Hunker down, folks. Grab your coffee or your Red Bull or whatever. This will be long.
(deep breath) So where have I been? (Oh, were you gone?)
I could make something up. I could simply say nothing and say I’m on hiatus. I could keep my private life completely private. But… why start now.
I have always endeavored to be who I am on here; not just Erica the spanko, but Erica the whole person. And so I take the risk here, setting myself up for judgment, for snark, for jokes, whatever… because I believe that good will come of it too. That my honesty will resonate with others. And really, there’s no hiding this anyway.
Last Thursday, I had surgery. I had what’s known in the medical field as a rhytidectomy.
The rest of y’all know it as a facelift.
Yup, I did it. After a whole lot of agonizing over it, discussing it, researching it, and thinking about it non-stop, I went for it.
Why? So many reasons. Some positive, some negative, some personal, some societal. But all mine.
Let’s be straightforward here: I am a product of my environment. I grew up in Beverly Hills, in a family involved in Hollywood. Looks were emphasized in my life as far back as I can remember. My mother was beautiful. My stepmother was beyond stunning. My poor mother, always hyper-vigilant about her looks, had practically every procedure known to mankind in her lifetime. She had her face lifted twice, her eyes done twice. She had a nose job, a boob job. She had liposuction and laser peels. And yet, she was never happy with her looks. Or mine.
I can still hear her voice, and sadly, it became my own inner voice. “Don’t make that face; it will cause wrinkles.” “When are you going to get that thing under your eye removed?” “Are you using enough sunscreen? You’re getting brown spots.” “Why don’t you get your nose fixed?” Sometimes when I was at her house, and putting on makeup, she’d stand behind me, staring into my face in the mirror. I could feel her scrutinizing it. I catch myself doing the same thing, and I hate that in myself. But it is what it is.
I live in Southern California. People are not supposed to age here, especially women. I could go on a long diatribe about the media and supermodels and imagery vs. reality and ageism and yadda yadda, but I’ve said it all before and it doesn’t bear repeating. It, too, is what it is. I’m not going to change society. I just have to live comfortably within it, and in my own skin.
Here’s where it gets more personal. I am a very youthful 57 years old. I don’t feel my age, and I don’t want to look it, either. I work out, I keep fit and strong. I do not have ridiculously lofty expectations — I know I will not look 30 again. But there is something so disconcerting about feeling younger and vibrant, and then seeing an old(er) face in the mirror. If I could make the visage coincide a bit more closely with the image I have within, then I was going to do it.
I can hear what some of my readers are thinking right now, the ones who haven’t met me in person, the ones who just see my pictures. “What are you talking about?? You don’t look old!” Ah, but remember, it’s the Internet. You see what I allow you to see. What you don’t know is that for every picture I show, there are about two dozen that I delete. What you don’t know is that I use my photo-enhancing software to soften my wrinkles a little, to blot out my age spots. But OK, I’m no expert with that program and I can actually do very little. So what else do I do?
I smile. I make damn sure I’m smiling, when I show my face. Because when I smile, my face transforms. Everything lifts.
However, when I’m not smiling, when my face is neutral? I have what’s known in today’s slang as “resting bitch face.” What is that? Pretty self-explanatory, really. When I don’t smile, gravity takes over. The corners of my mouth droop down, my lower face sags. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked what’s wrong, am I angry, etc., when I feel perfectly fine. Because when my face is at rest, I naturally look sad and/or pissed off. Not attractive. And who goes around smiling every fucking minute? Certainly not a grouch like me.
And then there’s the matter of the turkey wattle on my neck.
Don’t believe me? Here’s an example of one of my tricks.
|She’s showing off her butt — but what is she hiding?
See what I did there? Notice the clever placement of my shoulder, my hand. I look flirtatious and peek-a-boo-ish… but what I’m actually doing is hiding my lower face.
Well. Not hiding anymore. Here is my lower face at rest, in all its glory. This is what people saw when they asked me if I was OK. And I swear, I am not frowning here.
