Show me a woman over fifty who likes her neck and I’ll show you a liar or someone who has a plastic surgeon on speed dial. My neck had always been one of my best features. Long, slender and somehow capable of holding onto my head even when I was doing my best to lose it. Now, it was going rogue, as crinkled and unattractive as a used condom.
I considered the alternatives. Turtlenecks. Not a great look at the beach. Long scarves like Isadora Duncan. Look where that landed her. I could wear a tower of Massai tribal necklaces or a neck brace which would attract sympathy and business cards from lawyers.
All of the above were attempts to avoid the obvious. No, I don’t mean miracle creams advertised on cable or a crash course in self-acceptance. (You want to be a crone? Namaste. I don’t.) It took me a while to get up the courage, but I finally made an appointment for a consultation with a plastic surgeon.
Getting a referral was a furtive business. I couldn’t go up to a stranger at Whole Foods and say, “Love your neck. Who did it?” So, I relied on a friend who was willing to admit she had “work” done, as long as I swore to go along with her story that she had only had acupuncture.
As I drove to the surgeon’s office, I gave myself the kind of pep talk I give myself before blind dates. “Relax. If you don’t like him, there are plenty of others.” The receptionist, a guy with pink hair handed me forms to sign. Then, I perched on a couch and leafed through a flip book of the surgeon’s Top Hits, before and after images of bygone jowls, turkey necks, saggy eyes and furrowed brows. Which begs the question. Where are the photos of the other patients? Those people with habitually surprised brows, lips as plump as eels, and a waxy sheen best left to an embalmer.
“Miss Friedman? The doctor will see you now,” said Mr. Pink Hair.
Dr. Marvel–not his real name–spent over an hour with me. Very impressive considering this was a free consultation. He held a hand mirror up to my face said, “Show me what you want.” Without hesitation, I placed two fingers on either side of my jaw and pulled my skin back until my grandmother’s jowls vanished along with my turkey neck. This is a move I had practiced every time I looked in a mirror for the past three years.
“That’s all?” said Dr. Marvel, sounding as disappointed as my mother when I turn down the second serving of petrified brisket.
“Well, uh, yes. What do you recommend?” I asked.
“Let me show you.”
He took photos of my face from various angles and uploaded them to a computer screen on his desk. With the help of PhotoShop, Dr. Marvel showed me how I would look with the “conservative” neck lift I had suggested. Then, he showed me the more extensive lift he preferred with a chiseled jawline and tighter neck. Nice. But it wasn’t me. On the computer, he erased every line and imperfection. Magic? No. Facial lasering. He could make my face as smooth and plastic as a Barbie, as long as I was willing to endure third degree burns. Ouch! Dr. Marvel was offering filet mignon. I just wanted hamburger. The deal breaker came when he described how he would make an incision under my chin and “tie” my neck muscles together. No, thank you.
I trusted the churning in my stomach and scheduled a consultation with another plastic surgeon. Let’s call him Dr. Famous. No PhotoShop persuasion here. Instead, Dr. Famous said, “Let me show you how you’ll look,” then asked me to lie down, fully clothed, on an examination table. As he handed me a mirror, I burst out laughing. This was an old trick I first learned from COSMO back in the 1970s when the magazine instructed women to lie on their backs during sex to let gravity “take years off” their face. Sure enough, gazing into the hand-held mirror, I saw my twentysomething self. No saggy jowls. No ropey neck. No drooping eyebrows.
“I’ll take it!” I said.
Dr. Famous then described how he would achieve the desired results. No incision under my chin. No messing with my neck muscles. But it wouldn’t be the simple neck lift I had imagined. He would slash my flesh from my earlobes all the way up to my temples. The procedure would take over three hours. Yikes! This was more than I had in mind surgically or financially. It came to the same amount I had socked away for a new car. Which begs the question: what will stop traffic first? My aging face or my 2002 Saturn?
I went home feeling confused and conflicted. Looking in the mirror, I realized that when I smiled, my jowls disappeared completely. And when I laid on my back, my turkey neck morphed back into a swan. I didn’t need an accountant to compute the most cost-effective plan. Keep smiling and spend as much time on my back as possible. It worked for me in my twenties!