This post is the first of a 3-part Plastic Surgery series. Part 1 will share my own personal plastic surgery story. I will also include early before and after photos.
Part 2 will cover the important practical considerations to ensure a successful surgery. Part 3 will document the recovery.
My hope is that the series will help dispel some of the stigma around cosmetic surgery and encourage others to feel more knowledgeable and confident with whatever plastic surgery choice they make.
My Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Procedures
A few weeks ago I underwent aesthetic otherwise known as cosmetic (vs reconstructive) plastic surgery. More specifically: a neck lift, lower facelift, and upper blepharoplasty (upper eyelids to us non-medics). There. I said it. And, it was a long emotionally fraught journey to get there.
I am only now realizing the reasons why the decision was so difficult.
It boiled down to 3 inextricable factors: my view on aging, the world’s view on aging, and the glue that binds them tight: stigma.
Aging, Ageism and Plastic Surgery
It was never part of The Plan in my younger years to get “work” done. TBH, my self-worth was never too terribly tied to my appearance. I grew up on the East Coast in a family and environment that prized intellect more than looks. I internalized much of that even as life progressed.
That’s not to say that I didn’t care how I looked. I absolutely did. As an adult, my livelihood depended on it.
If you’ve read my brief bio on this site, you may know that my multi-decade career was in hi-tech sales. Looks and presentation really mattered, and geography reinforced its importance. I lived in a youth-obsessed mecca, the HQ of the tech world, the San Francisco Bay Area/Silicon Valley.
After all, it was Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg who coined the adage (at the ripe old age of 23) that “young people are just smarter”. The pervasive attitude in this neck of the woods is that innovation is a young person’s sport.
I knew many who “aged out” past 40 and then even more past 50. Over the years, I tried not to think about it too much and when I did, I naively believed I would be immune. If I took good care of myself, ate well, exercised, etc, then there would be no need to deal with workplace ageism or God forbid, plastic surgery.
It took a while for it to happen but it, in fact, did at the tail end of my 50s.
At that time, I grew more conscious of my age, aging, and my losing battle against it all.
- For the first time, I was self-conscious that most of my peers were 20 years younger than me. When did that happen? Were people treating me differently or was it my imagination?
- Outside the workplace, random strangers asked me whether I was a retiree. I wasn’t.
- I worked harder and longer with my morning beauty routine.
- I preferred not to have photos taken with me in them; moreover, it was difficult to even look at photos.
- As a result of COVID, countless cringeworthy hours were spent on Teams and Zoom calls. Having the proper lighting and makeup became critical.
I felt less relatable and more invisible at work. While I had great skin texture (from great skincare!), skin laxity particularly on my neck, jawline, lower face, and eyes had taken over. While I tried to brush it aside, I became very self-conscious and insecure.
Stigma and Plastic Surgery
One would think that the decision to “go under the knife” would be easy, but it took about 3 years from start to finish. It’s understandable given my attitude, internal biases, and judgments about plastic surgery. In fact, there was a running dialogue in my head.
Did my desire to get plastic surgery perhaps represent a character flaw? Did I fail in some way to stave off aging? Didn’t only vain rich people do this? How many times did I hear that someone looked great without plastic surgery? Did that mean it was “cheating” to get plastic surgery? Would I be able to avoid looking like I had plastic surgery? If people knew, would they think less of me?
My family, understandably, grappled with the same biases that I had and discouraged me. They likened me to a Real Housewives of Whatever City. “I looked great just the way I was”.
In lower hushed tones, I selectively shared my feelings and thoughts about surgery. The friends I dared tell fell into 3 camps: those who encouraged (typically they had done plastic surgery), those who were dubious, and those who were against.
And then there were the practical considerations only made worse because of the stigma I internalized.
I am healthy; why am I risking “unnecessary” surgery and anesthesia on my body? And what about the cost to do the surgery? The surgery costs how much to do what….a “vanity project”?
Plastic Surgery Stigma and Contradictions
Even while I continued with the self-judging internal conversation, I was also very aware of the contradictions of it all. Let’s look at some of the facts.
Aesthetic surgery is a multi-billion dollar industry ($14.6B in 2021) and 2022 is looking to exceed that. Face surgeries alone like mine constitute about 54% of all procedures. This tells me that the demand is high, folks are getting this done, yet the numbers of those who admit to it are not equivalent to the numbers getting it. It is a consummate Open Secret.
I also asked myself what Catch-22 world places such immense importance on appearance and youth yet frowns on those who pursue it?
Is it because no one wants to admit that ageism and all that goes with it exists? Is it because we don’t want to admit that we do judge books by their covers? I don’t know and would love to hear from all of you readers.
Plastic Surgery Results
Despite all of that, I ended up getting the surgery vacillating until the moment I lay on the operating table.
Here are a few hindsight 20/20 takeaways :
- Ageism exists and we all have internalized it to some extent. Some geographies are worse than others.
- The stigma of aesthetic plastic surgery does nothing but continue the ageism status quo
- There would likely be a lot less plastic surgery if aging were truly lauded. This would require a heavy cultural shift.
As for me, it took me a while to realize that my end goal was to look as good as I possibly could – for my age. If the surgery resulted in a bit younger-looking me then that was great but not mandatory. Vain, frivolous? Maybe. Do I wish we lived in a less ageist world? Absolutely.
After all of the rumination and self-judgment, I am good with my decision and can live with the contradictions. No more ruminating. My mojo is back. In fact, I wish I had pulled the trigger sooner.
If this topic interests you, be sure to SUBSCRIBE to get alerted FOR Part 2 and Part 3 of this series. Learn more about the practical considerations and get a view into what Recovery looks like.