My mom changed her face.
November 24, 2009 9:27 PM   Subscribe

I come back to Southern California for Thanksgiving and my mom has gotten idiotic plastic surgery. Please help me cope.

My mother is in her mid-60s. She always looked 20 years younger, but never had self-confidence. In the last few years she has grown increasingly vain; paranoid about her relatives to the point of cutting off several that I liked; and convinced that something is wrong with her looks. In fact, she has refused for probably 15 years to let me photograph her.

Well, as of tonight it is now too late to photograph my lovely mom the way I remember her. This year she became obsessed with the idea that her average-sized chin and slight-overbite were betraying her double chin and retention water. Which is fine, I mean I guess I have heard of people getting facelifts (not that I would be thrilled about that either; I prefer people to age gracefully) but then she decided the answer was a chin implant.

She had the surgery without telling my brother and me. I found out about this 2 weeks via Gchat with my dad. The given excuse was that I was having such a hard time in life that they didn't want to make it worse. I hoped for weeks that she wouldn't look like Michael Jackson.

So I walk in the door for Thanksgiving, I am already going through a lot, and suddenly my mother's lower face looks like Sigourney Weaver's! I guess it may be swollen and will go down a bit, and maybe I am overreacting.

But still, I had to go outside and sob while my younger brother comforted me. (He was in town to introduce his first girlfriend ever, who looks like a normal curvy woman and not a plastic-surgery addict, btw, and whom I am afraid of scaring off if I freak out about this. I always thought, until now, that our family was sweet and normal.)

I realize it's her face, not mine. But my mom taught me growing up that looks don't matter. And it is basic to my sense of continuity that my mother, the person I was closest to growing up, not shapechange like fucking Odo from Deep Space 9.

Can you guys please help me deal with this? Who even gets "chin implants"--something my cyberchondriac mother has at one time or another tried to push on me or my brother? Am I right to be upset that my dad kept this from me?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (42 answers total)
This is so not about you, or how want her to be the way you remember her.

You don't have to like it. You don't have to agree with it. You don't have to understand it.

You have to support your mother and tell her she looks great... though of course she looked great before, too.

Be a good kid.
posted by rokusan at 9:36 PM on November 24, 2009 [18 favorites]

Can you guys please help me deal with this?

Imagine how you would want her to react if you came home with a great big tattoo. Assuming you would want her to be nice, do that. The only person who can ruin Thanksgiving or make it good at this point is you.

Who even gets "chin implants"--something my cyberchondriac mother has at one time or another tried to push on me or my brother?

Enough people get them that they exist and people make a living doing them. Chill out. You don't need this question answered.

Am I right to be upset that my dad kept this from me?

You're right to be annoyed. You're not right to continue to be upset. Be nice.
posted by The World Famous at 9:36 PM on November 24, 2009 [4 favorites]

This has nothing to do with you. Support your mother. She's scared, she's not liking what she saw in the mirror and has the money to change it and she did so. You're in southern California, people get plastic surgery like people go to the dentist in other places. Let her live her life. Love her.

Let this go.
posted by dancestoblue at 9:43 PM on November 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

Really? You are grossly overreacting. Why are you taking it so personally when it isn't even your face? I think you should apologize to you mother. And maybe your dad kept it from you because they knew you'd act like you're acting now.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:43 PM on November 24, 2009 [4 favorites]

What's the old saying? There's no use crying over spilled milk.

It's over and done with. It can't be undone. Accept it and move on.

Under the "ugly" chin implant she's still your mom. Accept that and you'll be fine.

And, really, why did they have to tell you about this before they did? It seems to me that it wasn't a big secret, they just didn't make a big deal of it. It seems to me that you're the only on thinking that it is a big deal. I don't think you need to be upset with them at all for not telling you.
posted by patheral at 9:46 PM on November 24, 2009

This sucks a lot. I am so sorry.

But -- here you are. It's not like she's going to get it un-done, right? So although you have every right to feel like this is nutso (a weird thing to do, and a weird thing to keep from you), I'm not sure that an honest angry freakout will be good for you. I think some restraint when you're actually around her, and some behind-the-scenes out-of-the-house "wtf" with your brother is the best path.

