Suck, Tuck, Please Sign Here

I’ve eaten so much crow in this lifetime, that I’m acquiring a taste for it. So many things that I have mocked, one being cosmetic surgery. The caveat being that it best serves the more mature woman, engaging in it for her satisfaction.

Cosmetic surgery has become as pedestrian as bringing a car to a body shop. Practiced for centuries, it is unrecognizable from where it started. Incredibly advanced with a slew of nonintrusive procedures available for both women and men.

After having three kids, my bladder had relocated somewhere under my armpit, my kidneys were missing in action, and the rest of my organs were either displaced or hiding. With torn stomach muscles, a thousand crunches amounted to a waste of time. My superhero muffin top spread out like a La-Z-Boy wall recliner. That was 15 years ago when I opted for a tummy tuck. I could’ve taken a pass on surgery but decided to eat crow instead. I’d eaten everything else.

I wanted to reclaim what had radically shifted on my body and my terms. I knew I couldn’t change my Slovak DNA, a legacy of robust mountain women like ‘Brienne of Tarth’ from ‘Game of Thrones.’ I told my husband and one girlfriend and went for it.

Coming from a profession of high-end photography, I knew that when digital manipulation was appropriately applied to a face or body, symmetry was achieved. Possessing a strong sense of aesthetics, I intimately comprehended how significant balance is in everything, including how we live our lives.  When it comes to a face or body, what is digitally manipulated in one place must be compensated for in another. We have an innate intuitive resonance towards an aesthetic that possesses balance.

Seeing this was elective surgery, I didn’t take any of it lightly. I researched the top cosmetic surgeons in Toronto. A dear friend who was a forensic psychologist assisted me with creating pertinent questions I knew I had the right to ask. Then off I went like a modern-day Goldilocks searching for the surgeon that was ‘just right.’

Engaging ‘More Magazine,’ I agreed to document my journey. The first office was terrifying. It pretended to have a feng shui presence when it looked more like your aunt’s rec room from the seventies. The artificial turf carpet and tired furnishings were incongruent to someone branding themselves in a field based on appearances. I was escorted into the surgeon’s office which lacked the same personality as the surgeon. No sooner I sat down he proudly presented me with a slew of images that looked like they came from Fotomat. Each adhered to a thin ply of cheap picture matting. I suppose he thought I might rifle through them and be overwhelmed by his brilliance and aesthetics. The opposite occurred. I was stunned by how shoddy the work was, terrified I would end up in a Twilight Zone episode, where everyone has a snout because their perception of beauty is skewed. I turned off my listening, paid my $150 consult fee, and received a quote, void of an envelope, that equated to the price of a compact car,

The second guy won an award for the most pretentious. His waiting room adorned with French antiques was stuffy and garish with Stepford wives as support staff. No emoting from the severely taut faces. A gentleman quietly sat in a winged back chair, his face as tight as my Spanx, peaking out from underneath a sable coat the size of a king duvet. Clothed in a denim jacket and a pair of Converse, I watched for over two hours as people drifted through the office, out of my income bracket. Most looking like they came out of central casting for a horror flick sashaying into the opulent reception room. I intuitively knew this surgeon was not the guy for me. If he did that to a face, then he could badly mess up my body. After waiting for so long, I was annoyed at his disregard for my time. Ready to leave I was finally called in. With only two sentences spoken, I knew he wasn’t the guy for me. While examining my body, he was unaware of how dismissive he was in his disposition. Yeah, I had a muffin top, but except for that, I happen to love my body. It’s been with me my entire life and has been good to me. This experience is about tweaking it, not changing it. If anyone is going to have an opinion on that, it’s going to be me. The entire conversation had a disconnect. He was focused on scheduling surgery before golf season when what I wanted to know is how long I’d be in bed with three children at home. I happily paid my $150 on a quote that required altitude sickness pills and came with an envelope in the highest cardstock weight. The non-emoting receptionist, her eyes as tight as my bra, communicating she wished she could smile as she handed me my processed credit card. Her lips were similar to the trout I passed in the seafood store on my way to the appointment.

The third doctor was a closet artist. Once he knew I was from the world of photography, he immediately shared with me his recent photographic acquisitions. I could care less, and worse yet, he told me he’d do the tummy tuck, but he was a breast man and wouldn’t I prefer to address that instead? I was speechless. He didn’t even examine me. Instead, I got up, walked out, paid another consulting fee and found solace in the fact that I was at least collecting Visa travel points.

The balance of the doctors following those three were similar. Rooted in ego and grandiose in how they viewed themselves and their practice. I queried all of them with the list of questions I brought and was taken aback by the resistance that so many had. More curious about my inquiries then answering them.

I had one last guy on my list. I couldn’t find a lot on him at the time, but something said to go there. He was sharing an office with another doctor while his clinic was being built. His receptionist was a granola looking woman who clearly had no work done and not a stitch of makeup, unlike the others, whose cosmetics was dialled into early 1980’s club mode. She was natural and friendly, down to earth and kind. I had trouble wrapping my head around it. His reception room was compact and serene. Elegantly appointed and not pretentious. Simple like a Calvin Klein linen drawer. I had waited less than five minutes when he apologized for running a few minutes behind.

I told him I had several questions and he was inviting and welcoming contrary to the previous surgeons who were visibly inconvenienced and dismissive.  He was fussy during the examination with no judgements. Strategic, respectful and professional. What was particularly telling, was how much of his practice was dedicated to repairing the procedures of others in his field.  That sealed the deal.

The quote I was given was fair and I knew there would be added value in the investment he had for his patients. I placed down my credit card, this time for an advance, prepared for them to suck, tuck and ask me to “please sign here.” I felt like I was putting a deposit down on structural renovations with which I had a lot of experience. No one was going to see the repairs behind the drywall but once addressed, and with new drywall, a smoother line would be created so more sunshine could spill into a room that had familiarity for me.

Come the day of the surgery as the anesthesiologist readied himself, I saw images in the operating room of what would become my past. Flesh, busting out of the waistband of underwear as I surrendered only to wake up later that day in a tight corset style garment. Still doped up I ran my hand down my torso which I knew probably looked like a bus had run over it. For now, it felt like how I remembered myself. That’s all I wanted was to feel closer to who I knew myself to be. This journey wasn’t about vanity; it was reclaiming me. It’s easy to judge, and that’s when we end up eating crow. I don’t know Jane Fonda or Raquel Welch’s cosmetic surgeon, but they look exceptional, and this surgeon was every bit as skilled and more.

Pushing 60 I’m not sure if I’ll go down this road again. But I’m glad I went when I did. I don’t want to be twenty again. I wish to be the best I can be at the age I’m at and if advancements in cosmetic surgery can help me to feel fresher and more myself, then I’ll go for it. Next time without having to eat crow.

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