Plastic Surgery Confessions
It makes me crazy when celebrities over-45 attribute their youthful looks to “drinking lots of water.” Or that old chestnut, “I’ve just got good genes.” When behind the scenes they’re drinking the blood of virgin choirboys and having Work Done.
So when my husband’s friend Prudence asked how I managed to look so youthful at 47, I decided to walk-the-walk and confessed I’d gone Under The Knife, had a little Biological Photoshop, gave my face a trim. (Aka my browlift Before and After)
You’re judging me.
I know you’re judging me because I judged my friend with The Boob Job. Only Jugs centerfolds get boob jobs, because they can’t pass rudimentary arithmetic, I thought. Shouldn’t my friend send the Boob Money to Madonna to open a girls’ school in Malawi?
I also judged friends who had Botox.
They were putting botulism in their faces. What must the naturopaths, homeopaths and vegans think? These women probably needed a brain colonic! Oh ye of clay feet. This is the photo that took me to the Dark Side:
I took one look at this sucker and started saving my pennies.
Then, last year at a child’s birthday party I met a mommy who ran a post-op Recovery Center. “Oh no,” I said, imagining people after heart surgery, “that must be so hard.”
“Nope,” she said, “It’s plastics.”
My droopy eyelids shot up. “Plastics? You must see every plastic surgeon’s work in the entire Los Angeles County basin!”
“And its adjacent territories,” she said. “Every. Single. One.
Two weeks later, I found myself in renowned Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Herbert Shleegalbottom’s (a pseudonym) office on Wilshire Boulevard awaiting my consultation. I nervously glanced at the other women sitting in the waiting room.
They were all in varying stages of horrific-ness.
There were sutures in eyelids, swollen Frankensteinian brows, bruises darker than the madness awaiting Colonel Kurtz in The Heart of Darkness.
A woman with bolts in her head, which appeared to be the only things holding up her face, gave me a look. She effortlessly conveyed with just her frozen eyes that staring at plastic surgery patients in a waiting room is like one man staring at another man’s penis in urinals.
Look away bitch!
Soon I might be looking just like her. I’d like to be the kind of woman who snow-shoes through frozen tundra to ice fish, then rappels off stalactites to get home in time to behead, skin, gut and cook the fish to feed my Inuit family, never once thinking about how she looks. I’m not one of those women.
The nurse took me back to Doctor Shleegalbottom’s (just “Bottom” to his friends) examination room for my consultation. He and I sat on stools opposite each other.
“What would you like to have done to your face?” asked Dr. Bottom, whose forehead was paralyzed into a prism of line-less beauty.
“Don’t play coy, you know exactly what I need done,” I challenged, Wyatt Earp at the O.K. Corral.
He continued to stare at me, unwilling to draw first. The townsfolk closed their blinds and hid.
“Fine,” I said, un-holstering my weapon, “my neck’s starting to pucker.”
“No, no I wouldn’t touch that. That’s all sun damage.”
Damn you, Mother! (it’s always the mother), why did you let me spray myself with that fucking cooking oil and fry like a chicken-apple sausage on Sunday morning circa 1976??
“Well, my eyelids bother me,” I said.
“Okay,” Dr. Bottom nodded.
What did he mean “Okay?” Was he saying I looked like Grandma Moses in need of a crane to bat an eyelash?
“Well, there’s just this extra skin…” I continued.
“… that’s sort of hanging …”
“… yes, drooping …”
“… not exactly drooping, more like slipping …”
“… no, that’s a droop.”
“Fine, anyway, I think I need one of those blafo-somethings.”
“Yeah, one of those.”
“I wouldn’t do just that,” said Dr. Bottom.
Dr. Bottom explained that if he only took flesh off of my eyelids, my eyebrows, which were apparently already perched precipitously low on my brow bone, would be yanked down lower and I would end up looking like a basset hound with liver dysfunction.
“What you need,” he said, “is the blepharoplasty and a brow lift.”
Wait, I came in looking for a simple pinch of flesh and this guy wanted me to walk out looking like Joan Rivers?
