“What don’t you like about your face” said the surgeon

“Is there something about your face you’d like to change?” That’s what I was once asked when I went for microbrasion (which is like a strong scrub on your face with sand but not sand). They gave me a magnified hand mirror and asked me that. This is a place that also does a lot of injectibles, something that became apparent to me as I sat in the waiting room with a lot of women who looked really odd and the same and I couldn’t work out why until later.

Naturally, I put the mirror down and ran screaming from the room. Not really. My skin was really bad and I was hoping the micro-dermabrasion would fix it (it didn’t)  but I did put the mirror down. Because I don’t think it’s a good idea to gaze at yourself up close for any other reason than to squeeze pimples or pluck eyebrows.

But there are some people who really DO want to change something about themselves so much that they have plastic surgery.

This is a guest post from writer Kate Mende-Fridkis who went on a quest for the perfect nose.  She writes:

By Kate Mende-Fridkis

The first time I went for a consultation with a cosmetic surgeon, I wore high heels. When he held the mirror up to show me where my nose had failed at beauty, I liked my face. I wasn’t supposed to. But just in the moment when I was supposed to hate my face the most, I thought it was beautiful. I thought that he must be thinking, “Why would this girl ever want to change anything about the way she looks? Oh well, I’ll make some money…” He probably wasn’t thinking that. Except the last part.

Maybe it was some sort of perverted little survival instinct. My brain was like, “HE’S GOING TO CUT YOUR FACE OPEN!!! QUICK! SELF-LOVE!” It didn’t work. I went ahead with the surgery. I’d made my decision. I felt empowered. Hey, being able to decide to change yourself can be very empowering. Penelope Trunk and I need to have a conversation about this, when I become famous enough to talk with her a lot. In a recent post, she said she was obsessed with the idea of plastic surgery, but she’s squeamish, like me. Honestly, I’m not sure at this point what I’d tell her.

When he took the cast off my face, I thought I’d look completely different. I was so ready for it, I almost saw it. I mean, I did look different. I had giant bruises under my eyes. But I could see the new beauty, just behind those bruises.

But my nose wasn’t ready to change. It hadn’t given up the fight. It had been put on this earth for a reason. To torment me. To celebrate my proud Jewish heritage (what is with those Orthodox girls with the tiny noses? I look like ten times more religious than them). Anyway, it refused to be tamed. And he did another surgery, this time with local anesthesia, so that I could feel the seven or eight giant needles being forced through the bridge of my nose, and then the grotesque, if not precisely excruciating sensation of him hacking at the cartilage inside my nose. Let me clarify something: I am so squeamish that as a kid I made my mom check Reader’s Digest for pictures of surgery before I read it. (For some reason my grandfather bought me a subscription to Reader’s Digest when I was ten. It depressed me for other reasons, too.)

The second surgery didn’t really work either.  I mean, my nose looked different, but not like a nose that has had a nose job. I wasn’t surprised. My nose had proven by then what it was made of. Steel. Or something.

And then, today, over a year after the second surgery, there I was, sitting in the chair across from a cosmetic surgeon. A different one. With a big office up high, overlooking the city. He was saying that the ENT specialist who had referred me to him was definitely right, another surgery was in order. For my breathing, and for my—face. The ENT had said, “Obviously, you’re attractive. This isn’t about that. It’s about giving you the nose you wanted to begin with.” It was a great compliment, I thought. I was surprised at how much it meant to me.

The cosmetic surgeon was saying, “How does your fiancé feel about it?”

“He doesn’t want me to do it.”

He nodded and smiled a little. “Most loved ones are uncomfortable with the procedure. They always think it’s ridiculous that the patient wants to change her appearance.”

“Yeah,” I said, not sure what to say.

“Y’know,” he said offhandedly, “They love the way you look now. It’s normal.” He looked like someone who’d had to sit through the silly, unrefined love people had for one another a million times. And a million times, he’d had to patiently explain, “No, no. You only THINK she’s attractive.”

But that was the part that left the biggest impression of me. I thought of all the women who had sat in that chair before me. Armies of women who wanted to change their faces. And the people who loved their faces just the way they were. And I felt kind of happy. It’s nice to think about all that love.

I walked the approximately one hundred and fifty blocks home. I wanted time to think. I didn’t feel as ready to commit as the first time I went to a cosmetic surgeon. Maybe more than just my face has changed.

Kate Mende-Fridkis is an amazing writer living in Manhattan, New York. She has her own blog here.

Have you ever considered having something ‘done’? Would you? Could you? Should you?