Just your run-of-the-mill visit to the plastic surgeon

I’ve lived in southern California for almost 10 years, so I suppose it was inevitable that I would end up in a plastic surgeon’s office.  What’s a nice southern girl like me doing in this plastic surgeon’s office, you ask?

Being mildly rattled by the huge official sign declaring that this practice has been licensed by the California Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists.  I searched quickly to find my doctor’s name to make sure I was in the right office. You know, there was a time when barbers and surgeons were the same things.  Reassured that I was in the right place, I relaxed a little.

Then I saw the lips.  All the plump lips on the staff.  All the pink, glossed sausage lips that looked like they might belong somewhere else besides the face.

Flashback to 2012.  Just another stroll around our little beach town when someone with Donatella Versace grade lips walks by.  The boy looks at me and says, “Wow, that’s the worst case of trout pout I’ve seen this week!” THIS WEEK!  Thanks, California. 

I know it’s a strong temptation to buy the merchandise wherever you work.  I mean, I had a large collection of DKNY when I worked retail—some of it didn’t even make me look like a poseur.  But when everyone on staff has the same lips, doesn’t it make your potential customers question, just a little bit, if their new lips will really be custom fit to their face?

Flashback to 2008Newly transplanted to California, I was eating lunch with the family in Orange County beside two women who were holding ice on their just injected lips.  One would take the ice off and ask the other if she looked ok.  Reassured, the ice would go back on then the other woman would remove her ice and ask the same. Over and over and over again.  My girl asked me what happened to them.  I explained cosmetic surgery to my seven-year-old.

Thanks again, California. I thought I would have a few more years before I had to muster a full-on fight against the appearance culture.

I gave my insurance card to the receptionist, who in her defense, looked like she kept her natural lips when her face was pulled back taught, trimmed, then stitched back in place.

Hyperbole much?

Actually, she looked good, really good.  Natural.  Of course, she was only about 30 so maybe there was no stitching required just yet.  I have to admit her skin was flawless.  Just for a second, I pondered the facial menu.

Able to resist the Obagi Blue Peel, I filled out the medical forms that were very concerned about previous medical conditions and family history.  I felt a little more comfortable.  It seemed more doctorish and less barberish.

Puffy lips and invisible pores aside, it was such an odd experience hearing staff talk to women about which hospitals have the best rate, where they can go to get a discount, the newest injection methods, and how things would be easier now that they had decided on surgery.   Because, who has surgery on purpose?

I was there for a hematoma on my ass.

Yes, it was my Ireland hematoma, and over the last six months it had only shrunk from papaya size to apple size.  As much as I loved having 3 butts, at this point it was futile to wait for it to disappear on its own. I could live with it, cosmetically, I guess.  But it hurts.  A lot.

Just because I was there for medically necessary reasons, doesn’t mean I have a problem with elective surgical enhancement.  Although I hate to call it enhancement.  It implies what was there before wasn’t quite good enough, and I don’t buy that.  I have lines and scars that others in my neighborhood would probably get “fixed.”  But I see them as a map of my life and a measure of my strength.

It’s disheartening to witness our culture view the natural results of a life well lived as a flaw instead of the beauty and strength it reveals.  But, I digress.

The surgery is going to be icky.  Afterward, there will be a drain, and compression shorts, and butterfly sutures on the inside. No activity that engages the glutes for at least a month.

My doctor told me I was lucky because the scar will be below my bikini line so it won’t be visible.  She seemed so happy about it, I didn’t have the heart to tell her the last time I wore a bikini I was 16.  Appearance culture gave me almost 10 years longer than it did my daughter.

There are as many valid reasons for elective cosmetic surgery as there are people.  But, the appearance culture is so entrenched here, it makes me ponder what it takes to resist it. To not be the 80-year-old lady who is spending her money on liposuction and instead be the one playing in the sand with her grandkids.  What do we need to hear as women to truly believe we are good enough?  To internalize the fact a surgical procedure is not necessary for love, or acceptance, or self-esteem.

What does it take to choose our well-being over our appearance?

But, maybe I should wonder if the two are mutually exclusive.  It doesn’t have to be a dichotomy just because Hollywood makes it seem that way.   It makes me wonder what kind of strength it takes to go under the knife to take control of your appearance, and the rebellion it takes to resist and say “hell yes” to the flabby cheeks and turkey neck.   Both decisions take strength and purpose.  Both come with their own type of pain.  I look in a mirror and I speculate about how far down my eyelids have to droop before I seriously consider a surgical “fix”.

In the meantime, I will have the medically necessary kind of surgery and suffer the same post-surgical shit without any noticeable improvement in my appearance.  Except I will get rid of my third butt.

On the bright side, I get to skip exercise for at least 4 weeks—under doctor’s orders.  And when I go back to have the half-moon of stitches below my bikini line removed, I will have another chance to give into the Blue Peel, Botox, or laser treatments.

Fully certified by the Board of Barbers, of course.

(c) 2018 giginon.com


So I wrote a post yesterday that was pretty close to a rant, for me at least, and my email and phone immediately lit up with so many notes of encouragement and care and concern that I was truly blown away. So I need to do two things. First and most important I need to thank you all for walking with me on this journey. Whether you are near or far, I couldn’t make it without you all. And second, I just wanted to let you know that everything is okay, or at least it is what it is (bleck!). bleck



Shortly after writing my post last night I found this quick blog post that helped me gain some perspective and hope and then I spent the rest of the night looking for more baby elephant videos. Because, adorable! xoxo


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The Secret Life of My Teenage Daughter

I don’t talk about my daughter much around here.  Partly for her privacy I think, and partly because she is the most innocent participant in our trauma, and we haven’t figured out exactly how this is changing her.  Our house has been in such an uproar, she keeps her head down and flies under the radar.  She’ll be fifteen soon.  I can’t imagine what that means for her.  For me it means equal amounts anxiety and wonder, very much like when she was a toddler.

