|Michael and his mom, Sherry, dancing at our wedding. He is SUCH a mama's boy. :)|
To make a long story short, my fears of us not getting along were unfounded. We like each other a lot, and have tons of fun together. (It helps that we mostly avoid politics, and that we both adore Michael!) Sherry's been my shopping partner-in-crime, and she made - yes made - the pearl necklace I wore on my wedding day. We've grown closer over the past 3 years, so it's an honor that she's trusted me to interview her for my blog, on a topic many women don't feel comfortable discussing: her experiences with cosmetic surgery.
As I said above, with the exception of my anorexic era, I've tried to address my own body image woes by changing the way I think. Sherry has tackled the same problem, but in a different way: by changing her body. Cosmetic surgery is a tough topic for us body-image activists. Much like dieting, it's one of those "patriarchal bargains" women make (see Day 98 for a definition & discussion of my dieting-while-feminist angst). I kind of hate the idea of cosmetic surgery, while also sometimes wondering what I'd look like with bigger boobs and only one chin (they have an app for that!). As a feminist, I'm loath to tell other women what to do with their bodies. It seems hypocritical to be pro-choice when it comes to abortion, but a condescending bitch when it comes to plastic surgery. On this topic, I tell my students: "don't hate the players, hate the game." And I mean it. Another thing I tell my students is, "if you want to learn, you've got to listen more than speak." So that's what I've decided to do for the rest of this post. Here's what Sherry - an actual "player" in this game - had to say. I hope you learn as much as I did.
|Says the grape to the raisin...|
Sherry: Well, first, it's nothing I'm ashamed of. So I'm not ashamed to tell people I'm having it done, and then afterward they won't be shocked about it. They'd know anyway, and nobody would want to say anything. I want people to feel comfortable around me, including after a procedure. I don't want them to feel like they can't mention it or for people to act like they don't notice. For me, since I'm not embarrassed, it's more about making other people feel comfortable.
KJ: So, what cosmetic procedures have you had?
Sherry: Well, I had maxilloficial surgery on my jaw almost twenty-five years ago. It was for my bite - I was wearing down my teeth! But it also changed my look. I got breast implants about 20 years ago, but I removed them with my cancer surgery. The radiation and surgery had really deformed my left breast, so they did reconstruction. Since then one of 'em shrunk up again, but it's fine. I don't care.
KJ: Ummm... what do you mean, "shrunk up"?
Sherry: Well radiation treats your boobs like the oven treats a roast. When you cook them, they shrink and harden a bit. It's not the same piece of meat after it comes out of the oven, right? It's like that with radiation, even after the reconstruction surgery and new implants.
KJ: Yowza! I get it now. Did having breast cancer change the way you think of your body?
Sherry: I feel like I'm supposed to say yes, but it just didn't. I was relieved about my breast reconstruction, but I mostly just tried to get on my life. I survived cancer but I don't think of myself as a cancer survivor. It's not my identity. It happened to me, but didn't change the direction of my life. By the way, I saw my oncologist today and got the green light for another 6-months!
KJ: That's fantastic! Congratulations and thanks for sharing the news!
Sherry: Yeah, it feels good.
KJ: Okay, so getting back on topic, what other procedures have you had done?
Sherry: I had a brow lift and got my eyelids done. That was several years ago. And then just a few weeks ago I got a lift for my lower face and neck. It was called a something-a-plasty, but I don't remember the exact word! I'm still healing from that. Everything feels really tight and swollen, but I think it'll look great in about a month.
KJ: I hope so! Having surgery can be dangerous, and I know that the recovery is painful. Have you ever thought "gosh, this isn't worth it!"?
Sherry: No, I've always been pleased with my results, and I don't dwell on the procedure. I just think of the outcome. Frankly, after all the surgeries I've had with my cancer, and on my feet - my foot bones were destroyed by the chemo - well, I'm used to medical procedures and at least these are ones I want to be having!
KJ: I know Michael thinks you already look beautiful, and he worries about you when you have surgery. How have your other family members reacted?
Sherry: Well, after my brow lift my dad told me that I didn't need to be doing all this stuff to myself. I actually didn't tell my parents about this last procedure because I didn't want them to worry about it. Their health isn't great. I wasn't planning to tell the kids, for the same reason. I don't want them to worry either. I'm not afraid that they'll try to talk me out of things since that's pretty impossible once I've made my mind up. Doug, my husband, knows that I'm very hard-headed and that I'm not gonna let it go. So after listening to me for months he just says "go ahead and do it if that's what you want." Since he's busy and not particularly happy about it, I haven't asked him to do anything for me while I'm recovering. I even took a cab on the morning of my surgery. He was there for me with my cancer, but I do this on my own. I'm very independent.
KJ: So I have to ask: have your surgeries made you more confident about your looks?
Sherry: Absolutely. I'm very vain about my personal appearance and how I look. I like my face, I don't want to change my nose or eyes or features, but I like to look younger. I love my husband very much; it's not like I'm going out to find a new man or anything like that! But youthfulness is important to me, and I think about how other people see me.
(she pauses)I don't know exactly how to say this, but my mom never gave me a compliment on my looks. I was painfully thin my whole life. We'd go shopping together, and she would sigh and complain that 'oh the clothes won't fit you." Nothing I ever did looked good enough for her. Nothing. I had buck teeth, the whole deal. They paid for braces, thankfully. Anyway, I always had low self-esteem., starting from my mother's comments, I think. It wasn't intentionally mean or spiteful or anything like that, it was just the way she was raised. She just never made it a point to help me feel pretty. The first time she told me she loved me I was 40 or something. Anyway, I was always out looking to prove that I could be pretty. And then, once I realized I was pretty, I just kept going with it! (laughs)
KJ: Wow, I didn't know that. Did that shape how you think of being a mom?
Sherry: When Michael's sister, Mandy, was born, I didn't want a repeat of what my past was. I mean, I think that's a big part of why I am the way I am. When Mandy was a little girl I made sure to tell her all the time how pretty she was, and how beautiful her hair was. I didn't want the first person to tell her she's pretty to be some guy trying to get down her pants. I wanted her to already have that confidence coming into adulthood, from her family.
KJ: That's really cool. I'll have to talk to Mandy about some of this. Okay, last question: when have you felt your most beautiful?
Sherry: Hrmmm... that's tough. Probably in my 30s, when Doug and I were in those first years of being in love, and when my children were little babies. I felt really beautiful then.
KJ: It sounds magical. I wish I knew you then! Okay, is there anything else you want to tell me - and my blog readers - that I haven't thought to ask?
Sherry: Nah. I'll just say again that I think its so important for mothers to build self-esteem for little girls at a very young age, so they have confidence and feel pretty. They shouldn't have to hear some boy telling them that to take advantage of them. All girls deserve to feel pretty and loved, even if they have flaws.
KJ: I couldn't agree more!