My dear Middle-aged Muddlers, last week as you recall, I “documented” my struggle to combat the shame of a droopy mouth and thin lips.
In my 20s, 30s, and 40s, I used excessive amounts of lip liner, lipstick and lip gloss to compensate. I also awkwardly smiled a lot to mask the droop.
In my 50s, I “graduated” to injectable fillers. They were costly. They hurt, but they helped.
Then one day my dermatologist told me that fillers were no longer the solution. Age, genes, and gravity were winning. If I wanted a perky pout, I needed stronger medicine. I needed plastic surgery.
Specifically, I needed a corner lip lift, a tricky procedure involving incisions on each side of the mouth with no place to hide the scars. Done poorly, the procedure leaves the patient resembling Batman’s nemesis, The Joker. Having seen pictures of botched procedures, I assure you, that is no joke.
My dermatologist referred me to a plastic surgeon, one of the “pioneers” of the corner lip lift procedure. I made an appointment, canceled it and called to re-schedule. I repeated this cycle of hope and fear three more times before I ultimately met the doctor. It was time to meet my re-maker.
The Promise of Eternal Youth
The doctor’s office resembled a spa. Instead of medicinal odors, stained, uncomfortable chairs and dog-eared, out-of-date magazines, the waiting room was an oasis of fresh flowers, New Age music, and plush floral cushions and chairs. Herbal teas and healthy juice were available, and on the wall, a giant TV screen softly played a video – on a repeat loop – detailing all the “services” the doctor provided.
My first name was called out cheerfully from my new best friend, the doctor’s assistant. As I walked from waiting room to exam room, I passed sunny pictures of smiling, eerily perfect-featured faces. The Stepford Wives would have surely seen their kinfolk enshrined on these walls.
In the exam room, I was handed a mirror. While waiting for the doctor, I put this mirror to use at its intended purpose, cataloging all my facial flaws.
The doctor entered. He was like a call from Central Casting – tall, suntanned, slender, with nary a wrinkle creasing his taut face.
He looked at my chart, then looked at me. “What bothers you the most? he asked. “Is it the thin upper lip, the drooping corners or the folds beside and below the drooping corners?”
My Face, The Mariana’s Trench of Nasolabial Folds
Now I confess I had never thought about the skin folds, but looking into a mirror, there they are. How could I have failed to notice them in the past? The Grand Canyon seemed a puny dip in the road by comparison. My nasolabial folds were so deep that they rivaled the Pacific Ocean’s Marianas Trench.
The doctor assured me that he could indeed perform the corner lip lift procedure plus a procedure to expose more of the inside of my upper lip plus some third procedure to … I was having trouble concentrating … also breathing. He told me not to worry. His assistant would give me print-outs to take home.
I asked about scarring and he said he could hide the upper lip procedure’s scar right under my nose. Yes, the corner lip lift would leave scars on both sides of my mouth, but the doctor assured me that they would be small and eventually fade.
My Face and House Painting
I was nodding and saying “a-huh” a lot. He then asked a follow-up question.
“Would you only paint half a house?”
This time my “a-huh” ended with a question mark. “What do you mean?”
“Well, we could – and really should – do a full-face lift at the same time. I can lift your cheeks, neck, and eyelids, get rid of those jowls and bags under your eyes, and even do a slight earlobe lift.”
“We really should do it all,” he asserted, smiling reassuringly. “What do you say?”
“A-huh,” I murmured.
“Excellent. I’ll send in my scheduling assistant to book the surgery and discuss financing options.”
The doctor bounced up from his chair and walked out whistling. Maybe my sagging earlobes were playing tricks on me, but I swear the tune he was tooting was “We’re in the Money.”
Stunned, chagrined, mortified, I had to do several minutes of deep breathing to quell the mounting waves of panic. Then I fled.
In the car, fortified by fast-food fries and a diet soda, I looked in the mirror. Hands shaking, I worked slowly and carefully applied lip liner, lipstick, and gloss.
All I could think was to thank God that I have some modicum of self-esteem and hadn’t signed the paperwork to “paint the whole house.”
I also thanked God the doctor stopped his catalog of my physical flaws at my neck. Imagine if he started a longer recitation of bodily faults in need of surgical remedy!
Handsome Hubby to the Rescue
When I picked up Handsome Hubby (HH) for a dinner out, I recounted my ordeal. He laughed and kissed me.
“You’re perfect the way you are,” HH lovingly said.
When we got home, I tore up all the paperwork from the plastic surgeon’s office and deleted his number from my phone.
Thin Lips Forever
I know I’m far from perfect, but I had learned my lesson. Vanity has its limits – at least for me. I’m sticking with the lip liner, lipstick and lip gloss solution. No more injectable fillers and definitely no plastic surgery. Make-up is way cheaper than painting “the whole house” any day and it doesn’t hurt either!