a quick text.
"Do I need to do anything to prepare?"
"No. Just try not to drink alcohol tonight and NO IBUPROFEN."
No Ibuprofen? I had planned on knocking back at least four Advil before silvery, sharp needles were injected into my highly sensitive, little lips.
I was suddenly so scared that I had to have a drink to quell my anxiety about the pending pain.
A couple of hours later, I met up with Meghan at Pump for one innocent, little drink.
(Insider tip: If you're going to get work done and are sort of on the fence about the whole thing, go to Pump for a drink the night before. Everyone who works there is so gorgeous and flawless, it's as if they've been Facetuned in real life.)
"I think being in LA these past few weeks has really screwed you up," Meghan murmured, exaggerating her soft Bronx accent in some sort of West Coast protest.
"Why do you say that?" I twirled my fresh pack of clip-in hair extensions around my perfectly manicured fingers.
"Because you're going to get lip injections. You don't need them. Your lips are fine."
"Look, I'm not getting lip injections because I think I need them. I love to play with beauty, especially when I'm down. And news flash: I'm depressed."
"Why don't you up your dose of Prozac?"
"I prefer to take the natural route."
"Touché. Look, are going to come with me tomorrow or NOT?" I batted my lashes at her and gave her that helpless Bambi look no power lesbian can ever resist.
"I'm scared," I purred.
"I'm coming with you, but hey, put down the drink. You're not even supposed to be drinking tonight!"
"Oops," I smirked as I slurped back my Patron and soda water.
The next thing I know, I'm in the most beautiful office in Brentwood, California filling out forms at Westside Aesthetics.
I'm so nervous about the pain that I contemplate taking the edge off with half a Clonazepam, which is neatly tucked into the folds of my giant quilted Chanel bag.
I gaze into the tempting orange bottle.
"Resist. Resist," I chant to myself. I'm trying to feel things these days.
So instead, I snap a "before" selfie and post it on Instagram.
Sarah magically appears holding a clipboard and says, "Zara, Dr. Rivkin is ready for you."
I gulp. Meghan puts a protective power lesbian hand on my shaking shoulders.
(Insider tip number two: If you're ever going to do anything remotely scary, bring a power babe with you.)
Dr. Rivkin is a handsome-looking guy and doesn't really have that overly excitable yet untrustworthy LA energy that runs rampant in the beauty industry.
He's actually down-to-earth with otherworldly blue eyes and a "no bullshit" aura.
In fact, Dr. Rivkin explains to me that his whole thing, his whole jive and his whole motto is all about looking natural.
He very much is in line with my mother's theory of "you only notice the bad ones."
"What makes something look unnatural?" I ask, sinking into the buttery leather patient's chair, my palms starting to ooze with sweat as I gaze into a multi-million dollar view of sprawling, luscious LA cityscape.
Dr. Rivkin explains to me that beauty is mathematical. It's about proportion.
He explains the reason I will be able to carry a slighter fuller lip is because it makes sense with the rest of my features.
I have large eyes, a prominent nose, but my lips get a little lost.
"Nothing crazy, though," Dr. Rivkin firmly says, probably sensing that I'm the type of girl to go overboard with things.
If left in the wrong hands, I would've totally walked out of there looking like Big Ang (RIP).
Meghan, who is sitting on a stool to my right, arms folded defiantly with her legs taking up space like an entitled white man, begins to chime in.
"What makes it so you can tell that people have had work done?" she asks, raising her eyebrows suspiciously.
Dr. Rivkin explains that the reason we have such a visceral reaction to someone who has had an extreme amount of "work done" is because whatever they've augmented looks out of proportion with their rest of their faces.
"It's like seeing something you wouldn't see in nature, like a shelf," Dr. Rivkin says.
Megs and I are both designer-types with sharp eyes, so we're riveted by this concept.
I can intrinsically tell that Meghan is contemplating asking for some botox.
"This is about me today," I hiss to her under my breath before she takes over and asks for a full-blast consultation.
"What about the pain?" I squeak, wishing I had taken the Clonazepam.
Dr. Rivkin is very calm about the pain factor and explains that it's "sensitive," but he prefers to do the procedure without the numbing cream because the numbing cream can make you swell.
"OK," I chirp, all people-pleasey and sweet, knowing full well that when Sarah (who is going to be assisting him) comes in, I'm going to demand the numbing cream.
And just like that, Dr. Rivkin strides out the office and Sarah comes right on in, looking like a supermodel in her black scrubs, sunny blonde hair and cute AF baby doll bangs.