“Oh come on, Erica, you’re pushing your face down to make your neck look bad.” OK, here’s another view, head slightly raised.
Admit it, kids. You’ve heard of Sad Sack? I was Sad Sag.
Yeah, I know. We’re supposed to age gracefully. Accept the changes. Looks are just surface; it’s what inside that counts. I’m beautiful to the people who love me. Cosmetic surgery is superficial and vain and pathetic. Bring it. I’ve heard it all. And you know what? I don’t care. Do I wish I simply didn’t give a rat’s ass about my looks and could happily grow old and gray and wrinkly and look upon my sexy days in the rearview mirror? Sure. It would be a lot easier and a hell of a lot less expensive. But I thought about this long and hard, and I know deep in my gut that I did not do this for the wrong reasons. I didn’t do it to fix my life, to feel good about myself. I already feel pretty good about myself, for the most part. I wanted to feel better. And yes, look better.
Very few people knew about this beforehand. I have itched and ached and yearned to blog about this, because it was so all-consuming in my life for a month or so leading up to it, but I chose not to. Because, as wise friends warned me, some people would try to talk me out of it, tell me negative stories. And, while there would be plenty of supportive comments too, I would focus on the negative ones the most. Because that’s what I do.
It was a busy few weeks. I had pre-op appointments, blood work, a lot of i’s to dot and t’s to cross. I had to clear all the work out of my schedule. I had to make sure my schedule aligned with John’s so that he could be available to pick me up. I had the surgery on Thursday, stayed overnight at an aftercare facility, saw the doc on Friday, and then went home Friday afternoon. It was John’s Friday off (he has every other Friday off), so all was good. I did laundry, cleaned, ran every errand I could think of, paid the bills.
Our first snafu happened in the form of good news. John has been haggling with his HMO for the past several months, trying to get in to see the head of cardiac surgery. They kept putting him off and giving him the runaround, but he kept pushing and pushing until they finally caved and gave him the much-coveted appointment to see the head honcho. When? Last Friday at 1:00. Just before he was due to pick me up. Aggggh!
Plan B was to wait at the doc’s until he could get there (they told me it would be OK and they had a room they could put me in so I could lie quietly), and Plan C was to take a cab home. But then Steve volunteered to come pick me up and get me home. Lovely, lovely friend. ♥ John got through his appointment and actually had some good news to bring home to me, but I’ll go more into that later.
John stayed with me over the weekend, brought me flowers and tasty treats to try to tempt my appetite. I had to take antibiotics and pain meds with codeine, and all I wanted to do was sleep, but I did manage to get some food into me. Fortunately, I have never had nausea or bad after-effects from anesthesia, so I didn’t have to suffer with that. But it was hard to open my mouth, and hard to chew. So he bought me strawberry yogurt, teriyaki salmon, soup.
There’s a lot more work that goes into a facelift than you might think. I’ve certainly learned a lot. I won’t bore you with the details, but it’s major surgery involving a whole lot of nerves. You don’t come of it looking like an after-picture. You look like… well, you look beat up. It’s not pretty. I have stitches in front of my ear, under my chin, and running around the back of my ears and into the hairline. I had drains inserted in my neck for the first 24 hours (and if you’ve never experienced that, all I can say is don’t). My face is swollen and round and tight, and my neck is very bruised. I can’t feel my ears. When he cut into the back of my scalp, some hair was cut off underneath, on both sides. That hair matted into the rest of my hair, and then was covered up with the bandages. On Friday, after I got the bandages removed, I was allowed to go home and wash my hair. Clumps of the cut hair came off in my hands. I knew this was going to happen, but it still was creepy to see.
