Okay, you guys know I’ll somehow tie this together at the end, so just stay with me.
First of all, the question that I get before every procedure–“when will I look normal again?”—needs to be defined. Are you talking “normal” enough to drive to a Whole Foods in a different neighborhood to pick up more Arnica and a few pre-cooked meals, wearing a scarf, hat and sunglasses so that everyone thinks you’re trying to look like an incognito movie star but the woman standing next to you on the check-out line can see the bruises under your eyes and thinks, “Oh, yeah, she had something done,” but you don’t care because you’ll never see her again?
Or are you talking about an impromptu reunion with the hottest guy from your Med School class who you haven’t seen for over a decade but just happens to be in town for a meeting and wants to catch up over drinks two weeks after you just had a brow lift and your lower lids done?
Speaking from personal experience, I can answer both questions.
Shortly after opening my practice in Beverly Hills, I had an endoscopic brow lift (with tiny incisions in the hairline ) and fat transposition of my lower eyelids (see earlier post “What can I do about the bags under my eyes?”)
To those of you who don’t live here in La La Land, I know this sounds like a lot of surgery for someone who’s still relatively “young” but really, this wasn’t me being crazy because I’d just moved to Beverly Hills. It was a procedure I’d been thinking about for years (and had been told by several colleagues–not so tactfully–that I could really use.) Sometimes you look at your parents and the writing’s just on the wall. It’s not aging, it’s genetics and you shouldn’t have to apologize for wanting to fix it. In my case it was those fat bulges under my eyes, and the constant creases across my forehead from trying to keep my eyebrows off my upper lids. The upside was that I saved a lot of money on make-up because there was nowhere to put eyeshadow. Too much Botox in this situation–to get rid of transverse forehead creases on someone who has a short forehead and a low brow–risks making you looking like a Neanderthal:
So I had the procedure done. I had the best doctor in town—Dr. Andrew Frankel, at the Lasky Clinic in Beverly Hills—and I would recommend him to anyone in a second. And everything went swimmingly, except…I am a bruiser. I don’t know if it was the lower lids or the brow lift, but I was scary swollen and bruised for about a month. Like blue-black, can’t-cover-with-professional-makeup bruised. Even with all of the Arnica and Bromelein and Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments in town.
I believe that for most people, it would be reasonable to expect this kind of swelling and bruising for a week. But everyone responds differently and after my experience, I have to say that if you have an event that you really care about, give yourself at least a month to six weeks after this kind of surgery.
Okay, let’s define “care about”:
I was able to drive and go back to work three days later. Swollen and bruised and looking scary, but my patients were all so intrigued, and full of questions, and I didn’t mind telling them about it because you have to practice what you preach, right?
One week post-op, while picking up dry cleaning I heard some teenage girls on skateboards say (not even whisper) as I passed them, “That lady had plastic surgery.” I was more upset that they had referred to me as a “lady” than the fact that they had called me out on my surgery.
But, never going to see them again and I don’t know their mothers. So, still don’t care.
Ten days post-op a colleague takes me to a big party for a Craniofacial Surgery Society. For this one I got professional makeup done because I wasn’t really looking forward to sporting my still-very- obvious cosmetic surgery bruises in a room full of male plastic surgeons. I thought the professional makeup was doing the trick, until a couple of hours into it, I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror and realized that the packed-on concealer under my eyes was there no longer and the bruises were as dark and obvious as ever, and I wasn’t fooling anyone.
Oh, well. They’re not my crowd anyway. Still don’t care.
But then….two and a half weeks after my surgery…pretty much back to my normal routine…My browlift is looking amazing, and the bruising and swelling under my eyes is slowly getting better but still extremely obvious but, what the hell…at this point I’ve given up trying to hide it…and anyway, we’re in Beverly Hills, I’m wearing it all like a badge of honor…and then one day my office manager rips one of those phone message things from the book and hands me my copy and says, “Oh, this Doctor C.M. is coming into town for a meeting this weekend. He said to call him, maybe you guys can get together.”
At this point I am a successful Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon in Beverly Hills. I’ve got it going on. People respect and like me. My patients love me. I’m an accomplished adult.
And yet my first thought is: OMG!!! C.M.? C.M. was by far the cutest guy in my Med school class. I had not seen or spoken to C.M. for fourteen years. I didn’t think he even knew who I was. How did he find me? And did he mean to find me? I had never had another “Suzanne” in a class with me my entire life, until Med school where there were three of us. And as luck would have it, the other two were: 1) a beauty pageant queen from Maryland and 2) a cute-as-a-button girl who went by “Suzie.” Surely C.M. was confused. Surely he thought he was calling one of them.
Then there was the issue of my face. Even after I moved into the Hyperbaric Oxygen chamber for the next two days and tried the professional makeup again, there was no way my face was ready for a reunion with C.M.
He was staying two blocks away, at the Century Plaza Hyatt. I called him and we had a nice chat. We confirmed that he knew exactly which Suzanne he was talking to—that I was not the ex “Miss Maryland” or the darling five-foot-one girl that everyone was always giving piggy back rides to. He’d heard from a friend that I was in L.A. and he didn’t know anyone here and was hoping we could get together. During this conversation I tried to convey how improved I was since Med School. I was a Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon. I had cool friends and I myself was incredibly cool, so much cooler and improved than when he knew me in fact, that I was not going to be able to meet him this weekend because in a few hours I was leaving to go snowboarding in Mammoth.
To have to lie like that was pure agony. But there was no way I was going to meet C.M. after fourteen years looking like Frankenstein.
My patients and I share stories like this all the time and when I tell this one–even to the women who are settled and married and out of the dating world (as am I!)—they feel my pain as if it were their own. Because no matter what we do as women professionally, when it comes to dating, for some reason the playing field is completely leveled out and when we get really excited about someone, we start acting like we’re in high school again.
On that note, as much as I generally dislike medical TV shows, I can’t help noticing that there are a couple of new ones this fall that resonate with me–“The Mindy Project” on Fox and “Emily Owens, MD” on the CW–about young Bridget-Jonesy female physicians failing miserably in their personal lives despite their successful careers. While the main character in my book, Lipo Queen isn’t bumbling around the hospital, mooning after her colleagues in between saving lives, what makes her interesting is her confidence in the workplace, and lack thereof around men. So I’m curious to tune in, particularly to “Emily Owens, MD,” which has the tag-line “High school in the hospital.” However, I don’t think doctors, with their stunted social development, are the only ones who tend to behave like high schoolers in the workplace. I’m guessing that behind closed doors, the big law firms and business offices are not very different.
If you don’t have a reason to watch it, I’ll give you one:
My husband can make fun of me all he wants, but he’s the one watching Vampire Diaries and asking, “Honey, why aren’t these girls taking their clothes off?” and I have to tell him, “They’re underage, and you’re on the wrong network.”
The show premieres October 16th on the CW, but the pilot is available online. Here’s a link to watch it: http://www.cwtv.com/shows/emily-owens-md
Check it out! It looks like fun, and a dichotomy (big word for me, I know) that most women can relate to! But please remember, no matter what those TV doctors say—not all of us plastic surgeons are mean girls. ;)