"I NEED THE NUMBING CREAM!" I yelp. I can feel myself getting pale in the face.
She chuckles, "Don't worry, you can have the numbing cream."
She adorns my thin little lips with a white cream. Within minutes, I can't feel my mouth, like, at all.
Dr. Rivkin comes back in, and I fear I've disappointed him and that I'm WEAK for needing the numbing cream.
But, he shrugs it off with a smile after I confess.
He explains they're going to use one full syringe of Juvederm (which will set a girl back $650 in these parts) because Juvederm is natural and smooth-looking.
One full syringe is apparently more than enough for both my top and the bottom lip, and any more than that would look unnatural.
A strange calm comes over me as I lean my head back and brace myself for the sensation of needles slicing into my lips.
I actually — no joke — begin to meditate.
(PSA: If you're meditating while getting your lips injected with filler, you've been in LA a little too long. Just saying.)
Sarah starts tapping my shoulder as a way to distract me from the pain, which is genius.
Literally, the comforting, tap, tap, tap of her delicate fingertips on my shoulder helped to put me in a deeper meditative trance.
And yes, it does sort of hurt.
But, it's surprisingly super bearable because that numbing cream is no joke, sister.
I just keep my eyes shut as I feel the subtle sting of the needles piercing my lips, but I would say on the pain scale, it's about a four if 10 is the highest and zero is the lowest. It hurts less than getting a tattoo on a flabby, fleshy area and more than getting your eyebrows waxed.
Before I know it, the procedure is over in what feels like five minutes!
Sarah hands me a cloth to sop up some of the residual blood.
Meghan's face looks horrified but intrigued. I feel pretty glamorous in my floor-length dress, sitting on Wilshire Boulevard in Brentwood, looking at a gorgeous, hill-adorned view and icing my freshly injected lips.
This is definitely my kind of life.
As I gaze into the mirror, I'm instantly obsessed. Yes, they're definitely swollen, and I know will go down in a few days.
But, I already am starting to feel like I'm able to channel my higher power — Lana Del Rey — more deeply.
I thank Dr. Rivkin and hug lovely Sarah, who tells me that my freshly augmented lips will last approximately six months, maybe even longer. I leave with an ice pack pressed to my lips.
As Meghan and I drive away, I can't stop looking in the little car mirror.
"You're a monster," Meghan says, even though I know she thinks they look amazing.
The following morning, I'm definitely even more swollen (they told me it would be more swollen in the morning when you retain water), and I have a massive blue-black bruise on my left lip.
They don't hurt, but they're sore, sort of like they went to a yoga class. They feel like they need a stretch or something.
But then, I realize I forgot all about the Arnica cream. Whoops.
"Wear red lipstick!" my mother texts me when I send her the picture of my bruised pout.
Most of my lipsticks are too sheer to cover that baby up, and the only product that's dense enough to cover the bruise is my very dark, liquid matte lipstick by Kat Von D.
So when you're getting your lips done, definitely make sure you have some Kat Von D on hand in case they bruise.
This is how my lips look the next day at a celebratory post injection lunch in Topanga Canyon:
Swollen? Yes, but I sort of enjoy the swollen phase because I'm sick like that.
I just want MORE, you know?
However, three days later, I'll admit they look better less plumped! They're still bruised, but you can't tell with my amazing Kat Von D lipstick.
(BTW, the color is Lolita, and it's always sold out at Sephora. So if you see one, take the opportunity and pick it up.)
So, kittens, I'm thrilled with my lips. I happen to think they look super natural, and the only trolls I've encountered have been internet bitches who KNOW I've had them done.
And if you didn't know, I really don't think you would be able to tell. My friends think I look fabulous, and they all want to get theirs done, too.
And guess what? I DO feel less depressed since getting my lippies done.
Is it because one syringe of Juvederm is stronger than a dose of the ole Prozac?
Well, I'll tell you what is more powerful than a dose of Prozac: free agency over my body.
It's empowered me to say, "I wanted full lips, and I did it."
Having the freedom to do what you want to do to your body, making a CHANGE if you're unhappy with it and taking your life into your own gorgeous HANDS is a stronger antidepressant than Prozac, babe.
And every single morning, as I paint my lips with the lipstick color of my choice, I actually smile into my reflection.
I say to myself, "Hell yes girl! I'm SO GLAD we did this."
And my lips and I, as a united, unstoppable force of nature, start out our day feeling independent, empowered and sexy.