Your Secret Beauty Life
By Judith Newman
Photo Credit: Christoper Griffith
Women will confess to some surgeries and not others, depending on their own vain-o-meter. "Like, I didn't mind telling people I had breast reduction surgery, because my breasts were causing genuine problems — I had backaches all the time from carrying those puppies around," says Marion, a nurse in New Jersey. "But nobody knew about my chin-ectomy. I just told people I lost a little weight — because that was something I felt I could control, if I actually did lose weight. Which I didn't. Well, I did, but only thanks to a surgeon."
Reality-show stars notwithstanding, celebrities are generally even more secretive than civilians. "Living in L.A., it's astonishing how many plastic surgeons there are, but apparently if you are to believe what celebrities say, no one ever uses them," says Janice Min, editorial director of The Hollywood Reporter and author of How to Look Hot in a Minivan, a guide to what famous moms do to look so good. "There seems to be some virtue in just losing weight by 'chasing your kids' or having a 'high metabolism.'"
Partially, of course, it stems from the premium placed on youth in the entertainment industry. Santa Monica, California, dermatologist Dr. Ava Shamban, one-time resident dermatologist on Extreme Makeover, notes, "Celebrities are the gods and goddesses of our culture, and as deities they must be physically perfect sans help from a mortal. So, once in a while they admit to having had Botox, but then they swear off ever having it again."
Naturally, dermatologists and surgeons would like us all to advertise their handiwork when we're pleased; word of mouth is the best way to get business. But they're also sympathetic to our reluctance to spill, particularly when it comes to our boyfriends or husbands. Breast augmentation? Lipo? Well, it's not like you have much choice, unless you keep way more personal space between the two of you than the average couple. (And I say that as someone who lives in a separate apartment from my husband. Even I would find it hard to take the vow of omertà if I had a serious surgical procedure.) But, says Shamban, "I actually think it's important not to share every little medical detail with your significant other. Beauty, after all, should feel like it comes naturally, the way Venus rose from her shell. So it's OK to talk about the nail salon but not the eye-lift or the Botox."
There can be consequences for even a sin of omission, though. When Sarah, a musician in California, had liposuction, she decided she wouldn't say a word, even if her boyfriend asked. "He took one look at the bruises I had and immediately assumed I'd cheated on him with some other dude — like, I'd fallen off some guy's motorcycle or something." By the time she'd fessed up to the lipo, he assumed that was a lie. "There was much rage and accusation. I even showed him the doctor bill, so he believed me eventually, but he still felt betrayed. Ultimately, he dumped me."
I realize feminism and plastic surgery don't often share the same sentence, but to me there is a feminist argument to the decision whether or not to reveal you've had some work done. It's important for women to know that other women aren't paragons of perfection by themselves. In every avenue of life we benefit from the help of others. Why should this be any different? It does take a village, and it's no secret — or shouldn't be — that some of those villagers wield a scalpel.