This post was originally published on February 10, 2016.
When I got sober, I was older than a lot of the AA’s in my home group. Women just a few years older than me in age, typically boasted double digits of sobriety. Many of the other newcomers were in their late twenties or early thirties. I was 49 years old when I finally surrendered (to God or Buddha or the Great Spirit) and snapped out of a stupor that I experienced for two decades of drinking.
I went through menopause in my forties. I was in complete denial about it until I saw a doctor for a routine pap smear. Good old menopause takes away hormones, including estrogen, which produces collagen, the superglue that holds a woman’s skin together. In my mid forties, I thought I looked young. In reality, I resembled the Wicked Witch of the West, but I was drunk and booze made me delusional.
When I got sober, I was immersed in regrets. It was as if I were standing in a swamp, slowly sinking. My resentments nipped at me like baby alligators. But the worst bite was my lack of self-esteem. I had a difficult time looking at myself in the mirror. In my mind, I thought I looked like Picasso’s “Dora Maar au Chat,” which is an excellent depiction of cubism, but not a flattering way to describe one’s appearance.
So I made an appointment with local plastic surgeon, Dr. Cecilia Fix. I thought about going to Beverly Hills, but Fix offered a free consultation and the location was fairly close by. Plus, the name! I went in for an early morning appointment. There was a male executive waiting to go in. I eyed him curiously—was he just getting a little Botox fix during a coffee break? I was shuffled into a private office. The nurse asked me a few questions.
“So tell me what don’t you like about your face?”
I felt like I was on an episode of Nip/Tuck. There was a lot that I didn’t like about my face, which I considered my arch nemesis. This is what I told her. She jotted down notes, and then said, “Dr. Fix will be with you in a moment.” So there I was, squirming in an uncomfortable chair, which was not unlike an electric chair on death row. There was rap music playing over the loudspeaker. Was this music supposed to make me feel younger and well, more hip or something?
Why not hit me with some age appropriate music, you know like, Night Ranger’s Sister Christian?
Finally, a long half hour later, Dr. Fix walked in. I jumped up, excited to meet her. Her image is plastered on a huge Billboard overlooking the 14 Freeway. I felt like I was meeting a rock star. Dr. Fix got down to business.
“Have you ever had plastic surgery before?”
“No,” I said, feeling a little ashamed.
“Oh, so you are a virgin?” She grinned.
She looked at her notes. “Says here you are not happy with the lines around your mouth.” She stared at my face. “We should also consider the bags under your eyes.” Of course, how could I have forgotten those? “How would you describe your complexion?” she asked.
“Caucasian?” I asked.
“Its crucial for me to know the real color of your skin. In some instances, it can impact the outcome of certain procedures.” An image of Michael Jackson circa 1997 flashed across my mind.
“You look Middle Eastern,” she said.
“Well, I am of Greek descent. My grandparents were born in Anatolia, Turkey. I suppose that makes me Middle Eastern. I do have an olive complexion.”
She smiled. I had a crazy thought.
What if Donald Trump is elected president? Will I be deported like a Syrian refugee? What will happen to my pit bulls and Chihuahuas?
Dr. Fix gave me a mirror and proceeded to analyze my face as if she were General Patton planning a military operation.
Her assessment was that due to being thin and the lack of collagen production, I had a “hollow sunken” look. To combat the fact that I looked like an old lady on meth (even though I was four years clean and sober), she asserted that the solution to this predicament required Juviderm Voluma XC, a product that created an instant lift in my cheeks, and lasted for a whopping two years. Following this, she would battle those nasty “parentheses” around my mouth and the “smoking” lines with Restylane, another treatment that would bring beauty back to my face, rejuvenation to my spirits and probably a hole to my pocketbook.
She mentioned more procedures, and asked me to frown. I complied, like a Ventriloquist’s dummy. She said that Botox would eradicate the deep-set frown wrinkle, crow’s feet and other infuriating lines on my forehead. Dr. Fix suggested retinol, a serum that she sold as part of her skin care line, of course. The retinol would join the other procedures in the crusade against my aging face.
Armed with my plastic surgery grocery list, I met with the office assistant for an estimate. She gave me a colorful lavender packet, crammed with information, brochures and a page that had a list of “quotes for deposits and costs for procedures.” I noticed that they spelled my name wrong. Instead of Iyama, they wrote Llama, and on the upper right side of the paper, Fix had written in big red letters, ALCOHOLIC.
Didn’t I tell Fix I was in recovery?
According to the nurse, I needed two syringes of Juviderm Voluma XC for a cost of $2,400, followed by the Restylane for a mere $1,300. My eyes started to swim. The botox was only $280 for 28 units. Was I receiving some kind of senior discount? The price for retinol looked good! It was only 75 bucks a bottle. The rest of the procedures estimated to a total of $7,000.
My God. How could I afford all this? “Well, this will take time,” I said, starting to sound like President Obama when he delivered a speech to the Pentagon regarding the fight against ISIS.
“But I would like to do the Voluma by the summer,” I said.
“It’s a gradual process,” said the nurse.
It is indeed. By the time, I am finished with this gradual process, I will have to start all over again, and doesn’t Botox only last a few months?
After I left the office, I ran to a corner in the parking lot and lit a cigarette. Dr. Fix had given me the anti-smoking lecture, so I wanted to hide, in case they had security cameras. How had I come to a point in my life where I was contemplating Voluma? Since Dr. Fix said I had a Middle Eastern look, why not just wear a burka when I was out and about? Or why not just commit to yoga, which will help me focus on my inner beauty and all that crap?
And what the hell happened to the spiritual principle of acceptance? Isn’t that somewhere in the Big Book?
As I drove off to get some blood work done so I could see yet another shrink and get new psych meds because I might be bipolar. Go figure, I thought.
Come mid year, if I still feel like plastic surgery will boost my self-esteem and I can afford it, I might just go for it. Unless we get hit with a zombie apocalypse. In that case, I will have other things to worry about.
Seriously, what do I have to lose?