The right side of my face is more swollen than the left, my right jaw hurts, I can’t raise my right eyebrow, and when I smile, the right side of my mouth doesn’t go up as much as the left. I saw the doc this morning. He assured me, over and over, that it was simply the nerve trauma he’d been telling me about. The face is rich with nerves — motor and sensory. The motor nerves, which are larger and control the muscles, are visible in surgery, and doctors are very careful to avoid them. But the smaller, sensory nerves get cut — hence the pain, the swelling, the tingling, and the numbness. Right now, it’s like the right side of my face got an extra three doses of lidocaine at the dentist. This will resolve. When, is the question. Could be next week. Or next month. My job right now is to wait, to be patient, to take good care of myself and heal. And not let my mind go to bad places. The doctor was so very kind, and he said that he’s dealt with this before. It’s not quite as common (the asymmetry), but it’s all superficial nerve damage and it will all regenerate.
“How do you KNOW?” I blurted. He wasn’t offended. “How do I know?” he answered. “Because I was inside there. I saw all those motor nerves. I know none of them were damaged. I know this is scary, and I wish I could give you an instant pill or something, but this will pass. Everything looks good overall, and honestly, you look better overall than most people do after a week.”
Meanwhile, he gave me the good news that I don’t have to take the codeine anymore, that I can go back to Advil, which will help with the inflammation and swelling. I didn’t like the codeine; it made me lightheaded. I can’t blow-dry or style my hair, so I’m just washing it, putting it in a ponytail and putting on a bandanna. Next week, I will go back and get all the stitches out.
What price vanity? So, I will be a hermit for a while. Certainly no play for me for a good while, no fun spanky posts. What the hell… haven’t been Chrossed in over a month anyway, no matter what I posted. I just can’t keep up with the Tumblr blogs, and I’ve given up trying. People will read me if they want to read me. I will be posting about my progress, about my feelings, about my ups and downs in this latest journey. And I DO want to get back to fun and play, not to mention the gym, not to mention a gazillion other little things one takes for granted when one isn’t in the middle of surgery recovery (like being able to turn my head, sleep on my side, eat a sandwich). But all in good time.
FetLife goes on without me; I haven’t posted there either. Everyone had a blast at Crimson Moon and is now talking about the next event. I was feeling isolated and apart from the scene before, for various reasons, and now I’m sure I will feel even more so during this exile, but it can’t be helped. I don’t really feel like joining in anyway. Friends are busy and lives go on. Mine has sort of stopped right now, but I can’t expect others to stop with me. I don’t need grand gestures, or a lot of anyone’s time. I can only hope for some support, a few kind and encouraging words. I have work to do, which is wonderful timing, since I’m already sick of TV and movies. I will try to get out and drive a bit, run a few errands, now that I’m not on codeine anymore. John will probably come to my place again this weekend, since I’m not really up for going to stay at his just yet. Steve has been wonderful, coming by to visit me yesterday, driving me to my appointment today. I am in good hands.
I know some people out there will judge me for this. People judge cosmetic surgery overall — they think of Joan Rivers, and the celebs with frozen faces and pouty fish lips. Feminists may hate me. I remember many years ago, I had a friend who was rather bitterly militant about the things women do to look pretty/sexy/etc., and how unfair it was that society imposes this, and how it’s all bullshit, and so on and so forth. I can still hear her railing, “How could any self-respecting woman allow anyone to carve her face open!!” Ugh. We were both just under 40. I wonder how she feels now.
So… if you think badly of me, so be it. Please don’t tell me. It won’t change anything, and it will just hurt my feelings.
A little aside: When I was consulting with the doc, he asked me if there were any moles or growths or whatever I’d like removed “while he was there.” I said sure, OK, and pointed to one on my cheek and one on my neck. “How about the one under your left eye?” he asked.
Ah, my eye spot/wart/mole/whatever the hell it is. John, Steve, and other men in my life have all said they think it’s sexy. It was one of the many banes of my mother’s existence. I can’t tell you how many times she urged me to have it removed. “It’s growing!” “No, mother, it isn’t.” “It could get malignant!” “No, mom, it can’t.” It was simply an imperfection, and she couldn’t stand that.
“Nah,” I said to the doctor. “Leave it.” And there it will stay.
If you’ve read this far, thanks for sticking with me. And be grateful I didn’t post the selfie I took after surgery, with a big black eye and my face swathed in bandages and ice packs! There is such a thing as too much honesty. ← (my smile for a while)