A few years ago, I wrote a feature for Zoomer magazine on plastic surgery — who was having it and why — among Canadians in the 45-plus zone. I spoke with men and women across the country who had undergone cosmetic nip-and-tuck procedures. The sentiment that stuck with me was from a woman named Fran in Edmonton. She explained that she had signed on for a neck lift when she realized her negative feelings about her aging appearance were keeping her from leaving the house. It took a few more years before the inexorable marks of time on my own appearance began changing my relationship with the world.
Forget selfies — I began evasive manoeuvres every time a cellphone was in range. I avoided mirrors. And eventually, I had to admit that I, too, was saying no to social situations because my confidence in my fading looks was shaken. How did I become such an uncool, insecure wretch?
As these things go, I picked one flaw to be a proxy for all that angst. And thus, on the cusp of a birthday milestone, I narrowed my obsession down to my chin(s). Even through seasons where I’ve been sample-size skinny, the padding under my jawline has been stubbornly double since birth, an annoying genetic glitch that my people call the unfortunate Smith chin. So when ads for Belkyra (Kybella in the U.S.), the fat-burning injectable recently cleared by Health Canada for use under the chin, began to accumulate on American TV and appeared on the beauty blogs I regularly read, a niggling idea took on momentum.
But I had a few other prejudices to wade through. About 15 years ago, as the editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine, I had tried a little Botox and a few fillers. Partly research for stories, partly a lark: I was too young then to need the boost. The technology was in its infancy, and plastic surgeons and dermatologists were learning how much to administer and where and when on early-adaptor guinea pigs like me. The results were unsurprisingly varied: my forehead was frozen in a mask once. I swore off the stuff. But nearly a decade later, the work I see around town now is much more imperceptible.
Then I asked myself, as I often do, what would Patti think? I have a lifelong obsession with punk’s poet goddess, Patti Smith, who at 70 has remained resolutely fearless about aging naturally. The woman who stared defiantly unkempt into Robert Mapplethorpe’s lens for the cover of her seminal 1975 album “Horses” redefined femininity and independence. She never used lipstick or eyeliner as a crutch. She made oversize overcoats and slouchy monochromatic black gear into a new androgynous chic. And she doesn’t mince words. As she told The Independent: “We’re being sold an image of how to exploit one’s self to get attention. It’s about redesigning the surface. I’ve been horrified by all these articles about Botox and plastic surgery as if it’s a normal thing.”
Other celebrities I admire have also spoken out against messing with Father Time with knives and needles, including Charlotte Rampling, Helen Mirren, Diane Keaton, Lauren Hutton and Julianne Moore. Even Stevie Nicks, who, in her previous (excessive rock ’n’ roll) incarnation, rarely said no to anything. And, of course, I fear looking like a Real Housewife.
But it was actually a friend with whom I share a birth year who turned around my (over)-thinking on this issue. She is smart, gorgeous, crazy successful and unencumbered by any doubts about her right to “take care of things.” She matter-of-factly selected the (discreet, perky) boobs she wanted, tidied up pesky eye creases that were slackening with time and minimized the after-effects of childbirth on her torso. Isn’t it our right as grown women to do whatever we choose with the money we earn ourselves?
Social media has helped erase the stigma of having work done, as people proudly post their before-and-after photos, new noses or lips or whatever bit they have designated as their own undoing. And plastic surgeons have hit on a great way to help us along on this journey. They have subtly deployed the concept of “genetic” flaws to help us work through our guilt about wanting to change things. After all, my chins aren’t my fault! It wasn’t the cupcakes or the Taco Bell drive-through! I can’t help my DNA!
It turns out I’m not alone. A recent Environics survey showed that 56 per cent of Canadians feel they have “a slight to significant” double chin that makes them “look older, heavier and less attractive.”
And so I found myself in Dr. Marc DuPéré’s Toronto offices. If you
have never been to a plastic surgeon’s office, they are really nice, with beautiful assistants, fancy coffee, lots of creamy marble and polished wood and fresh magazines. DuPéré was one of the first Canadian surgeons approved to perform Belkyra procedures.
So it comes to pass that he has my chins pinched between his fingers, feeling for laxity and checking to make sure I would be a good candidate. Belkyra, he says, works best if you still have some elasticity in your skin and if your platysma muscle — the muscle that runs from the chest to the shoulder and over the collarbone and slants along the sides of the neck — has not separated (which can occur naturally with aging). If it has, it needs surgical repair to tighten it otherwise melting away the fat in that area would highlight the rough and ragged separated muscle.