Tuesday, October 13th, 2009
It was without question the nicest doctor’s office I have ever entered. Spare, spacious, and moodlit with rice-paper tower lamps and recessed lights. Four semi-lounge chairs invited clients to settle in and relax with a magazine—Glamour, Allure, Sunset, Wine Spectator—as if one were poolside on a Princess cruise. These reading choices, no doubt selected for their idle browsability, were neatly arrayed on a sturdy coffee table, which itself was centered on an Oriental rug, a real one, not one of those winking acrylic imposters at IKEA that start shedding red fuzz all over your living room 10 minutes after you lay it down. Twelve-inch ocean-colored marbled tile subtly offset soft white walls whose hushed serenity was broken only by three oil paintings bursting with bright colors and a flat-screen TV wall-mounted above a table of brochures advertising Cynosure, Juvéderm, Restylane, and Latisse, the latter of which, I learned, is a treatment for eyelash hypotrichosis, a chilling term for the relatively nonmalignant condition of short eyelashes.
While the wife and I have a DVR and enjoy our ability to fast-forward through commercials—thereby helping to kill the time-honored model of sponsor-driven television we’ve known our entire lives—whenever I see an advertisement flitting by for a pharmaceutical I’ve never heard of I make her back up, because I find novel drugs and their ads tragicomic in a complacently American way. That’s how I learned of the possible side effects of Latisse, whose first-line application is as a glaucoma treatment—we all knew that no scientists actually set out to “cure” short eyelashes; clinicians simply noticed that glaucoma patients who were taking Lumigan, the alter ego of Latisse, to decrease ocular hypertension, which sounds way more painful to me than eyelash hypotrichosis, developed darker pigment in and around their eyes, which made for thicker, longer lashes. Now, look alive, this hyper eyelash growth is not a permanent side effect; eyelash hypotrichosis is as chronic as disappointment and will reassert its bad ass the moment you discontinue use. However, the potential darkening of your iris pigment is likely permanent, so, you know, if the eyes are windows to the soul, your soul will become darker too. Permanently. Just saying. Heaven knows I’m a major consumer of pharma. Still, it seems excessive to me—especially in a world visited by the miracle of mascara—to take a prescription medication for the rest of your life, at a cost of $120 per month, to maintain slightly longer eyelashes, but that’s probably only because I dodged the eyelash hypotrichosis bullet. My eyelashes are quite long. And my irises are already plenty brown.
I could go on about the injectible wrinkle fillers that were on offer, like Juvéderm, Restylane, and Radiesse, any of which promise to usurp your unsightly nasolabial folds (a.k.a. smile lines), melomental folds (creases emanating from the corners of your mouth, or “marionette lines” in aesthetician parlance), crow’s feet, or just about any other mark of a life well-lived—for about six to nine months, after which your body absorbs it and your face resumes its natural joyful state. But one must put her judgmental opinions about necessity and excess aside when entering the previously alien dimension of plastic surgery and injectible/pharmaceutical cosmetology. I was there for the former, or at least for a consult about the former. And it wasn’t just some random plastic surgeon’s den of solicitude. I was in the surgical cosmetology capital of the world, Beverly Hills’ “Golden Triangle” neighborhood, so named for the obscene consumerism and self-righteous privilege that radiate from its Rodeo Drive nucleus like the seductive, combustible rays of the sun. Touch me, skanks.
Longtime readers of this blog may remember, as hard as they’ve tried to forget, that my girls developed in a free-spirited, artistic way, with one big, floppy D-cup accompanied by a little sister two full cup sizes her junior. I would more plainly call this a developmental deformity, but I don’t want yonier-than-thou feminists all up in my grill for not embracing the perfection of my temple. On the contrary, I mask my goddess-given uniqueness, augmenting my dwarfish side with a prosthetic to approximate a chest that fails to alarm strangers.
Though I long ago stepped up from the nylon-covered foam pad of my youth—which had to be surreptitiously wrung out whenever I was so bold as to go swimming—to a silicone insert that conducts at nearly the same bounce rate as its mate when I walk and feels less like a wadded sock to those who hug me, it’s still uncomfortable and prone to slippage, and I’m tired of stealing moments for furtive adjustments. If I were less self-conscious I suppose I could adjust it more brazenly, like men shifting their merchandise in the deli window, but I’m afraid I could never summon up enough attitude to make that maneuver seem like anything but a lonely lesbian awkwardly groping her own tits.
