Having plastic surgery when I was in my 40s completely transformed my life — and not just the outside. It was surgery that I didn’t really need, but my outside finally matches how I feel inside. I’m not talking Kardashian, Rivers and Wildenstein extreme; I’m talking about tweaks. A better version of me.
When I was 45, I spent $8,000 to have an upper eyelift, lower facelift, liposuction on my cheeks and under my chin and a mini tummy tuck to correct a crooked C-section scar. When I decide to share this, I admit up front to vanity, blaming it on two decades in the TV news business. But that is only partly true.
Like many women, my insecurity began in childhood. One of my first memories was my parents telling me that I was the prettiest girl in the world. They said it so often and so matter-of-factly that I, of course, came to believe it. I was devastated when I learned there was a Little Miss America pageant and enraged I wasn’t in it. If only they’d discover me! If only my parents would enter me! They never did. This was, of course, many years before Toddlers and Tiaras.
What my parents did, innocently and unknowingly, was make me insecure about my looks as I grew up and realized that I wasn’t, in fact, the prettiest girl in the world. I was decent looking — cute, maybe — but not extraordinary. I was definitely not the way they saw me.
I spent the next four decades seeking to enter that pageant, so to speak, or at least wanting my actual face to match what I saw when I closed my eyes. It was a journey that led to facial plastic surgery that many would say I didn’t need.
I had my mother’s very large cheeks and deep-set eyes that photograph like two black sockets in sunlight. I inherited my dad’s prematurely drooping eyelids and early jowls from both. I was called "chipmunk cheeks" in school: A round face on a slender body.
I set out to prove I was pretty, entering pageants in college and pursuing the most relentlessly critical career possible: on-air reporting. That is when my dysmorphia hit critical mode.
Applying for my first anchoring job, the news director looked startled when I walked into the room. “Oh,” she said, “You look so different in person! You don’t have a ball chin.”
For whatever reason, I was given fill-in weekend anchor stints and managed to anchor in a tiny market, but I never got the full-time appointment I sought. I had solid reporting credentials, but looking back, I probably wanted to prove to myself that I really was attractive.
I got to the point where I could no longer look in a mirror. Even after I left the news business to raise my son and follow my husband’s career, I was focused on getting rid of those bursting cheeks, that pouch under my chin, and the upper eyelid skin that started sticking to the outer corner of my lids. It ran, like a background program, in my mind constantly.
When my family moved to the Middle East (also a looks-conscious culture), we finally had the money to make the change I’d always wanted. When my new expat British friends joked that I looked “mumsy” (frumpy) I decided I could no longer wait. I flew back to the States and met with a plastic surgeon I had interviewed for a story long ago. The following summer, I had the surgery. I was so determined, it never occurred to me to be afraid. When I woke up, bandaged like a mummy, purple and swollen, I felt relieved, excited — even beautiful.
With every passing day, as the sutures dissolved and the swelling went down, I felt a little more confident. The results were more far-reaching than I expected. My slimmer face, more defined neck and wider eyes gave me the impetus to make other changes in my life. I lost some baby weight that I had gained, left a barren marriage and started a freelance writing career.
I ended up divorcing and moving back to the States. The fear and uncertainty of so many life changes seemed far less daunting. Before, I never had the confidence to make drastic changes to my personal life. It was as though my mind’s slate was wiped clean, cleared for normal thoughts and new possibilities.
As an added bonus, I look younger than my resume would suggest, and feel I have faced less age discrimination when looking for work.
Facelifts slow down time, but they don’t erase it. Eleven years later, the inevitable wrinkles and effects of gravity are catching up, but I no longer care. I feel like the burden of my looks has been lifted. I am ready to grow old more gracefully. My face is no longer my obsession.
I still have a ball chin that looks better if I tuck my head down in photos, and deep-set eyes that I can brighten with concealer, but my surgeries balance out my facial symmetry.
I know the idea of a facelift, especially for someone who had no riveting imperfection, might seem vain or pointless or needlessly conforming to some external ideal, but for me it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I did it solely for my own confidence, and now, at 56, I couldn't be happier. My outside better reflects my inner self. My eyes are wide open.
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