Unless you think this is a sign of dementia or some kind of mental problem brought on by hormone imbalance, where you should intervene to get her to the (regular) doctor, then all you can do is come to terms with it. It's her face, and she made a dumb choice with it. The best you can do is try to work through your reaction in the kindest terms you can manage ("mom, I love you and it's weird for me that you look different, I love the way you've always looked and it's going to take some time to get used to the new look") -- and keep relations civil so you have some hope of talking her out of future dumb ideas like this.

(But yeah, some heavy wtf-ing with brother is called for here.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:46 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

You'll get used to it! For reals. Not right away, but eventually you won't even notice it.

I mean, is your mom happy with the new look? I assume yes. Try to be happy for her, at least.

Things in life change. Some things in life change really bad. I mean, really, really bad. A new chin on your mother is really not even close to as bad as it could get, and is on the relatively harmless side of the gauge.

By the way, +1 for the Sigourney Weaver reference, and another +1 for the DS9 Odo reference.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:47 PM on November 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

Looks DO matter. But I think it was good of your parents to raise you to believe that they don't. But the fact of the world is that looks do matter, but they are only one of a host of things that matter. And perhaps, at this late stage, your mom is realizing that maybe she might be going against some of the values she tried to instill in you. That's a very human thing to realize. Responding the way you did to seeing her new face for the first time is also very human. I see where you're coming from, but I also know what it's like to have something about your face that has always bothered you and that you would like to change. I'm not saying don't be upset - but please, try to see things from her point of view.
posted by Sully at 9:49 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Who even gets "chin implants"?

Hi. I have a "chin implant". Granted, it was part of a larger operation to correct a pretty severe underbite. It was debatable if this procedure was medically necessary or not (my insurance company finally decided all but the genioplasty was). Regardless, it was necessary to me. Changing my face has increased my self-esteem pretty dramatically.

You don't have to think your mom looks great or even tell her it does. But you should respect her decision to make the change.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 9:52 PM on November 24, 2009 [4 favorites]

I guess it may be swollen and will go down a bit

First off, the swelling is almost certainly a significant factor here, more so than you realize. I had double jaw surgery to fix a screwed-up bite about 5 years ago. Because of bleeding problems, I wound up being bruised for 6 months and swollen for about a year and a half; I would say it took a full 2 years for my "new face" to settle in fully. And while it's true that what happened to me wasn't typical, it is true that swelling from facial surgery (whether for cosmetic purposes, as in your mom's case, or for medical purposes like mine) always takes significant time to go down. Before my surgery, for example, I was told to expect a minimum of 2-3 months of bruising and 6-8 months of visible swelling -- and that's for a normal outcome.

Second, it is your mom's face, and I am guessing that her sense of continuity in terms of her own appearance and identity has been much more significantly interrupted than yours. Seriously, I couldn't look into a mirror for at least a year without my heart sinking and feeling a sense of nausea/panic, because I just didn't recognize myself -- even though I had been repeatedly reassured that the swelling would go down and that the surgery had been successful. It was terrifying.

I looked so different immediately after my surgery that when I returned to work, some of my colleagues literally didn't recognize me as I walked down the hall. Other people knew it was me, but kept giving me that weird sideways "OMG it's you but not really you" look for a long time. It made me nervous and sad as hell. The few people who managed instead to be supportive, positive, and allowed me to speak honestly about the experience I was going through were the people who helped me the most.

In the end, this isn't about you. It's about your mom and her well-being, and unless you genuinely think this is a sign of body dysmorphic disorder (I mean, beyond that which is already sort of unfortunately part of the cultural landscape of Southern California) or something, I don't know that you've got any say about it. What's done is done. You can choose to support her, or you can choose not to support her. Which do you think will contribute to a more pleasant holiday, and more generally to a more constructive relationship with her?
posted by scody at 9:53 PM on November 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

You disapprove of the way your mother has dealt with what you perceive as her unjust insecurities. Is there really any positive way you can tell her you think she's crazy and a fool? I don't think so.

Just try to remember you'll get used to it. What if she'd just had her teeth capped, or had gastric bypass surgery? Would the degree of the visible effect matter to you? It's all relative.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:53 PM on November 24, 2009

This does not register with me at all as something worth getting upset about. If my mother did that, I would be like, huh, that's weird. And that would be it. God knows I've done a ton of things that freaked her out, but she had to live with anyway. Haven't you?
posted by bingo at 9:57 PM on November 24, 2009

Oh, and yeah, I had a chin reconstruction as part of my surgery, too; it was the only part of the surgery that the insurance wouldn't pay for as medically necessary. So count me in with i_am_a_fiesta as "one of those people" too.

