Losing Face - Chapter 1*
By Sandra Long
I honestly don't know what made me finally decide to do it. I thought about it many times. And I thought I was crazy to think about it just as many. I talked to a relative who had just done it and she was very happy with it. That nudged me slightly towards it.
So I flew to Canada to discuss it with her doctor and he seemed quite capable. I wrestled with it for a year after that. When I finally felt comfortable enough to start talking about it to friends and relatives, I expected that would be the sign that I was ready to do it. But I still had many more moments of indecision about it.
And then, just like in a restaurant when the waitress walks up and asks, 'Are you ready to order?' I said, 'Yes, I'll have the facelift.' Suddenly it became crystal clear to me like I had been looking at it through the bottom of my bifocals, and with just a slight turn of my head, it all came into clarity. I want a facelift.
I waffled so frequently on the decision to have a facelift that I really can't put my finger on what was the one thing that finally made me decide to actually go ahead and do it. Maybe it was when I finally faced up to how others actually saw my face. I have always had an inner Dorian Grey image of myself that looked as young on the outside as I felt on the inside. It wasn't the most beautiful or youngest image, but it was the one that matched how I felt on the inside - youthful and energetic.
Then one day, Ms. Dorian Grey in Training parked her youthful butt in the seat in front of mine for the entire hockey season. She was the girlfriend of one of the hockey players but after talking to her a few times it seemed like she may have been hit in the head with a few hockey pucks herself. Game after game I attempted casual conversation with her while silently wishing I had the nerve to ask her to stop tossing her lengthy frizzy mane into my beer which I placed in the cup holder on the back of her seat.
Why does a woman feel compelled to constantly toss her hair back every few minutes like that? If her hair is causing so many problems it has to be tossed back that often, then cut it, spray it, pin it, put a wig on it, but for God's sake don't toss it in my beer during a hockey game.
Our casual conversation kept coming back to a character in a soap opera that she thought I looked like. A spitting image, she said.
'You should look her up', she urged.
Each game after that, she'd say, 'Have you seen her yet? You're the spitting image.'
'Not yet', I replied each time.
I had two problems with pursuing her obsession with my viewing this spitting image on the soap. First, I really don't understand the concept of a spitting image. Can an image spit? And if it did, would it look like me? I don't spit. Maybe if I am running, gasping for air, and a bug lands on my tonsils. I can see myself spitting in that situation. But not normally. So how can a spitting image look like me? I didn't want to spit out this concept without a fair chance, but I don't think I can swallow it.
My second problem is I don't watch soaps. Never have liked them. My mother in law, on the other hand, is a fanatic for soaps. I remember seeing her getting up at first light, scarfing down breakfast, and turning into a whirling dervish until dust became an endangered species. Then with the sound of the first soap, she would settle down in front of the TV for hours watching soap after soap until it was time to start dinner.
I don't have what it takes to become a soap addict like that. I could never even stand to hear the sound of the music. And I could never in a million years keep up with all the stories. People flash in and out, each one with more heart-breaking story. Whoever writes soaps must have adult ADHD. And you know they have medication for that.
Finally, I reached my limit on casual conversation with Ms. Hockey Babe and could no longer keep replying in the negative to her soap-viewing request. Although I was sick to death of hearing how some character on One Life to Kill, or whatever, was a spitting image of me, I was determined to come face to face with this twin. I reluctantly looked up the time of the soap.
Of course it is during the workday, so I decided I needed a doctor's appointment. That would allow me enough time to investigate. I rushed home, pointed on the TV, patiently cringed during the music, and waited for my twin sister to appear. Unfortunately it didn't appear that all the characters showed up every day. But I continued to watch, as the big issue of the day was Brad Stud attempting to dazzle Suzy Simpleton who possibly has issues with her sexuality that could potentially be helped with something as simple as a properly fitting bra.
