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Plastic Surgeon

Loraine O'Connell

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 counterparts.

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 to

If a face lift gives you a lift, go for it

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