And I should say that my life has improved dramatically since my surgery. It's easier to eat, I have less jaw/neck pain and fewer headaches, and once the swelling went down (finally!), my self-esteem soared. I wish I could have done it 20 years ago. I can say without exaggeration that it's one of the best things that ever happened in my life. Your mom may wind up feeling the same way.
posted by scody at 9:58 PM on November 24, 2009

I found out about this 2 weeks [ago]

I hoped for weeks that she wouldn't look like...

But my mom taught me growing up that looks don't matter

"chin implants"--something my cyberchondriac mother has at one time or another tried to push on me

It could be the lateness of the hour but I'm having trouble making sense of this.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:10 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would be completely freaked out if my mom chose to do this. No advice, but I sympathize with you.
posted by pintapicasso at 10:19 PM on November 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

I hear you and sympathize, but the act is really none of your business. What seems to be the real issue is the difference between what she's doing and saying, and her telling you that looks don't matter. I think you're perfectly entitled to a "well, which is it?" conversation with her, but not at dinner or anything.
posted by rhizome at 10:24 PM on November 24, 2009

A chin implant is a simple procedure. If it results in your mom feeling more confident about her appearance, then be happy for her. I think you're overreacting to her decision to make a minor modification to her appearance.
posted by kbar1 at 10:34 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

It is very natural for you to be horrified. Don't feel bad about that. Your mom has had irreversible (in practical terms) unnecessary surgery to alter a face that sounds like it was perfectly fine because of her insecurities.

However, what's done is done. Now it's important to move on from the shock and treat her in a way that bolsters her self-esteem (with regards to her appearance, but especially with regards to herself has a person) and possibly get her to a therapist so that she doesn't end up doing this to herself again.
posted by ignignokt at 10:34 PM on November 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

I think you're over reacting. I think a large part of your feelings are being caused by the sheer unnerving-ness of having your mother's appearance change. But just because it bothers you doesn't make it 'wrong' or some kind of moral failing on her part.

It could be the lateness of the hour but I'm having trouble making sense of this.

I was wondering too, here's the definition for cyberchondria
posted by delmoi at 10:45 PM on November 24, 2009

My mom got a pretty sizeable boob job when I was a freshman in college. Even though I knew it wasn't really any of my business and that she was still my mother and that it didn't have anything to do with me, I freaked out. I felt a lot like you seem to right now. And a lot of people told me to get over it and that I was being selfish and immature.

And the thing is, I was being kinda selfish and immature. But that doesn't mean I was inventing something to be freaked out about. Like you, I felt lied to. After a lifetime of being told by my mom that I was fine just the way I was and that my worth was not determined by my looks, I suddenly had two big saline filled bags of proof that she didn't really feel that way. If she (who was and is a lot thinner than me, by the way) didn't believe she was fine, how could she believe I was fine?

I also think I was having a little cognitive dissonance just from the sheer fact of her lookng different. Even if the boobs had been beautiful, the sheer difference of it was unsettling. I'd gone away to college with a picture of my mother in my mind and come back to someone who was subtly but noticeably different. That picture was tied to my past and my feelings of love and security. It's weird to go away from home and have things change; it was like my picture of my past wasn't real or accurate. I think it made me feel unmoored and separated from the relative security/familiarity of my childhood in a way I wasn't ready for yet. I hated feeling all those things then and felt like an idiot for feeling them, but that didn't make the feelings go away.

So the point is, it's a funny thing, that parent-child bond. It's not really your business and it doesn't really affect you, but as you've already realized, it makes you feel things nonetheless. You'll probably never love the chin. I still shudder every time I hug my mom and feel her big ol' hooters squashed against my chest. However, you won't feel these confusing, irrational feelings forever. It will pass.

All you can do know is acknowledge to yourself that you're feeling a real thing, but not necessarily a rational thing. Don't feed the beast and work yourself up, but also don't feel like a terrible human being for being put off balance. Just try to relax and ride it out. Maybe make up a funny nickname for the chin (Odo might work) that you only ever say in your head so that every time you see it, you can be a little amused rather than confused and weirded out. Do your damndest not to ruin Thanksgiving or get in an obvious snit. Speaking from experience, you'll look like a drama queen and regret it if you do.

