Friday, November 11, 2011

Naked November

I finished my assignment early, because my weekend is being eaten by a scheduled appearance on our local morning news.  I am presenting a furoshiki workshop, and they wanted to do a 3 minute bit about it on Sunday morning, so I have to drive up to LA and teach the anchors how to wrap a gift in fabric in about a minute and a half.  Local news glory, here I come.  GOOD THING I'M AWESOME.

I do not have a problem showing my naked face to the world.  I prefer to put on eyebrows, but that is because they do not exist past the arch.  They fell out recently.  So did many of my eyelashes, and a good amount of the hair along my hairline.  The doctors say I'm fine.  Probably just stress.

I generally don't wear makeup (except eyebrows) to work.  I always look very tired, because I have allergies beyond compare, but I don't care.  

Here is me, today, on my couch, after work.  I am not even wearing eyebrows, because I cut bangs again and now you can't see that they aren't there.
That's an impressive dark circle.  That, my friends, is the work of acacia pollen.

I think I look like a Muppet a lot of the time.  I also have very little visible eyelid. 

I act like a Muppet a lot of the time, too.  Also visible in this photo are my wonky tooth, my rather attractive nose, and the aforementioned Impressive Dark Circle.

I am of the firm belief that lighting is more important than makeup.  Exhibit A:  wearing only eyebrows, eyeliner, and a smile.  I don't even have any concealer on.  Still no eyelids. 
I have big teeth.  All the better to eat you with, my dear!  >chomp<

I do have a story to share about my face, however.  It is not entirely natural.  Not only are my teeth the product of years of orthodontic work and some cosmetic bonding, but my chin is not the one I was born with.  

I have had elective cosmetic surgery.  I am not shy about it in the least.

My father's side of the family has no jawline to speak of.  Our chins just slowly drip into our necks.  It's easy enough to disguise in pictures from the front, but from the side it's really noticeable.  Now, I am not alone in having this trait.  Many people have this same look, and I do not loathe it on them.  I loathed it on myself.  I can handle my dark circles, and my lidless eyes, and my intensely furrowed brow, and my farmer tan, and my beer gut, and any of a dozen other "flaws."  I just hated my chin.  I have hated it since I became aware of it, somewhere around the age of 11.  

Here is the picture that I refer to as the "Before" shot.  It was taken by the photographer at my dear friend's wedding reception.  I have no idea why he thought it was a good idea to get on the floor and look up at everyone- it's just not a flattering angle, ever. 
Ten years younger, twenty pounds lighter.  Ahh, genetics.  I think my head looks like a potato in this picture.

When I was 31, I had it sucked right the hell out.  I also had a chin implant.  The plastic surgeon suggested that I also have a lower facelift (I have a LOT of extra skin- "laxity" they call it- and it's also genetic), but that would have added a few grand to the total cost.  Someday, perhaps, if they can't tighten it up with non-invasive techniques.

Two days before my 32nd birthday, I went in for the facial vacuuming.
Lookit that poor fool, she has no idea what's about to go down.  

What went down was brutal.  A man with a metal cannula repeatedly jabbed me in the flesh for two hours, and then crammed a blue silicone crescent under my skin.  I am told that the stuff they removed was approximately the volume of a hamburger patty.  So that's an awesome visual.

Apparently, anesthesia turns me into the Fonz.  Like what's happening near my eye?  That felt great.  The tape over my chin is to keep the implant from drifting up.  I am Admiral Edema.  The swelling will get worse.  The crap on my chest is Betadine, not blood.  It was a pretty bloodless procedure, really.  The whole thing required an incision less than an inch long, under my chin where everyone has that scar from the time they ran into the coffee table as a child.

Upon arriving home, my nurse/mother strapped an icepack to my face.  It remained there for several days.  It did not help.  I swelled up like crazy, and since the pressure dressings kept my neck and chin under control, it went everywhere else.  Like my eyelids and cheeks.  I could barely see out of one eye. I wore this dressing for about ten days, growing ever greasier, ever itchier.  I clawed at my skull like a woman possessed.  My hair began to form angry little horizontal dreadlocks.  My mother helped me comb it out.  I could not open my mouth to eat anything more than pudding.  Brushing my teeth was also a no-go.  Listerine sufficed.  I was terribly sore and intensely cranky.  My only goal in life was to get the dressing off my head.

When it finally came off, I looked like hell.  All the swelling sloshed into the newly freed neck.  My father was horrified.  I had to keep reminding him that it wouldn't be settled for another few months.  Didn't put him at ease.  He resigned himself to having a daughter with a Mister Incredible jaw.

Did I mention the bruising?  I didn't care, all I wanted was a shower.  It was easily one of the three best showers of my entire life.

This, incidentally, is pretty much what I look like from the side now, minus the yellow and purple.  I like it better than it was before.

I had to wear an elastic pressure thingy at night for about six months.  It was difficult, because it holds your jaw shut.  I have allergies, so my nose rarely functions properly.  Breathing and sleeping were not compatible.  That was a fun six months.  The first elastic thingy developed a crease that was very painful, so I tried everything I could think of to pad it out.  The solution turned out to be "buy another elastic thingy that isn't defective."  

After a few weeks, the swelling and bruising had gone from "Jeez, what happened to you?" levels to "She has a very manly jawline" levels, and within six months my jaw is what it is today.  