Then Dr. Bottom launched into the gory details of the surgery. I went into Selective Hearing Mode. This is what I heard: “Mwa mwa mwa five incisions, mwa mwa mwa shaving muscle, mwa mwa mwa staples …”
I got just enough of the details to realize this was serious stuff, but not so much I’d get scared and want to hang on to my extra eyelid flesh, in case I needed it to grow a human ear on a mouse for one of my daughters one day.
This is when I asked to look at Dr. Bottom’s Before-and-After Pictures.
The “Before” patients looked just like … people. And in their “After” pictures they looked like the same people, only better. And that, judge me as you will, is what I wanted.
Now. How to sneak a substantial amount of money and getting my face jacked up past my husband Henry?
He’s one of these annoying You’re-Beautiful-Exactly-As-You-Are husbands. Now, how do I get him to change? I decided to just give it to him straight.
“I saw a guy. I want a brow lift. I don’t want to brow beat you (no pun intended), but this surgery could be my 45th birthday gift.” (I thought the ‘birthday’ gambit gave me an edge).
I was surprised to discover that Henry wasn’t surprised I wanted to do this. Apparently, everything I think in my brain, I say out loud with my mouth instantaneously.
Huh. I thought I was so discreet and mysterious. Like Posh Spice.
He hit me below the belt right away. “What kind of message is this going to send to our daughters?”
I was ready for him, “It says that when they’re 45 they can do whatever they want to their faces. We’ll probably be dead by then anyway.”
Then for good measure I added, “I don’t want to change what I look like, I want to preserve what I already have.”
Henry rolled his eyes.
There was no way he was going to pretend I was anything other than one of those guys in Cabo San Lucas who tries to sell you a time-share condominium while you eat the free breakfast, and if you don’t buy the condo he kidnaps you and make you live in a box with no latrine until your family shovels out all of your assets. Comprende?
I half-listened as Henry said his piece about all the things that could go wrong and how morally objectionable plastic surgery is.
Then I just looked at him with my droopy eyes. I could wait this bastard out. He sighed. He fidgeted with the bedspread. He flung himself backwards and thrust his head under two pillow. I began to knit mercilessly, like Madame DeFarge. My needles clicking.
Click. Click. Click
Two weeks later, Henry found himself sitting next to me in Dr Bottom’s waiting room, staring at all the black-and-blue women with the bolts in their heads.
And after a consultation with Dr. Bottom, who Henry grilled like the Nuremberg War Crimes Commission, he grudgingly agreed to let me have the surgery.
But he was annoyed. I cared he was annoyed, but thought eventually he’d see this wasn’t’ a decision made for the wrong reasons. That having plastic surgery wasn’t a sign of insecurity and self-loathing, but actually a gift to myself.
Did I deserve this kind of extravagant gift? I’m not the one to judge. So I made a date with my forceps-and-retractors destiny …
My surgery was scheduled at the exact time my girls needed to get to school in the morning, so it was decided my mother would take me. This perhaps, was a mistake.
Here is a snapshot of our conversation on the drive to Dr. Bottom’s operating theater:
“I can’t believe a daughter of mine is having plastic surgery.”
“I’m your only daughter. Actually, your only child!”
“Because what if it goes all wrong and you end up sneezing through your clitoris? I mean, I would love to have a neck lift, even though my neck’s fine the way it is, and my crow’s feet could use a few less feet, but I mean, it’s too late for me now…
“It’s not too late, Mom.”
“Why can’t you just accept me the way I am? Why do you have to be so critical?”
“But, you were the one who said you wanted …”
“… and the money, it’s so selfish to spend that kind of money on your face … but if I could just get rid of these jowls. Do you think I have jowls?”
“I’m not answering that … but, maybe a little.”
“You think I’m hideous!”
(Smooth subject change) “Was that 21000 Wilshire, Mom?”
“Don’t try to change the subject!”
“You passed the place! Just turn around. Make a u-turn, Mom. U-tuuurrn! Look out for the Orthodox Jew and his family of 12!!”
“Stop screaming at me!”
Sounds of squealing tires. Someone screamed. I think it was me. By the grace of Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat we entered the parking structure without committing manslaughter.
Five minutes and a few ruffled feathers later, my mom and I were ushered straight into the OR prep room.