In fact, the best thing you can probably do is to ignore the whole thing. Don't say the chin looks good or bad, don't acknowledge its existence anymore than you have to. My mom got kind of "me and my boobs against the world" when I expressed distaste for them. It was like she had to stick up for them and prove me wrong, and that just drug the whole thing out. She's still your mom. Have a drink, take a deep breath, and remember that the minor panic you seem to be feeling now won't last forever, even if the chin does.
posted by mostlymartha at 11:26 PM on November 24, 2009 [11 favorites]

I don't think you're overreacting - I'd be freaked out too, and for at least one of the reasons you cite: your mom raised to to believe that looks don't matter, and now she's done something that is 100% in opposition to that stated belief.

Even more, she's your mom, and we feel differently when we look at our moms (or at least I do) than how we feel when we look at our lovers, our friends or random strangers. My mom is "home" to me, and if she went and remodeled without forewarning, I'd be really thrown off.

I feel for you - I don't know how I'd handle it. I suppose, though, it's as others have said: you can't really do anything about it other than accept it, hopefully with as much grace, compassion and self-awareness as possible. Good luck.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 11:36 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Your mom is still the same person. It's just, now she has a physical manifestation of what was previously an internal insecurity.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:02 AM on November 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

God, this person is in shock, and yet everyone shows her/him the "you're over reacting"- card. That's no way to treat people. Isn't it hard enough to watch one's parents get older while one lives in a different area? I have full sympathy.
So this should be answered as in: how to deal with shock and move on, right? And yes, indeed: your mom is still the same person. I probably would try sorting through my reactions starting from that end.
posted by Namlit at 1:23 AM on November 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

God, this person is in shock, and yet everyone shows her/him the "you're over reacting"- card.

In shock? Seriously? It's not as if they went home to find out mom had had a sex change and founded a new NAMBLA chapter.

People are saying the OP is overreacting because the OP is overreacting. It's just cosmetic surgery to make mom feel attractive again, and if it does that.... good for mom!

I'm sure the OP will be old and understand one day. Until then, they should chill the hell out and support their damn mother.
posted by rokusan at 2:38 AM on November 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

One thing that I've found, with my mom who's crazy in other ways, is that at some point you learn to detach. I always felt resentful because my mom seemed unable to tell where she started and I began. At some point I realized that worked the other way too -- that what she did, thought, wore, said, wasn't owned by me but hers alone.

I started trying to approach her as a person separate from me -- not my property. Thinking about this might help you, too. Her actions aren't about her or your family -- they're about her feeling insecure and wanting to take control over that. Try to have some compassion for the place where she's coming from.

Don't take anyone giving you crap about it to heart. Families are hard and we all react differently to their various weirdnesses, but fortunately it's possible to change our roles and reactions to these things. Not anyone else's, but at least it's something.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:41 AM on November 25, 2009

As to whether you're overreacting, yeah, maybe. But so? If I'm not pounding around my parents house overreacting to something I barely know where I am, personally. They cut down all their trees on their front lawn, they ripped out their fireplace and installed a fake one, they haven't childproofed one thing, and there are cleansers in easy grasp of our toddler. They might as well throw some steak knives and bleach on the floor and be done with it.

And this is the EVOLVED me. The adolescent version would probably have left by now (we're home for Thanksgiving).

Point being: wrestling with that stuff and getting past it is part of becoming a truly independent adult--a separate person who can see parents as separate independent adults and deal accordingly.

It takes a long time for some of us. I'm forty and still struggle with it.

In any case, try to take your mind off your mom's chin implant and focus on the bigger picture. It's her chin.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:49 AM on November 25, 2009

Yea, I pretty much agree that there's nothing here for you to agree or disagree with, and that it's time to put on your big boy pants and realize that your mom's job of nurturing and taking care of you ended a long time ago, and it's about her enjoying HER life now and not about worrying after you all the time.

Imagine if she came and told you that she didn't approve of X thing that you'd decided to do---your course of study, wife, husband, car, religion, whatever. You'd feel hurt but also like she didn't really get to have any say, because it's your life and you're gonna do what you feel is best, now and always.