The next day I had to leave work (at the same time as yesterday) for some lab work the doctor recommended. Still no twin. Third day, I needed to review the results of the lab work with the doctor. I just hoped my boss wouldn't ask how the lab could have gotten the results so blazingly fast. But due to new human resource rules scripted by the company lawyers, I knew my boss could not ask anything about my illness. Lucky for me, I won't have to make up some story that I would have trouble repeating correctly two times in a row. I will just have to remember to have a worried look on my face when I get back to work. I crossed my fingers that the character would show up on the third day; otherwise I would have to get a referral to a specialist next.
God knows it takes a lot longer than a day to get an appointment with a specialist. And it would have to be an incredible stroke of luck for the appointment to be exactly at 2 p.m. Again.
So I rushed home for my lab results consultation, whipped on the TV, and watched the parade of characters I had already met during my doctor and lab appointments. Stud, Bitch, Ing'nue (actually just a young bitch), Old Lady, Kid. Wait a minute. Go back. Old Lady? Surely she didn't mean her! I strained my eyes to capture the image of the Old Lady. I closed my eyes and ran to the mirror'not an easy task with eyes closed. I opened my eyes. I took a quick sanity check in the mirror. Oh God, there she is - Old Lady.
I futilely thought for a second it must be some trick being played on my eyes. The old smoke and mirrors. Only I would prefer a little more smoke and a lot less mirror. So this is how I really look? It was something I hadn't seen before. I was so focused on my Dorian Grey snapshot, that I think I had actually projected that inner forever-young image unto my mirror. I never acknowledged the more than subtle changes that had occurred since that snapshot was taken.
How could I not have noticed the shift from Dorian Grey to Old Lady? All I can say in my defense is I must have some damn good lighting in my house, especially over my bathroom mirror where I still practice the same intense makeup techniques I perfected in the eye lining '70s. With flattering lighting, I could ignore the sunken cheeked, hollow eye-lined creature that I couldn't miss as I glanced at other less friendly mirrors. It was just bad lighting, I would think. Blanche had it right. You do need a shade on the lamp. She needed the kindness of strangers, too, but if I am going to rely upon a stranger, they'd better be kind enough to have good lighting.
Seeing how others see me should have knocked me over the top, but it still took me a year to face up to it. A year that I no longer started up casual conversations with Ms. Hockey Babe Hair Tosser during the hockey games. I snuck in quietly and stealthily whisked my beer out of the way before her frequently flung locks could land. But in that year her constant presence finally brought me out of denial. I do look like the actor on the soap. Yup. I am the Old Lady of the soap.
So there I was ready for those character
roles. The old lady roles. No longer in denial, I looked
at myself in the mirror and saw what others saw. I
smiled and the folds of my skin rippled like a pond
after a rock is dropped. Fat women don't have this
problem. I envy them. They will be in denial a whole lot
longer. They will be aging unnoticed on the inside while
their face is as taunt and smooth as a baby's butt. I
tried getting fat, but my fat deposited in my hips and
thighs while my face remained boney and my cheeks
remained sunken and hollow. If I could only suck out
some of the hip fat and repatriate it into my sunken
hollows in my face. But with my luck, I'd develop
I pestered my dermatologist for years, asking her when I would need a face-lift. Her answer was always the same. Not yet. Meanwhile she punched holes in my forehead and replaced them with toxic poison and filled my deeply creased frown lines with bovine by-products. I pestered her so long about a face-lift until one day she started thinking it was time for her to have a face-lift. That's when I wondered if it might be a little senseless to keep creating more potholes in my face. Why isn't it time, I thought? Do I have to wait until my chin is hanging down to my breasts and my breasts are hanging down to my knees?
But I didn't seriously consider a face-lift until my husband visited a relative who had just had a facelift a few weeks earlier. All right! It's no longer a family precedent, I thought. I wouldn't be a maverick. A very respected member of the family has done it. I got on the phone and called her as fast as I could rip open my address book, realize I didn't have her number, then pore through all the old family reunion lists to locate it. I couldn't tell if she was stunned to hear from me (has it been that long?) or was pleased I asked about her operation. I chose to think she was pleased.
