The unkindest cut of all

Posted: August 8, 2011 in aging

During my usual morning scan of the NYTimes, this popped up:

[A growing number of] septuagenarians, octogenarians and even nonagenarians…are burnishing their golden years with help from the plastic surgeon. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, in 2010 there were 84,685 surgical procedures among patients age 65 and older. They included 26,635 face-lifts; 24,783 cosmetic eyelid operations; 6,469 liposuctions; 5,874 breast reductions; 3,875 forehead lifts; 3,339 breast lifts and 2,414 breast augmentations.

Those numbers might sound impressive, but when I think of the potential millions of seniors out there, it doesn’t exactly sound like a surgical tsunami. Yet.

Except for a brief turndown during the recession, those numbers have been rising for years now, and experts say the trend seems likely to accelerate as baby boomers begin to pass age 65.

The story has the requisite pretty photos and stories of those women (and men) who-look-50-but-are-actually-70, who say things like “I want to look as young as I feel” and “Why not look as good as you can when you can?” Why not indeed?

Of course, there’s the dark side:

But the increase also has raised concerns about safety and the propriety of performing invasive elective surgery on older patients, who may suffer unintended physical and psychological consequences… Any operation poses risks, but surprisingly few studies have focused on older patients and cosmetic enhancements. One report, published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in June, found that the hazards in people over age 65 are no greater than in the younger population.

“You know there are biases because of the underreporting of negative findings,” said James Hughes, executive director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, a nonprofit research group in Hartford. “The doctors have more or less financial incentives to do these procedures, and that often leads them to understate alternative kinds of treatments or medical advice.”

Surgical complications aside, this suggestion of restored youth is pure catnip to the felines in my generation. We’re Forever Young. We’re hip, we belong, and we won’t left behind, we who have always led the way. And there’s the rub: We don’t want to be ignored. We’ve hogged the spotlight so long that we can’t bear to leave the stage. We can’t to be thought of as less in any way, and if there is a solution that only requires money and a little discomfort, then pull out the checkbook and the charge cards! Borrow against that 401K! Bring on the knives and the needles! Retread me, and I’ll be good for another 50,000 miles!

I may sound brave and dismissive, but I no longer kid myself that I would never dance that two-step. I’d maintained for years that I don’t need “help,” that those who indulge in such things are stupid and narcissistic. I would just age gracefully and gratefully, I said. But mirrors and other reminders of my disappearing youth are getting harder to avoid. My face is literally sliding off my skull, I’ve developed a third chin, and I’ve got spiders all over my legs. And I hate it, particularly since there is a part of me inside that is still 19 and fresh and who still thinks that anything is possible. She’s the one who will seize the moment, who will try new things (like starting a new blog), who wants to go and try and do and be. I don’t want her to die, and my physical self increasingly belies her existence. What’s a girl to do?

Actually, all this hand-wringing is moot. I don’t have $10,000 in my desk drawer just waiting to be spent, and the beating my investments have taken in the last week won’t allow for such indulgences. Those deep pockets that marketers have depended on for so long just got surgically sewn shut. The only cuts I’m entertaining are in our household budget and my spending. I’ll have to make do with at little generic Renova and some Nice and Easy — and a major change in attitude, I think. What seems like a solution to some of the problems of aging may be out there, but it’s now even further away.

And that may be the unkindest cut of all.

Update: Do me a favor. Google “plastic surgery” (or click here) and look through the images. Yikes. If celebrities with all their millions to spend and their access to the best surgeons can have such TERRIBLE results, maybe we should rethink the whole thing…

  1. notquiteold says:

    At 60, I still think that the right haircut or eyeliner is going to make me the beauty I wanted to be at 19. I am still striving for that unattainable goal. I say now that I will never have plastic surgery, but how I would love to have a neck again!

    • msmeta says:

      Me, too! Love your blog! I added to the fashion group in my Google Reader and I’ll add it to my blogroll when I update!

  2. Wigi's World says:

    For the cost of that plastic surgery, I could put my money into something more worthwhile. Hmmm maybe something like a second home in a place that DOESN’T snow in the winter!

    I don’t know what is wrong with these people, sure I have wrinkles, grey hair, etc but I am not going to risk my life for cosmetic surgery.

    People with too much time and too much money…..

    • msmeta says:

      I so agree. I have a friend who lost a daughter to a bad reaction to Botox. And yet we hear of “Botox parties.”

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