In truth, I’ve just never taken pride of ownership in my chest; inasmuch as I think about my breasts at all, it’s mostly about how to camouflage them—or how much I’d like to not have to think about camouflaging them. I’ve been dreaming about corrective surgery since I was a teenager, but it’s not the kind of procedure one’s HMO covers—I’ve certainly tried to convince mine that they should—and it’s always been beyond the means of my pitifully stagnant income. But lately, catching a draft off the success of my overeducated wife—who has generously begun to cover a larger share of our household expenses with her more dynamic salary—I’ve found myself with greater financial freedom. So, totally taking advantage of my wife’s largesse, I’m blowing my newfound savings on plastic surgery. Good thing I don’t look like a trophy wife. (Give me time: My nasolabial and melomental folds are only getting deeper.)
So why lop off the big boob instead of augmenting the little one? Augmentation is, after all, less expensive, less invasive, and far less scarring—a state of affairs I find corrupt; how else to explain this being one of very few instances in which women are encouraged to want more, and punished for wanting less. I’m sorry, but if surgeons have figured out how to insert and secure 1-kilogram silicone slabs through straw-sized incisions tucked discreetly under the arms, how have they not yet stumbled on a way to decrease breast mass without cutting off our nipples and slicing down and around the mammary like they’re skinning and de-boning chicken breasts?
Still, I do want less. It’s true that as an adolescent I tried exercising only on the right side to increase the breast muscle of my stunted member. It didn’t work. At all. Probably owing to the fact that breasts are composed of milk ducts and fat, neither of which much respond to exercise. As an adult, well, my personal presentation can be somewhat at odds with itself, with a pronounced disconnect between my chosen aesthetic and my unchosen mammatude; even as my breasts may well be the only characteristic of prove-it-in-your-face womanhood that keeps me from being bounced out of ladies’ restrooms, I’m tired of them lording their bounty over me like some sick cosmic joke.
And isn’t it a wonderful thing that modern medicine has given us ways to “correct” just about anything we find disharmonious to our own big ideas about how we feel we should, want, or deserve to look? (For a staggering fee, the indirect costs of which will be passed along to my wife; good thing I married her when I had the chance.)
I’m tempted here to address the issue of misguided plastic surgery. There are plenty of people who manage to incorrect themselves in their bitchfight with nature, even people who, by virtue of having had, say, a dozen or two or three surgical procedures in their quest to micromanage their genetic code, find themselves featured on A&E, which has lately found its niche in dwelling on the addictions and obsessive compulsions of Americans gripped by PTSD, dysphoria, or even simple ennui. But who am I to say that my boob job is somehow more meritorious than that of the 110-pound 21-year-old who knows in her heart that she was really meant to have F-cup breasts? And if her newfound “self-esteem” opens avenues previously closed to her—like maybe the gates of the Playboy Mansion in Bel-Air…
Or even the stage door at San Bernardino’s Flesh gentlemen’s bar…
Well, then bully for her!
One can look up any number of websites that have little purpose beyond tracking plastic surgery disasters, generally of the celebrity variety because, really, how many uncelebrated people are going to emerge from anonymity simply to say, “Wow, look at this horrifying ‘after’ shot of me! I’m not sure what I was going for, but I sure ended up disfigured!”
Hence, the old saying is particularly applicable here: I didn’t want to just pick somebody out of the phonebook. Not that anybody uses phonebooks anymore. My wife and I occasionally receive a copy of the yellow pages but haven’t cracked one open in years, and when we recently found a white pages volume lying on the doorstep we were momentarily fascinated by the relic, as if an IBM Selectric typewriter had been mysteriously delivered to our side porch.
Needless to say, I had not started my search in the yellow pages. Rather, I asked a transgender professor at my wife’s institution of higher learning whether he could recommend any local plastic surgeons, figuring that surgeons who regularly do “top” surgeries for trans dudes would have no trouble whatsoever with the level of reduction/reconstruction I have in mind.
I had been harboring some concern that maybe someone who spends so much time thinking about breasts—defying mass-to-perk physics ratios, discerning ideal nipple placement, defining perfect cleavage plumb lines—would try to talk me into, if not a straight-up augmentation on the wee side, meeting somewhere in the middle of the two, perhaps at a nice, plump C? Like maybe there’s a whole cadre of surgeons involved in a secret fraternal organization foresworn to protect the worldwide breast population from fallen women like me, like a sort of Operation Rescue for boobs. I didn’t want any contention with my surgeon about desired outcomes, because at a certain critical point in this transaction I’ll be out cold on a table and at the mercy of the surgeon’s mammipulations.