Love her and support her, take her out, give her flowers. Make her feel beautiful and let her know that being your mother is the greatest honor you've known.
posted by TomMelee at 5:10 AM on November 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

God, this person is in shock, and yet everyone shows her/him the "you're over reacting"- card. That's no way to treat people.

It is if they are, in fact, over reacting. I'm no fan of plastic surgery, personally, but what mom does with mom's body is mom's business; she shouldn't need to ask her children's permission. If she's felt bad enough about her appearance for 15 years that she's refused to allow anyone to even take her photo, if this is what it takes to give her some self-confidence, then more power to her.

I always thought, until now, that our family was sweet and normal

And it is basic to my sense of continuity that my mother, the person I was closest to growing up, not shapechange like fucking Odo from Deep Space 9.

You are overreacting to the point of hysteria. This stuff is WAY over the line, completely unjustified by the facts at hand. Your mom is still your mom. Your family is still normal. Your basic sense of continuity is still intact, or would be if you weren't freaking out so hard on this.

I think the tattoo analogy above is a really good one. Anonymous, if you're not the sort who would ever come home with a tattoo, think of some other change you might make in your life that your mom wouldn't necessarily approve of. Now act towards your mom exactly the way you would hope your mom would act towards you in that situation.

This doesn't mean you have to lie and say you're happy about the surgery, or even that you understand or agree with the reasoning behind it. But it does mean that you should be kind and supportive, and that if you're going to have a little personal freak-out over it, do it in private and keep it to yourself.
posted by ook at 6:35 AM on November 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

My mom taught me growing up that looks don't matter. And it is basic to my sense of continuity that my mother, the person I was closest to growing up, not shapechange like fucking Odo from Deep Space 9.

Excellent Odo reference but he is actually a shapeshifter.

It's understandable if you had a close relationship with your mother, that seeing her look different would have an emotional impact on you. But this seems a little over the top.

What does "sense of continuity" mean? And why is this so important? I'm seriously asking.

Am I right to be upset that my dad kept this from me?

Your parents' marriage doesn't always include you. There's no "right" or "wrong" way to react to that but you should realize that they have private issues that they feel do not require your input. And that some reactions are going to improve your relationship with them and some are not.
posted by cranberrymonger at 7:54 AM on November 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

When I was six or seven my mom cut her long hair, the hair I would brush for her while she read to me. I remember being so very upset. That was my hair, even if it was on her head, and she cut it without asking me. Even though you're an adult, I wonder if you've got a bit of that going on -- part of you feels your mom belongs to you, and she shouldn't make a big change without asking you first.

Some of us like Sigourney Weaver's jawline and have similar ones ourselves thankyouverymuch
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:11 AM on November 25, 2009

Am I right to be upset that my dad kept this from me?

Your dad understood how much this would upset you and delayed telling you in order to postpone having to deal with your reaction. Don't vilify him for understanding how your mind works or for wanting to avoid the unpleasantness. Change your reaction instead.

I completely understand how you feel. I mean, I had the same reaction when my son got a mohawk, for crying out loud. And that's pretty temporary. I can't imagine how badly I would react if he did something permanent. But the key word there is "I." How I would react. It has nothing to do with him. I have to be in charge of my own reactions.

Decide what kind of relationship you want with your mother and handle yourself in such a way as to attain that. Condemning her for her surgery will not bring you closer together.

Good luck.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:21 AM on November 25, 2009

You're allowed to feel any way you like about your mom's self-presentation choices.

What you're not allowed to do is confront her or take it out on her. She's a grownup; you're a grownup. You guys make different choices in life.

That's why they cut the umbilical cord in the first place.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:05 AM on November 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

One of my grandmothers got a laser peel to her face, and the family's reaction was pretty much like yours. Looking back, though, what we were upset about was not actually the procedure -- it was safe, it was her body, she could afford it. What we were upset about was her role in our life. She had just retired from her job and took up several new hobbies at the same time. She was behaving differently than she had for thirty years.

We would say to each other, "She's Grandma, she's supposed to have wrinkles! She shouldn't want to get rid of them!" And that right there is the key to what we didn't understand, and what upset us. In the end, the laser peel was as far as she went, with procedures. And she never did stop being Grandma.

