Tomorrow is the two week anniversary of my facelift.
I thought about my decision long and hard. I searched my heart for motive. Did I want to look different? No. There is no one I would rather look like than myself. I am not Barbie or chasing Barbie. Did I want to be younger? Only in the sense that I would love to have the energy I had when I was younger, and that it would be nice to have lots more time left to continue to experience life and love. But plenty of young people die without having lived and loved as much as I have, and I have had an incredible journey to here.
It all began when my friend Judith and I were at a high end store looking at earrings and a young woman approached us and addressed us: “Oh, you girls look so cute!” Her voice was kind enough but her attitude not so much. We wondered if she thought vanity should have vanished with age. Judith and I looked at each other incredulously. Us, old?
At the time I was working full time, writing, and going to Zumba classes 4 times a week. I was walking our golden retriever two miles every day. I didn’t feel a bit old. Judith was an artist actively practicing her craft and working two or three times a week at a gallery in town that featured her exquisite designs. So, after the young woman left us, we called her crazy and laughed and left the store, a little more aware of our aging selves but not particularly disturbed. We had agreed we would grow old in good shape, and we would never become plastic looking old women who looked like they had been caught in a bad wind like some of the celebrities of our generation.
That incident was twelve years ago. Twelve years that brought some really challenging times. I had a stroke, underwent quintuple bypass surgery, and little by little my face began to change and it seemed that it began to fall downward. My cheeks hollowed out, I was gifted with jowls I hadn’t asked for, and after my “turkey waddle” took over my lower face I began to look tired and worn. Facebook pictures required so much retouching of marionette lines and double chins, under eye wrinkles etc. that I began to post older pictures so I wouldn’t have to go through the trouble of editing new ones. My joyful spirit could not see itself in the mirror, as a very tired looking woman had taken center stage. I would come home from work after a long day of seeing patients who were depressed, wondering if or how their therapist’s tired face affected them.
Wearing turtle necks was out of the question. I have a short neck. Above the turtle neck the folds under my chin looked pretty strange. Not wearing turtle necks revealed the aforementioned folds accompanied by an endardectomy scar on the side of my neck. So I grew my hair long enough to camouflage both and kept things simple.
I told myself it would be silly to have a facelift. After all, the world at large pretty much knows my age. Unlike some of my friend who have agonized over the number of an upcoming birthday, I haven’t experienced a scary number yet. In fact, what I think of is how grateful I am that I get to be on the planet one more year.
So as the years passed I didn’t dwell on the subject, but once in a while I would stand in front of the mirror and sort of pull my skin up and find the old familiar face I had worn for most of my life make an appearance and when the time came to go on a TV program on Univision a few years ago I gave in to Botox and Juvederm injections. The result was nothing short of miraculous. Between the “little work” and the amazing make up lady at the station, I had my face back for a very short time. Not my youth, just my face. I was again familiar to myself. I chided myself for my vanity, felt like a traitor to all my friends who felt strongly that they wanted to “age gracefully” and see what they would look like at age 80. What happened to the woman who said she wanted to “age naturally”? The truth is she was not impressed by the preview of coming attractions.
My husband of 30 years had no opinion on the matter. I am blessed the love of a man who just likes ME. So his contribution to the conversation was simply to say that he loved me just the way I was and would love me just as much after the surgery.
I started researching surgeons. I made appointments with three. Prices were very comparable so that was not a big consideration. I wanted to find a surgeon who would commit to doing a “mild” face lift. I wanted my chins to disappear, but not every line on my face. I wanted to look well but did not want to lose my expression. And then my friend Sharon had her facelift with one of the three and that made my decision. Why? She still looks like Sharon. I knew he was the guy.
I decided on a lower facelift and lower blepharosostophy, and my doctor suggested laser for the under eye area as the skin was quite wrinkled. I showed up for my surgery at 7:45 in the morning. I had local anesthesia and mild sedation and after two hours and forty five minutes walked out of the recovery room with stitches and a couple of drain tubes. It was uncomfortable but I didn’t need to use any of the prescribed pain pills. It was a chore to take care of the areas under my eyes burnt by the laser for the first 7 or 8 days with white vinegar compresses and prescription ointment and lots of barrier cream. I am not crazy about sleeping on my back with my head elevated for a few weeks. But I am really glad I decided to do this.
I have a few months to go before my chipmunk cheeks go back to normal, the multitude of bruises fade, and the swelling subsides. I have a pretty good concealer to use in the meantime. The lines of my face will come back but not the really deep ones, and the tiredness is already gone. I am really glad I did this. No regrets.