She detailed all the research she had done
before she decided on a doctor from Quebec. She got his
recommendation from a friend and went to interview him
in the same way that she interviewed several finalists
before him. And he was the winner. She believed in him.
She saw his work. No shiny pulled-tight skin and wide
eye looks. His work looked natural.
Luckily there was a family reunion soon after to give me an excuse to see if she did indeed make the right choice. I looked at her near and I looked at her far. And what I saw was no phony Palm Springs look-alike. She simply looked refreshed and happy. I decided to give the doctor a call myself.
He told me that since I lived so far away, I could send some digital pictures to him and he wouldn't need to have me there until the day before the operation. Now that was a little too convenient for me. I decided to meet him in person and have a trip to Quebec too. You have to have faith in the person who is going to perform invasive, possibly maiming, or even deadly, elective surgery. Don't you think?
Looking at this youthful appearing French-speaking doctor was a little like being in the presence of Yanni. This youthful, smiling, French speaking doctor gave me a very warm and fuzzy feeling that he would take care of me.
I was still in a Yanni frame of mind, until I heard that staples were used instead of sutures. Staples were what really made me think the hardest. I couldn't imagine having my scalp splayed open and then stapled back together. Those staples were the deal buster for me for several months after hearing about them.
I stopped thinking about seeing the Old Lady in the mirror, until the folds around her mouth and around her eyes started looking like the skin on an elephant. Still couldn't budge from those staples. Finally one day as I was sitting in a meeting at work, I felt an uncomfortable tension in my forehead. As I relaxed my face, I realized I had been arching my eyebrows and scrunching my forehead into a Halloween fright night look just to get an opening wide enough to see through. I made my decision. Let there be light. Even if it does come with staples.
I made an appointment for the face-lift.
*This is Chapter 1 in an entertaining, honest, and funny series of stories written by Sandra Long about the highs and lows she experienced before and after undergoing a facelift.
Here is how Sandra describes what led her to write her mini-book:
I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1948
and moved during my teen years to Atlanta, Georgia.
During college breaks, you would find me in my itsy
bitsy polka dot bikini on a beach in sunny Florida. I
have since moved on to the sunny beaches of California.
Five years ago, my son was looking in the photo drawer
and found a picture of me in that bikini and remarked
that I could still fit into it. I looked just the same,
he said'except for my face.
Yikes! That hurt. But I had to admit it was true. I was still young at 53. I ran every day and lifted weights. I felt energetic. But I didn't recognize the person I saw in the mirror. How could that be me? She looked tired and worn out. I didn't feel like that at all.
That was one big reason for deciding to undergo the surgery for a facelift. I was never a beauty queen and didn't expect it to turn me into one. I simply wanted to look on the outside like I felt on the inside. I don't think I was in a state of denial about getting old; I knew I would still get there. I just wanted to buy a little more time. And I think I did that.
After five years, a few wrinkles have shown up again and my face has started to sag just a bit, but I still look a lot better than I did those five years ago. And I feel better about myself. I am very glad to have taken the big step, but heaven knows if I would have done it if I had the benefit of watching the whole gory process on the facelift channel. In my case, I think not knowing was probably better.
But my friends did want to know. Some of my friends were considering a facelift and wanted to know what to expect. Others wouldn't dream of having one, but were just curious. So each night during my two-week recovery after the facelift, I would temporarily remove my eye pads and ice bag and pull out my computer to let everyone know I was still alive and to inform them of my changing conditions. My emails were also colored with humorous anecdotes of my excursions through the city of Quebec, where I had the facelift, while trying not to draw attention to my bandaged multi-colored face.
After the emails stopped, my friends urged me to complete the story. Since I recently retired, I have spent my new free time revising and expanding the original facelift emails into 'Losing Face' which I hope you will enjoy.