You shouldn't feel bad about your emotions -- they're real and rational. You just need to accept them as one more way that your mom has to drive you crazy.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:36 AM on November 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

What I find weirdest is the OP's extending this unhappiness to other family members - including hir brother's girlfriend. It's totally cool for you to feel however you want, but creating drama that extends to other people is how you CREATE a "non-normal" family in the first place. The situation is going to be as chill as you make it - if you want to be agitated about the surgery, you've got to accept that YOU are the one creating tension.

Also, this weird "I don't want to scare off my brother's girlfriend" thing... she's not YOUR girlfriend. Everybody has crazy relatives. Worst case scenario? You're her boyfriend's weirdo sibling. Best way to prevent this? Don't be a weirdo.

It's not your face. It's not your problem. You don't have to like it, but there is absolutely nothing to be gained by freaking out. Just eat some turkey and hang out.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:50 AM on November 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

The first thing you do when you see her face is... go outside and sob? Seriously? How do you think that made her feel? Presumably you love your mother, so you really need to get a hold on this overreaction. It's purely emotional (which is okay, people have emotions) but you need to stop stewing over it and let it go. Next time you feel yourself getting all angry over the situation, repeat to yourself that you are being childish and hurting the people you love by making such a big deal about something that really isn't. I know that might sound mean, but you need to be giving yourself some tough love over this.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:10 AM on November 25, 2009

First off, I'm sorry. This sounds terribly upsetting for you and you sound totally stressed out.

However, your mother is an adult. She is a person that is separate from you, and what she does to her own body is her business. What she does to her own body is not about you. It is not about how you feel about plastic surgery, or how you prefer people to age naturally, or how you want your mother to conform to some arbitrary standard that you have set for her in your own head.

That is how you get through this -- you remind yourself that you are overreacting to something that wasn't even about you in the first place. She is still the same person she has always been, but she has decided to change her own appearance. Why she made that change is a separate issue, and one that you will not even be able to discuss with her if you continually burst into tears at the mere sight of her.

She is still your mother, she still loves you, and I imagine she would appreciate you not fanning BIG FAMILY DRAMA about her surgery.
posted by crankylex at 11:39 AM on November 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

First of all, I just want to say that your emotions are yours alone and they are not good or bad, they are just yours and nobody can judge you for them. This sounds really upsetting for you.

What do you do have control over, though, is how you act on those emotions. It's probably not worth it to have a big fight over this. I do think the tattoo analogy is a good one.
posted by radioamy at 12:23 PM on November 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

If this were my mom, I would freak out too. I'm probably in the minority here, but I draw a bright line between plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery, and this is clearly cosmetic. Plastic, to me, means repair after injury or disease, and returning (as far as is possible) normal appearance to the body, or creating it if the abnormality / injury occurred prior to birth.

Cosmetic surgery is a whole nother deal. It's when you look normal, you just *think* you aren't good enough, so you spend a great deal of money and risk surgery to change yourself when it's your mentality about how you look that's the problem, not your actual face or body. It's missing the point and it requires a certain level of vanity that many people just don't possess.

The kind of person who would do this surgery is not like me or my mother. It's just not part of our character to do something like that. My mom even declined reconstruction after her double mastectomy, and I would do the same.

I'm not saying that those who feel the way we do about cosmetic surgery are better or more right or whatever, just different. I'm sure lots of people who consider themselves superior to me think I'm crazy for not covering up the pretty severe rosacea on my face with makeup. I just accept how I look. I don't have to like it, but it's me so I deal with it and it's at least authentic.

Finding out that your mother either was lying to you about what sort of person she was, or changed from one sort of person to another, is shocking. And you see the evidence blindingly obvious on her face if you so much as glance at her. I am a bit shocked that so many people here are telling you to make yourself feel something other than what you feel. Your reaction and feelings are genuine and you probably can't just decide to feel differently all of a sudden. Making a big deal out of it outside of your own head can make the holiday very unpleasant for everyone so as hard as it might be, you should avoid making an issue of it with your mother. I am guessing she will be able to tell everything she needs to know about how you feel about her new chin just by the look on your face when you look at her. She knows.

I'm sorry you're going through this, anonymous. I hope you are able to hide your feelings as much as possible for the holiday. I'm sure as much as her actions and appearance have upset you, that you still love her and don't want to hurt her. I think that over time you will get more used to it and it won't seem like such a big deal, as well as the fact that the swelling will go down and her appearance won't be quite so strikingly different from what you grew up with.