Trans dude having come up empty, I went to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons website, where you can search doctors by surgery type, ZIP Code, etc. I chose “breast reconstruction” and selected a 10-mile radius as my parameter. It returned 194 hits, about 150 of which sported Golden Triangle addresses. Even I can’t believe there’s that much call for boobwork by Angelenos, and I’ve lived among their peculiar breed my whole life.
Daunted, I had to narrow my search down somehow, and of the 194 doctors only a handful had recognizably female names, so I started with them, guessing I was less likely to encounter pushback from a female surgeon. The “patient care consultant” for the first doctor I contacted was friendly and incredibly responsive to follow-up e-mails—though the surgeon’s consultation fee seemed a bit on the absurd precious side. Given that, before setting up a first date I wanted to have a reasonable expectation that we were going to get to second base; I didn’t want to fork over $250 taking a surgeon to dinner only to find that she didn’t want to go to bed with me, or that she had a tacky, shedding IKEA rug. When I expressed concerns to patient care consultant Sonya about whether or not the surgeon and I might be on the same results page, or living in the same financial universe, she invited me to e-mail photos of my breasts, front and profiles, for a preliminary look-see and quote.
Enter dear wife for weirdest photo shoot ever.
You know how you sometimes look at pictures of yourself and say, “Jesus, do I really look like that?” That feeling is amplified in naked photos. I sincerely didn’t think it was possible for me to harbor more dislike for that particular portion of my body, but as I sat editing images of my dysmorphic chest, cropping out all references to my head and happy trail, I couldn’t imagine how I had managed to look past it for so long. Have I had carnival mirrors all this time?
I sent the images to Sonya, resisting the urge to apologize in the body of the e-mail. I’m certain that mine isn’t the first set of amateur, anonymous, totally unsexy naked pics Sonya has been sent, nor will it be the last.
I wonder if guys surfing for free online porn ever look at before-and-after shots of breast augmentations. There seems to be an endless supply out there—most categorized by cup size, which can be pretty handy for the discerning breast man. To get an idea of what my reduction would look like, I had to use the “before” and “after” shots in reverse, flipping, for instance, A-to-D and B-to-D augmentations. This was annoying because I wanted to see an actual surgically enhanced breast in the size I was shopping for: These ragtag A’s and B’s were all just as prolapsed as mine, with none of the lifting and smoothing and precision nipplescaping that I’m hoping for in a finished product. I couldn’t find a single site that pictured a woman who had undergone a reduction with an end-point size below a C cup. Is there really no demand for such a result? Do surgeons just not post those pics because they don’t want to scare away clientele who may be worried about having too much of their womanhood slurped out while comatose? Or are the surgeons members of Operation Brescue?
Knowing that most women get reductions in order to relieve neck and back pain, the scope of these reductions seem startlingly minor to me, sometimes sloughing just a partial cup size. And pictures I’ve found depicting disparity corrections suggest that women overwhelmingly opt for an overall augmentation, with implants of differing sizes equalizing the imbalance. At the end of the day, it seems, everybody wants more, not less. Even kittens.
The online transmission of my own “cheesecake” pics—which felt weird enough; I can’t imagine e-mailing a naked picture of myself with my head attached. I guess that’s what separates me from the TMI generation, who gamely engage in sexting and then seem genuinely surprised when, post-breakup, their ex-boyfriends disseminate the nudie shots to anyone with a cell phone. Gah, I clearly wrote FYEO right there in the subject line!
But now I guess I know how those girls feel. I received no further correspondence from Sonya, not even when I followed up five days later to ask whether the doctor had had a chance to view the pics, adding, solicitously, “Now that I’ve decided to give myself this gift, I’m very excited to move forward with it.”
Nope. Nothing. Sonya may at this very moment be sending pictures of my tits to her entire e-mail address book. Subject line: OMG, so FUBAR!
But I wouldn’t let Sonya’s rejection dissuade me. I simply moved on to girlfriend doctor number two, who seemed more qualified than the last anyway, carrying board certification in both surgery and plastic surgery; her office asked for the less precious consultation fee of $125. And her patient care consultant, Nadia, informed me that a patient had just canceled an appointment two weeks out and would I like to see the doctor then? Yes, I really, really would!
Which brings us back to me, sitting in a semi-lounge chair in a moodlit office not reading a fluffy magazine, surrounded by brochures for injectible cosmetic enhancements, waiting for my name to be called, hoping this doctor would be the one.
To be continued…