The liposuctioned areas have one little ripple where things adhered a little too vehemently (oddly enough, it's the place where the crease fell on the elastic thingy), and it's visible in certain circumstances.  The implant sits on top of a nerve that controls my lower lip, so I can't make some of the goofy faces that I used to be able to ("llamaface" is less llama-y now).  Sucking out the neck fat made my jowls more noticeable, and I really should have had the lower facelift to get rid of some of this extra skin.  I am usually aware of the implant.  It doesn't hurt, unless I've been sleeping on my face or something, but it's definitely THERE.  It makes me wonder what people with breast implants feel.  Their implants are squishy, and mine is firm and sitting on a bone, but are they as aware of it as I am?  Can they sleep on their stomachs?

I'm generally happy with what I did.  I don't think about it at all anymore, which was the goal.  I do not live in fear of the candid photo.  I stand up straighter.  I used to stick my head forward like a turtle to try to create a tighter profile.  Now I just stand there and make whatever strange face I feel is appropriate.  Most people can't tell I had anything done until I show them the "Before" picture.  Most people asked me if I had lost weight.  

Yes, I did lose weight.  A few ounces, from a very particular spot.

I tell my tale not to be shocking, but because I do not like the culture of shaming we've developed around plastic surgery.  We do not shame people who dye their hair, or wear heels, or wear colored contact lenses.  All these things carry risks.  Sure, it seems extreme to cut your face to change your appearance, but consider orthodontic work- you're using wires and clamps to rearrange your skull.  Rearrange.  Your.  Skull.  Over the course of months and years.  Beauty is a gruesome thing, it just depends on degree.  Compared to the 4 years of braces I endured, this was cake. 

I do advise people who are considering liposuction that it is far more painful than they can imagine, and the results will not look like whatever Photoshopped bikini model they've envisioned.  A very thin person who has liposuction will have visible rippling.  Ironically, you need the fat under the skin to disguise the liposuction.  It's not a clean surgery- it's widescale damage, and it takes a long time to heal up correctly.  Pressure bandages suck.  And it will damage nerves.  

It WILL NOT change your life in any sort of significant way.  It will just change a very particular part of your appearance, which is not, in the long run, terribly important.  It is not a magic wand.  It's more like having a really reliable eyebrow pencil.

I disliked my chin.  I had it changed.  I don't dislike my chin anymore.  Simple as that.


  1. Oh my gosh! Sweetie, I am speechless that you shared this ... and quite honored. Big, HUGE hugs to you, dear friend. This is such a profound post!

    Thank you for being so brutally honest and pointing out that plastic surgery isn't only about those who abuse it. That it is also there for people who don't want to dislike a part of them anymore, who want to stop focusing on this or that. Thank you.

  2. Oh wow. Thank you for being so honest. There're things I dislike about my face and sometimes I catch myself thinking "Is botox really that bad?".
    Seeing your before and after pics I see plastic surgery can do awsome things. Seeing the swelling, bruises, reading about your pain - well, I guess I'll endure my wrinkles. I really hate pain. And not being able to shower. ;)

  3. Bravo for sharing this. The culture of shame around plastic surgery isn't really fair. Not everyone has surgery to be beautiful; some just want to be comfortable in their own body.

    I've had what could be considered plastic surgery twice. I consider both procedures successful because I no longer obsess over hiding those parts of me. (Yes, I am always aware of my implant.)

  4. You are so awesome to share this so openly. I couldn't agree more - no one should be shamed for making a personal decision on what to do with their own bodies. If it makes YOU feel better about yourself, do it! I've had a procedure myself, and it was one of the best things I've ever done. The important thing is to have realistic expectations, and go into it knowing, as you said, it's not going to change your life but it can indeed improve your self-image.

    I'm with Sal: when the time comes, I will have no qualms against giving Botox a try! :)

  5. Now I really want to know what everyone else had done. I like seeing really well done plastic surgeries, and y'all's must be well done, because I wouldn't have had any idea if y'all hadn't told me!

    I discovered a cache of funds I had forgotten about, and now I'm considering doing something lasery to address my laxity issue- my upper eyelids are falling fast, and I don't ever want to have to raise my eyebrows in order to see!

  6. Since you asked...
    I had terrible bags and dark circles under my eyes. I heard "Have you been crying?" or "You look tired" or "Are you feeling okay?" on a daily basis. This was very difficult for me as I was battling depression; it's hard to feel happy when people are constantly reminding you that you look sick/tired/sad even on your good days. Finally I had surgery to reduce the bags and laser treatment to lighten the circles. It's a tricky procedure, and my eyes look a bit hollow now. Not a fantastic result, but at least the person in the mirror no longer looks sad 24/7.

    My other procedure was related to a birth defect, pectus excavatum. At 19 years old, I looked very much like the 10-year-old girl in the photos at I had major surgery to correct the deformity, then implants the next year. Now, disregarding the 7" scar, I look more or less like a normal woman, though I still have the wickedly prominent clavicle.

  7. @Bane- how peculiar! I was just reading something about pectus excavatum the other day. I had never heard of it before (although I had seen it, on a guy on our swim team as a kid, but it never registered that it was a THING, I figured it was just his particular chest).

    I hear you on the eye bags. "No, I slept fine. I feel fine. Why do you ask?" is a pretty common thing around these parts, especially while the acacias are blooming. Sigh.