On Learning To "Live With" My Face

I visited a plastic surgeon's office. It didn't end well.

Apr 19, 2012 at 9:00am | Leave a comment

Last week, In Touch ran a story called "What Happened to Adele's Nose," featuring before and after pictures. I've always been fascinated by plastic surgery, and the judgmental title irritated me. Adele looked undeniably beautiful in the "after" photo, like an airbrushed version of herself. Adele's maybe new nose inspired me to pitch Emily an "In Defense of Plastic Surgery" article, and she approved.

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To start, I decided to meet with a well-known plastic surgeon, lets call him Dr. X, to discuss nose jobs. I made the mistake of bringing my own nose into the conversation and that's when things took a turn for the brutally honest.

"Think of your face as an outfit," said Dr. X. "Everything might work together as a whole, but examine each piece and you'll find the imperfections."

According to Dr. X, my outfit, or face, is fine, but each piece, my features, can't be worn alone. None of them is beautiful, according to the expert, except for my eyes, which are still flawed because they're too close together. While my short forehead and weak chin can't really be improved upon -- I will have to "live with" them -- my prominent nose can be slimmed, straightened and lifted.

"If we push this back, I think your eyes will look prettier," Dr. X explained, aligning his pen with the bridge of my nose. "Just something to think about."

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Visibly dejected, I sort of froze. Dr. X reassured me that he sees countless models with similar issues, as if to prove that even the most traditionally beautiful of patients can benefit from facial readjustment. Okay.

After my appointment, on the downtown 6 back to the office, I thought about all the things I would have to "live with." My short forehead and long nose. My weak chin and lack of cheekbones. My almost pretty eyes.

As a beauty writer, I'm still preoccupied by this equation that I've talked about before, "a terrible little math problem multiplying and dividing forever in your head that equates rather exactingly your own hotness with the rest of the world's ability to love you."

Having my face appraised made me feel physically insufficient; less lovable, but I essentially asked for it by bringing myself into the conversation. And what really did I expect from a plastic surgeon? Reducing faces and bodies to a set of measurements is his job.

I reminded myself of this over and over, but back at the office when I tried to speak to Emily about an upcoming story, my eyes welled up with tears and I told her what had happened earlier that morning. I thought about the time when she was heckled on the subway by a crazy person. I had been calmly deconstructed by a professional and I had asked for it. 

The next day, I see something different in the mirror, this clinical breakdown of a face. My new knowledge doesn't make me want to book a follow-up appointment with Dr. X though. If I do decide to "fix" my flawed nose, I want to find a surgeon who takes a different approach. 

Back to Adele's maybe new nose. What bothers me about celebrities being criticized for undergoing plastic surgery is this sense that their maybe flaws are supposed to help us accept our own. "Stars, they're just like us." Similarly, when an overweight star decides to lose weight, fans often feel some sort of betrayal. It isn't Adele's responsibility to help me "live with" my face. She's a person too, with her own insecurities and aspirations.

How do you feel about celebrity plastic surgery? Do you care? Have you ever experienced something similar to what happened to me with Dr. X? Maybe your experience was with a sales associate or hair stylist? How did it feel? Tell me; let's talk about it.

Follow Julie on Twitter @JR_Schott.