A friend of mine recently underwent that much maligned ritual
of middle age: a face lift. After three weeks of bruising
and swelling, her new 46 year old visage is gradually emerging
and she has pronounced herself "very happy" with what she
sees in the mirror. Which is a nice feeling to have -- whether
you come by it naturally or surgically. Relatives tried to
dissuade her from having it done, of course arguing that she
didn't need it. Her husband was baffled; he thought she looked
fine the way she was. Her 23 year old son delivered the coup
de grace: "You must be so insecure."
Oh, come off it. Maybe wanting a face lift has nothing
to do with insecurity but everything to do with pride in her
appearance. Though many women may admire Barbara Bush, not
all of them want to look like her as they age.
As a culture, we have such conflicting feelings about looks.
John Stossel of ABC News did a special some time ago documenting
how looks-oriented we are. He found that even elementary school
children responded more positively to an attractive teacher
than a plain one; that juries found good-looking witnesses
more believable than average ones; that attractive people
were more likely to be hired for a job than their ungainly
It's not that the preference for beauty in a woman or handsomeness
in a man is fair or right -- just that it's a fact of life
in our society. Yet so many like to label as dysfunctional
what appears to be perfectly natural behavior -- trying to
look one's best.
Still I'm sure that a lot of men and women go under
the knife -- or laser, or liposucker, or whatever -- for no
reason other than self-esteem.
My friend's husband, who has gamely supported her throughout
her month long recovery, still doesn't think she needed a face
lift. "You look pretty much the same to me, Honey," he
tells her. She's unfazed by his reaction. After all, he'll
adore her no matter what havoc gravity wreaks on her. "But
I can see the difference when I look in the mirror," she says.
"He didn't notice -- but I did."
And that's what matters.
Loraine O'Connell's column alternates with Dr. Ruth Westheimer's
On Sex column. Write to O'Connell at The Orlando Sentinel,
MP-6, P.O. Box 2833, Orlando, Fla., 32802-2833. Send email
If a face lift gives you a lift, go for it