"Options for Women over Forty"
Mature Women, Society, and Plastic Surgery
A Symposium for Women
Fred Suess, M.D.
Participant and Presenter
It is a pleasure to be here and I'm delighted to participate in this evening's program.
I was raised in a family sandwiched between older and younger sisters. Being the only man on the panel tonight. I find myself surrounded once again by women to the left of me and right of me and of course you in front of me- what an enviable position for any man.
The beneficiary of tonight's events is an organization called "Options for women over forty". Webster's encyclopedic dictionary defines options as - the power or liberty of choosing.
Plastic surgery opens to you an area in which to exercise that power of choice. It offers a chance for
change from the looks with which we were born. An act of emancipation from our genes, a gesture of
defiance at the calendar.
According to the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive surgeons, the number of Cosmetic
Surgery procedures performers in the United States has increased over 60% in the past four years and
this figure is an under estimate because it does not include surgery performed by Physicians other than
fully trained plastic surgeons. Well over 4 million cosmetic surgery procedures were performed last
year. The greatest increase being in Liposuction of which a significant number of patients were over forty.
Why is this? There are a number of reasons.
The world is full of people who have devoted the last ten years of their lives to achieving physical perfection and now are dismayed to discover that they are just as old as they would have been, had they spent the decade in bed. Many Americans with thighs as firm as frozen turkey legs, still, are haunted by bulges in their saddle area or mounds on their hip handles. The main reason for the tremendous increase in cosmetic surgery is a change in the public's attitude and personally, I feel the "women's movement" over the past 15 years has been largely responsible for this. You have emancipated not only yourselves, but men as well. In doing so, you have unleashed the desire for change and improvement that all of us harbor but may have been reluctant to act upon.
I say all of us because the percentage of men seeking cosmetic surgery has quadrupled in the past decade. Over 20% of cosmetic surgery patients are male. To quote a male patient "IT simply makes you feel so much better, when one looks in the mirror, one isn't so discouraged. It's tantamount to better grooming, looking as good as one can."
The motivation for women and men seeking plastic surgery and for the increasing demand stems to a large extent from the change in the nature and function of the American face. In addition to its traditional ornamental role, it is increasingly an essential business accessory- a reflection of its owner's energy. Resolve and savvy. This is especially so with the rise in jobs for which a primary qualification - is to be able to look, as if one knows what one is doing.
The importance of image is an undeniable fact of corporate life. The five second scan, by which we read a person, begins at and finally comes to rest on a persons face. This decade's look is not so much
handsome or beautiful- as it is fit, sleek and vigorous. It is not young, which is read as inexperienced, but it is youthful.
Studies have shown that when all qualifications are equal the best looking candidate gets the job. Additional studies have shown that the rate of recidivism among criminals who had plastic surgery while in prison - is significantly lower that those who did not. The fact t that the baby boomers are entering middle age with many in need of what we will call "Preventive Maintenance" certainly is an additional reason for the increase in plastic surgery demand. Added to this, more patients are having a facelift in their forties than a decade ago- and because the population is staying healthier longer, many older patients are having their first and second facelifts.
Public figures have long been subscribers of plastic surgery but it is the public figures going public that has raised the consciousness of Americans as to the dramatic results that cosmetic surgery can produce. Former first lady Betty Ford caused phones in many plastic surgery offices to ring more frequently after talking openly and frankly about her facial surgery.
She had successfully overcome a substance abuse problem and wanted to look as well as she now felt. I have it from excellent sources that both Rosalyn Carter and Nancy Regan have had, as it is said, "Some work done".
Senator Proxmire of Wisconsin says the reason he had hair transplants was that his head appeared shiny on T.V. Campaign debates and that did not want to appear as an egghead. I don't know the reason he or senator Jackson of Washington gave for having their lower eyelids done- but basically they wanted to look better, less tired and more rested.
I have an interesting story about one of my patients that I thought was very touching and revealing. I wanted to share it with you. The patient, a lady in her fifties, widowed, working downtown- told me that since her facelift, her dreams had changed. I was fascinated, but I wasn't sure where she was leading. She stated that prior to her facelift- for the past few years - she frequently dreamt she was at a party and was always seated watching other people dancing - but that since her facelift, she still dreamt she was at the party but now was one of the people dancing. I felt food for her and myself that in some way, I had helped in creating this Freudian dreamscape.
I recently had a young woman consult me about having her wide nose narrowed and the tip made less round. Being a singer, she was concerned that changing her nose might change her voice. I told her that this was a valid concern and while I could not offer guaranties, I was not aware of any changes in the singing voices of Vic Damone, Dean martin, Tom Jones or Paul Anka that had occurred after their Rhinoplasties to which she added " yes and it doesn't seem to have hurt Michael Jackson either".
While public figures like Cher having nasal and breast surgery and Beatrice Arthur and Linda Gray having facelifts adds to cosmetic surgery statistics, and there are reports Princess Diana had her nose done -the vast majority of Cosmetic Surgery patients are everyday working men and women. From Pilots to telephone-line men, from secretaries to corporate lawyers. In addition, at least three former Presidents of the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons have had facelifts themselves.
A final reason why plastic surgery will continue to gain wider acceptance is that the puritan ethic of "not tampering with what God gave you" is being revised. We have given ourselves permission to change and improve features that cause discomfort, self consciousness, and lack of confidence. It is o.k. to tone, tighten and improve the image in the mirror so that it matches the ideas and feelings we have in our minds and hearts.
The miracle of Plastic Surgery is that it defies the principles of Physics. For through plastic surgery, we can overcome the laws of gravity and make time stand still, at least for a while.
Your press kits have information on some of the technical aspects of cosmetic surgery and for additional brochures and information, please feel free to call my office. Thank you
Fred Suess, M.D.
San Francisco, California