Good luck, and remember, you're not the only one who has problems with cosmetic surgery.
posted by marble at 7:05 PM on November 25, 2009

Finding out that your mother either was lying to you about what sort of person she was, or changed from one sort of person to another, is shocking.

"The sort of person she was"? Maybe she was the sort of person who felt deeply insecure and troubled about her appearance for decades, and now took a step to improve her self-esteem.

I am a bit shocked that so many people here are telling you to make yourself feel something other than what you feel.

I think asking someone to feel compassion for someone else (rather than being judgmental or self-righteous) and to recognize that the other person is, indeed, a separate individual whose choices are their own (rather than someone who is merely an extension of the OP and who needs to ask permission to do something to their own body) is not at all the same as "making yourself feel something other than what you feel."
posted by scody at 8:44 PM on November 25, 2009

Well, as of tonight it is now too late to photograph my lovely mom the way I remember her.

There are a lot of things that can happen as people grow older that end up making them look different. Wrinkles, loosing teeth, injury to the face that causes scars or burns, road rash. Tanning, sunburn, skin cancer removal. Deep sorrows that carve new lines into the face, or finding new joys, can both change the sorts of expressions we usually see. Illness may cause puffiness or discoloration.

Many of these things would prevent your from taking a photograph of her as you remembered her. How nice that the thing that prevents this is something that she wanted to do, that she feels improves her appearance.

But my mom taught me growing up that looks don't matter.

Were I to teach a child about life, I believe that there might be some ideals I would put forth that I had not always carried out, and might not always carry out in the future. Her not allowing you to photograph her for 15 years -- well, I think looks do matter to her. But would you have wanted her to teach you that as a child?

Many women are taught as young girls that looks do matter -- so go on a diet, fix your hair, do your makeup, get a nice wardrobe, tan, don't tan, work on your posture, manicure, pedicure, etc. I don't know what your gender is, but be glad that you did not experience pressure over your looks as a child. Perhaps your mother taught you that looks don't matter because she knows what it is like to be taught that looks do matter. Perhaps she has seen or experienced the extreme side of children being told every day that their looks matter very much. Perhaps it still affects her to this day, these things that she learned as a child.

But you don't really seem to have absorbed the "looks don't matter" lesson, as your mother's current looks seem to matter to you very much. Forgive yourself for this -- you are used to one thing, and it takes time to get used to the new.

How do you get over this? Think about what she's gone through, and how she loved you and wanted something better for you. I hope you can get to a point where you can tell your mom that you love her no matter what she looks like, neither more nor less as she changes.
posted by yohko at 11:39 PM on November 25, 2009

"Feel compassion" and "try to see why she might have done this" etc are good advice. But for pete's sake people, there's a lot of "oh how could you be so cold" in here.

I have to say, I find the poster's reaction to be very understandable. Wouldn't you be surprised and distressed to find someone you care about had up and done this with - as far as you could tell - no need? And to find out that a family member had surgery without telling you? Maybe this is just my own background talking, but I would be freaking right out. (Privately, behind the scenes, but still freaking out.) Family members: if you have surgery and/or get a general anesthetic, I want to know about it in advance and I want to be touching base regularly while you recover. If you're gonna change your face, I want to know in advance. These are pretty basic family guidelines I would think.

None of that means the poster should be mean to her mom, but I think she's more than entitled to her private freakout.

Some of us like Sigourney Weaver's jawline and have similar ones ourselves thankyouverymuch
-the corpse in the library

I think the poster is not saying SW's jawline is bad. It's a great jawline. It's just weird to have it suddenly appear on the face of a family member where it previously wasn't.

posted by LobsterMitten at 11:40 PM on November 25, 2009

It's just not part of our character to do something like that. My mom even declined reconstruction after her double mastectomy, and I would do the same.
posted by marble at 10:05 PM on November 25

Breast reconstruction is not a character issue (or flaw, which is how you've made it sound in context of the rest of your post). And may I suggest, if you're not facing it (with myriad ramifications), you can't know what you would do -- regardless of what your mother chose. Dial down, little marble.
posted by thinkpiece at 6:05 AM on November 26, 2009 [3 favorites]

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