My mom kept saying she didn’t understand why her beautiful daughter was having this procedure, after which, the nurses all felt obligated to tell me how beautiful I already was; followed by my mom attempting a mini-intervention with the people I’d be paying for the surgery.
This continued until Dr. Bottom arrived and snapped a Polaroid of my eyes.
My mother watched the close-up develop then shuddered and gasped, “Maybe you do need this surgery.”
I turned to one of the nurses and said, “Give me the anesthesia, now!”
My mom grasped my hand in a dramatic farewell as they wheeled me into surgery. The last thing I heard before they put me under was my mother keening, “Her eyes were her one beauty …”
Finally, blissfully, I knew no more.
“Shannon. Open your eyes. Open your eyes, Shannon.”
I opened my eyes and saw Dr. Bottom and the anesthesiologist looking down at me. Neither of them could frown, due to their Botox. Apparently, they’d awoken me mid-surgery to make sure my eyes were even, so I didn’t end up looking like Marty Feldman.
I wasn’t under general anesthesia because I thought it would be stupid to die from vanity.
I had an IV that administered the same kind of anesthesia you get when you have a colonoscopy. Which you get if you have bowels. Which I don’t. I have roses where most people’s bowels are.
The rest of the surgery is a bit of a blur (pun intended). All I remember is waking up a second time in the recovery station – which was basically a draped square, then somehow ending up in my minivan with my mom driving us home in the wrong direction.
I was wearing Betty Ford rehab celebrity sunglasses, beginning to sense what kind of hellacious pain I’d feel once the drugs wore off, watching through my Rocky-after-Apollo-Creed-kicked-his-ass eye slits as the wrong landmarks slid by.
After touring downtown LA, Hollywood, Simi Valley and the entire length of the Pacific Coast Highway we finally arrived home. I’d actually done it. I’d joined the ranks of millions of post-op people I’d felt superior to and judged my whole life.
The ravages of time had made me their bitch.
I began a week of lying in bed with frozen peas on my head, a vial of Vicodin in my clutches, wearing my Betty Ford sunglasses so I wouldn’t forever scar my children with the image of me looking like a bloodied James Cameron Avatar.
Clare had no interest in seeing my vanity wounds, but Bridget’s curiosity got the best of her.
On the third day of recovery, she cornered me en toilette and demanded to see my eyes.
I told her my face was really scary. She said she could handle it. I removed my sunglasses. I saw her shudder ever-so-slightly in disgust, her pupils shrinking to pinpoints of horror.
“You can put the sunglasses back on, Mommy.”
Later, as I was halfway through the 200-hour first season of In Treatment and wondering why Gabriel Byrne couldn’t have been my shrink, I overhead Bridget and Clare talking in the hallway just outside my bedroom door.
Bridget (scandalized tone): “I saw Mommy’s eyes!”
Clare (Scooby Doo before entering a haunted house): “Was it … scary?”
Bridget (matter-of-fact): “Yeah, but she’s still the same funny Mommy.”
Apparently my sense of humor was still attractive.
Before my surgery, when I asked Dr. Bottom how long it would take before I could show my face in public again, he’d assured me that his receptionist Becky, who’d had the same procedure, was back at work after three days.
Let me assure you, had I shown my face in public on day three the villagers would’ve thrown a burlap sack over my head and tossed me into a cage, locked it and poked me with their walking sticks as I screamed, “I am not an animal!” over and over.
I’d say it took about three months before I began to feel less self-conscious.
There were times, during the healing, I was sure I looked like Linda Evans after she had surgery in her quest to keep Yanni. It also took about three months for Henry’s disgruntlement to wear off.
Now, almost three years later, I sometimes forget I’ve had anything done and so does Henry. And very occasionally Henry will admit Dr Bottom did a fantastic job. Which I do not find insulting.
I refused to allow anyone to take pictures of me immediately after the surgery. It’s one thing to blog about having plastic surgery, it’s another thing to send the vomit-uous reality out into the blogosphere.
But I leave you with my own Brow Lift Before and After pictures.
And while I won’t be rushing back under the knife anytime soon (ask me again when I’m 60 and want my neck tied into a knot on top of my head), I hope to die old with a good-looking corpse.