That one time I had surgery in Japan

Warning: this article is about my encounters with/opinions on cosmetic surgery, so if that upsets your bigoted self, you can leave the page right now. (Although, I would expect more from the readers of this blog… But you never know!)

My first encounter with any procedure to correct my appearance was in primary school, when my mum kept trying to rid the habit of me biting my lower lip. She’d get very upset at me, prodding my chin to stop me. I remember she even went to my form teacher, telling my teacher to stop me from doing it if she caught me doing it in class. My teacher did. I was always embarrassed.

It was later that Mum found out from my dental nurse that it could be micrognathia, which is the condition of a child having a very small lower jaw. My parents took me to an orthodontist, I was diagnosed with micrognathia, a corrective mouthpiece was made, and I was sent on my way to grow into it.

Oh, that mouthpiece. That mouthpiece was an instrument forged in the depths of a very specific hell, mostly likely one that tortured only children. My jaw was supposed to conform to the shape of the mouthpiece as I aged. You know how certain plants need support to grow erect? Imagine growing bone. That was what the mouthpiece was training my body to do.

I gave up after a few months. My micrognathia was left to live long and prosper.🖖 #notastarwarsfan #haveneverwatchedastarwarsmovieinmylife

Fast forward to 15. My upper row of teeth was fine, I had no complaints, but because of my small jaw I couldn’t smile without looking kinda goofy, so whenever I took pictures I stuck out my lower jaw just so I could look ‘normal’. I wasn’t bothered by this. Jaw-jutting was a simple expedient. Another thing that I virtually couldn’t do was sever noodles with both rows of my teeth – I always had to cut them by biting down on my lower lip. A little bit hot when eating soupy dishes, but whatever. I wasn’t too bothered by this either. I think these were literally the two hardly-handicaps that I had with micrognathia. I felt like I was dealing with them just fine.

What I was bothered by, however, was how my lower teeth were jagged and misaligned. (Micrognathia’s fault.) I thus asked my parents if I could have braces. They’d been talking about it too, so they said okay. I went to get braces.

Plot twist: the orthodontist said my bite would get a lot worse if I were to have braces, because of my micrognathia. I actually don’t know how this works, so find a dentist friend to explain or something, you’ll get there. Point is, I was told I would have trouble eating or something if I were to get braces, so if I wanted braces, I had to have surgery. I won’t go into horrific detail, since it involved sawing some bone and putting metal into my head?

The good thing was, because this was a corrective, functional procedure, the surgery would be covered by my health insurance. The braces were cosmetic, but the surgery wasn’t. So in the year I turned 17, I went to get corrective surgery for my jaw. It was a cosmetic procedure for a functional purpose. How convenient!

(I now have titanium plates in my jaw. No, the buzzer doesn’t go off at the airport security check.)

I had one other thing done to my face when I was still a child. I used to have a large mole near the right corner of my mouth. It was large enough for the nurses at my school health check to get worried about, and I had it measured a couple of times. My mum took me to my GP to have it removed – this was in primary school – but it grew back, bigger and darker than ever. I left it alone for most of my adolescence, but it wasn’t until I was 20 that I went to have it surgically removed. It needed stitches and everything because it was quite deep, and the surgeon had to sort of carve it out. Along with this procedure I also removed two other ‘shallower’ moles by laser, both on my right cheek. But it wasn’t the last I saw of these moles, because one of the two on my cheek grew back, bigger and darker than ever.

(Ever watched this film starring Leonardo DiCaprio called ‘The Revenant’? He plays a guy who’s left for dead, but survives, and traverses across a snow-stricken land to find the perps, seeking vengeance. I think if my moles auditioned they would’ve won the role.)

Now. I have come to the crux of my story, as alluded in the title. The surgery I had in Japan last December did involve a mole, but it was actually two procedures – the annihilation of a mole by laser, and getting a crease in each of my eyelids.

Yes, world. I have had double eyelid surgery.

Honestly, after my moles were removed, I was very satisfied with my face. I didn’t think I wanted to have more procedures done. The decision to get double eyelids was a very practical one: I purely wanted to save time applying makeup.

Look, I love applying makeup. I think it’s a form of self-expression and I have fun with it, plus I like how I look in the mirror right after I have makeup on. It just makes me happy. It also makes me feel more confident, and perks me up since I look less tired. Unfortunately, the entire process took a really long time because of my eyes. It was always hard to apply makeup on my eyes, because of my natural inward-creases – there were creases in my eyes that made the edge of my lids fold inwards that made my eyes look unbalanced. So for about 12 years I applied eyelid glue on my eyes to facilitate the application of my eye makeup. I used the glue to control how my creases behaved, and stopped them from folding inwards so awkwardly.