During the kids early years I worked at their Montessori preschool.  It wasn’t a writing job, per se, but I turned it into a mostly writing job, because that’s what I have done with almost every job or task I’ve ever had.  Most of the writing I was doing during those years was about her in some way.  True it was mostly marketing and parent communications for our school, but she was my touchstone for everything I knew about how Montessori education works.  She was always in the back of my mind whenever I wrote for the school.  I remember writing a marketing piece that claimed “all young children have a rich inner life that adults are rarely privileged to share.”   I still believe that, but not because toddlers keep them hidden, but because as parents we aren’t very good at observing our children.  We have preconceived notions or insider information of how they should grow, when they should reach certain milestones, what is “age appropriate”.  However, we rarely have or take the time to really watch them.  We don’t take the time to discover how she should grow, or when she should reach certain milestones, or what is age appropriate for her.  The simple process of observation opens a window into your young child’s inner life and brings you unexpected insights and delights.

I feel the same way about the teenage years.  Teenagers also have a hidden inner life.  It is hidden from us not because they haven’t honed their expressive language skills like our toddlers, but because they are so busy figuring out their place in the world, their role, that they don’t often articulate their experiences or feelings.  And we are often not in the right place at the right time in the right frame of mind when they do. I’m interested in their secret life.  Not their secrets, but the internal work they are doing to create the adult that they will become.  Toddlers are easy, they are open and transparent, just non-verbal.  Teenagers are a bigger puzzle, but I believe the same lessons apply.  If you want to see their inner world you have to observe them.  You have to take a step back from telling them and teaching them and showing them to just watch them.  It is much more difficult to do this with teens than with our 18 month olds, but still just as important.

Toes on the nose

I feel lucky that one of the ways I can do that with my daughter is through her dance.  She selected Irish dance when she was almost 10 and she loved it from the moment she put on her first pair of ghillies.  At the time I was just happy that she had found a place to focus her abundance of kinetic energy, but I also saw that it sparked her soul.  Like most dance studios, parents are not allowed to watch practices.  This is a standard rule that helps students focus on their teacher and avoids inserting the parent/child relationship into the class.  For me it was hard.  I loved to see what she was doing, what she was learning.  Really, I loved to see the joy on her face when she danced.  She didn’t have an exceptional gift or talent for it, but she had a dancer’s heart and was happiest when she was practicing or performing.  I remember her 1st recital just 5 months after she started, she hadn’t even earned her hard shoes yet, but there she was on stage bursting with joy, enthusiasm, dance. I had never seen her perform an entire dance before that night and it was ethereal.

Irish dancers have a lot of opportunity to dance in their communities, especially in March.  Over the years she has gone to preschools, museums, elementary schools, nursing homes and retirement communities to share her love of dance.  She has danced with her friends on the local news and at weddings.  In fifth grade she gave a solo performance to her entire grade level. And I was privileged to watch all these performances.  Oh, the things I discovered by watching her dance.  She was fearless.  She was poised.  She was nervous, but it never showed.  She always radiated when she danced, glowed.  These were the pre-teen years, but as she stuck with it and got better, I realized that watching her dance was a window into that secret place of her teenage years as well.

I saw her confidence bloom then shrink at school, but on the dance floor she knew where she stood.  She judged herself honestly against others and those internal rankings were born out by competition dancing.  I finally saw that her girly side was real, a part of her not an act she felt she had to put on, and she loved the costumes and the makeup and the sparkles.  But not as much as she loved the dance.  She loved competing, she loved winning, she loved questioning the judges’ decisions and trying to figure out why they placed one dancer above another clearly better dancer.  She loved complaining about a bad score, both hers and others, and she delighted in celebrating her friend’s triumphs.  She looked at herself fairly, she learned from her mistakes, she corrected, corrected, corrected until she got to where she wanted to be.  And through it all the one unifying thread was it was hers.

When she entered middle school, she lost a little of her confidence, a little of her bubbliness.  This new harsh world was harder to navigCRate and she retreated into herself to a great degree.  This showed up in her dance as well.  Whereas in 5th grade if she and her dance friends finished a performance and the children who watched tried to imitate the steps, the dancers would all encourage and work with these children, joining them and showing them.  By 8th grade she and her friends were just watching them, afraid to be the first one to do anything different from the rest.  After a while our 8th grade dancers would make their way over to where the 2nd graders were trying to dance and show them the steps.  After just a little reluctance, there were smiles, laughs and high fives all around.  She was back to who she was.  Who knows what high school will bring.  But I will be there again on St. Patrick ’s Day watching her.

The teen years are hard, the vulnerability is excruciating, but I find if I watch her dance, I can see who she is deep down inside, who she is struggling to bring to the surface.  I see the hyper girly, hyper kinetic girl who is determined to get better and better.  I see the uncertain almost woman who is determined to reach that last highest level in her chosen activity.  She struggles to take off her masks and shed her fears on the dance floor.  She works to find the confidence to believe that who she is will be good enough.  I see her struggles and determination and I am in awe.  And the anxiety lightens ever so slightly.


(c) 2016 Gigi Quinn

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