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Is That Really You?

To nip and tuck…or accept nature’s surprises as they happen…

Photo by Bianca Berg on Unsplash

This summer, a friend turned to me during dinner on my deck and asked, “Can you tell I’ve had a face lift?”

I’ll call her Camilla, after the now Queen Consort. When this particular friend lived in London, she met the former Dutchess of Cornwall and had a few words with her, so it’s fitting.

Camilla looked good, like her face was at peace with itself. Well rested is the expression people often use for a good face lift. Importantly, she still looked like her.

Camilla now has fewer sags and stress lines, which — quite honestly — I hadn’t noticed until she trotted out her before and after photos. She’s in her early 60s, “late” for having work done if you ask a plastic surgeon.

I am glad she is satisfied. For me? No thank you!

Why I Won’t Be Having a Face Lift

Let’s say up front, there’s no judgment here. A face lift is nothing to be ashamed of. Every year, some 130,000 women in the U. S. have them. Some of my best friends are among them.

I’ve never had a consult. And I hate it when, while examining my skin during an annual check-up, a new dermatologist makes conversation by hawking their creams and services. Have you considered a peel. They’re much milder than they use to be.

One reason I resist “work” is that I try to stand up for letting nature take its course. They still call Robert Redford’s wrinkled face “handsome” — why not mine?

The other reason — and just as important — is that there are no guarantees. I could have the very best surgeon but uncooperative skin. I could have the very best surgeon on his worst day. I could become obsessed, like Jacqueline Wildenstein, who reportedly spent over $2 million dollars to look like a lion. Who can forget that face on the December 15, 1997 issue of New York?

Cover photo

OMG! If I went under the knife and looked like that? If didn’t like what I saw afterward — or worse, didn’t recognize myself, maybe I’d get used to the new face and even get to like it. More likely, I’d look in the mirror for the rest of my life and think, You did this to yourself.

Camilla has no regrets about her face lift. I’ve always known her to be a no-nonsense kind of person, someone I consider smart and authentic, and this was her choice.

But when I ask her what the weeks of post-op healing were like, I remembered another reason I’ve avoided such procedures: it’s surgery. The pain, the drains, the swelling, the sleeping sitting up.

It’s not that I’m squeamish. I’ve always been brave about procedures I’ve had to have, but I choose surgery only as a last resort.

The Last Word on Surgery

An email from my friend Margaret (her real name) prompted me to write this piece. Margaret has listened to my not-for-me rants on for years.

The headline — What I Wish I’d Known Before Getting a Facelift — is followed by this teaser:

I can’t believe that I am talking publicly about my facelift and that millions of people now know how vain I am. But since I don’t believe in gatekeeping, and this was not a decision I took lightly, I’m embracing the power of transparency and sharing information.

I read the whole article. Each paragraph confirmed my reluctance to undergo cosmetic surgery.

The author, Jenny Patinkin, was in her early 50s when she had “a lower- and mid-face lift, along with an upper and lower blepharoplasty (lift) for my eyelid.”

Coincidentally, my daughter, also a Jen, is around Ms. Patinkin’s age. Many of her contemporaries started down a similar path in their forties:

I’d already tried it all: Botox, fillers, lasers, radio frequency, platelet-rich plasma (PRP), LED, microneedling, and microcurrent therapy. Many of those procedures were effective, if not miraculous, and they did help smooth, tighten, and lift. But as I rounded the corner into my fifties, I found these treatments were less and less effective, and I was no longer getting the results I wanted. I was probably in my mid-forties when I started thinking about getting a lift, and I even had surgery booked at one point, but I was honestly just too chicken to move forward with it. After I hit 50, I felt differently.

So much at such a young age, I thought to myself. What will she do when she’s really old (whenever that is)?

In the 2000s, plastic surgery entered enjoyed “an explosion in popularity,” due, in part, to the the more agressive marketing of injectables and other non-surgical techniques. My daughter and Jenny Patinkin have been targeted since their early thirties.

Perhaps I have been immune to the industry’s siren call because of Jacqueline Wilderstein’s overworked face. To this day, it is the cautionary image I see in my mind’s eye whenever the mirror reveals yet another splotch on my cheek or a new wrinkle around my mouth. In a secret moment, I sometimes pull the skin back on my neck to imagine what it might be like, but I quickly decide, No, it’s not worth the chance.

But I have to say Jenny Patinkin’s “six thoughts” after having her surgery have convinced me once and for all not to allow anyone to alter my face. One of Jenny’s revelations was that she didn’t recognize herself — my greatest fear:

…the unrecognizable face staring back at me in the mirror and the nagging feeling of, “Oh shit, what have I done?”

To Do or Not to Do?

Whether or not you’re contemplating a procedure, Jenny’s article is worth reading. She is brave to break the silence.

In the end, it is not a matter of choosing which “side” you’re on — the fixed versus the naturals. Most of us fall in between anyway. My teeth are capped, I color my grey hair a brownish blond, and I’ve had the sun spots lasered.

Looks change as we age — and in ways we can’t predict. Meanwhile, a cruel cultural message plays in the background: “Stay young and pretty or you become invisible!”

The truth is, there’s no such thing as “staying” young. With or without our permission, we will age. And that’s the good news when you consider the alternative.

Each of us comes to terms with the uncertainty in our own way. We do whatever it takes to stay in the game. For some, that includes a face lift. I’d rather put the money toward vacations.

In the words of Mae West

Your real security is yourself. You know you can do it, and they can’t ever take that away from you.

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Melinda Blau

Melinda Blau

Writer/speaker/observer of relationships, I'm a hip old lady at large. I cover the dramas we all play out. Writing's a bitch but it, mostly, makes me happy.