Not my video. Trigger warning: eyelid poking, might be horrifying for some

A part of me thought I could live with this forever, but a larger part of me just felt it was a waste of time. I am impatient when it comes to these things – I found it ludicrous that I had to spend extra minutes applying the glue, then wait for it to dry, and finally poke my eyelid with a stick to ‘fuse’ the skin together. And it wouldn’t even hold up the entire day. It also worried me that I was prodding at my eyelid every single day, as after some research I found out prolonged use of this eyelid glue method could result in droopy eyelids, also known as ptosis. It is a legit medical condition, and it legit worried me because my mother had ptosis, and it had impaired her vision. She got double eyelid surgery in her late 40s? early 50s? because she had no choice. Her eyelashes were jabbing at her eyeballs and her lids were sagging so much she couldn’t see. I didn’t want that for myself, but I also didn’t want to give up making a crease to better apply my makeup, so I decided to go for surgery.

All my previous cosmetic procedures were directly linked to me pursuing an ideal of beauty. This particular one wasn’t. This was for pure convenience’s sake, though you could argue that I wanted the convenience because I wanted to apply makeup, which is considered a pursuit of an ideal of beauty. Even if it is so, I don’t think I’m more beautiful with double eyelids, because I thought I was already looking pretty good, lol.

The surgery I opted for is called the suture method. The alternative is the incision method, where the surgeon really does cut your eyelids. That one’s permanent. Irreversible. I have commitment issues when it comes to things like these, apparently, because the idea of living in regret scared me, so I went for the sutures. For sutures, you can have the threads taken out if you don’t like how you look after, for example. I wanted that assurance.

I got three sutures in each of my eyelids. It was the most fail-safe (i.e. my crease wouldn’t bail on me that easily), and the most expensive for the suture option. Most people get two sutures, some get one, but I really didn’t want to have to do a procedure ever again, so I went for three. I also got an insurance package, which enables me to go back for a procedure anytime I want, for the rest of my life, if the crease didn’t heal properly or becomes fainter when I get older. I also opted for the thinnest needle, adding a little bit more to my bill. All in all, the procedure set me back a little over a month’s pay, if I had still been on JET. I’m not going to tell you explicitly how much I spent, that’s my business, but it’s not super classified information and you can google for ‘Shiromoto Clinic’ and have a look at their pricing, if you’re interested.

It’s been almost eight months, and I am very, very pleased that I made the decision to have the surgery. I am thankful every time I apply makeup; thankful for the financial power I had at the time, to be able to afford the surgery; thankful for the wisdom of the people around me, especially that of my husband, who helped me understand that getting the surgery didn’t mean I was unhappy with my looks; thankful that the doctor did a good job; thankful that I had taken the time to really sit down and think about why I wanted the surgery, researching adequately, and being brave enough to have needles weaving in and out of my lids. I can now finish my makeup in 10 minutes, because prior to my surgery I had to curl my lashes for the eyelid glue to work well (the lashes, after applying mascara, became stiff and propped up the eyelid), and curling + glueing took about 10 minutes, on top of the 10 that I needed to do the rest of my face. Now I can just do my face, draw eyeliner, and forgo all the curling and mascara. That’s 10 minutes saved for every time I apply makeup in my life. I don’t know about you, but to me, that’s a lot of time I can spend on doing more meaningful things.

Some people confess, after I tell them I’ve had eyelid surgery, that they want to get surgery too, but they’re afraid it’s gonna be a slippery slope, i.e. fixing one spot and then being tempted to fix another, then another, then another. Apparently this kind of behaviour is very common. It’s never crossed my mind, however.

From my jaw to my moles to my eyelids, I think everything was done with a purpose that wasn’t completely about beauty. It was always some kind of prevention or circumvention – I wanted straighter teeth, but I also wanted to eat properly; I wanted to feel confident, and the moles were in my way because of how people had noticed them, commented on them, and even teased me for them at times; I wanted to save time on makeup, so I got double eyelids.

Sure, these reasons only illuminate the fact that I want to look good, and I’m not trying to coat the truth to have it appear any other way – I do want to look good! – but I’m just saying: there were these very specific empty places in me that I wanted filled, and I’ve filled them all – with reason, not desire. I think that’s why I don’t go down the slippery slope. I think. I don’t exactly know.

To be honest, “You looked fine before,” is something I expected to hear after my eyelid surgery, but I actually haven’t at all. I’ve gotten more compliments than I have negativity. Anyway, if anyone tells me that, I’ll point them in the direction of this post. You know, of course I looked fine before – my beauty is as timeless as my thick skin, lol. I just want to minimise the effort and time needed to look as fine as I was before. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Some people don’t know I had surgery until I tell them (I assume it isn’t that obvious, which is what I was going for, or maybe they’re just being polite). Some people notice immediately. I don’t really care either way. I’m not ashamed that I had any kind of surgery. I’m just sharing about my eyelid surgery on here because it was something I did in Japan and I was really impressed by the quality.

If you care enough to see the difference in my eyelids pre-surgery and post-surgery, you can visit my Instagram account and, I dunno, scroll through the pictures? I had my surgery late December 2017, so you know where to look. Oh, and I also post photos of myself without makeup (you can also have a look at the before and after of those) because I’m comfortable with showing all versions of myself, so don’t expect glamorous or artsy selfies or whatever. I’m quite a down-to-earth auntie. Can’t be helped. 😜


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