Does cosmetic surgery merit "get well soon" flowers or balloons?
June 22, 2024 8:13 AM   Subscribe

My cousin just had "Mommy Makeover" surgery, consisting of two pretty hardcore procedures: a breast lift and a tummy tuck. She's going to be convalescing in serious pain for the next week or two, and after that is facing at least a year before fully recovering. Given that she's not sick or injured, and that she spent like $15000 to put herself in this situation (which, as a physician, I find ridiculous), I'm thinking a "get well soon" card or gift wouldn't be appropriate. Do you agree? If so, would you say that some other kind gesture is required of me? Thanks
posted by BadgerDoctor to Human Relations (37 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A nice bunch of flowers is always appropriate, keeping in mind possible allergies.
I too think it’s a horrid use of money, but your cousin is going to be hurting regardless, and flowers are a sweet cheerer-upper.
posted by BostonTerrier at 8:19 AM on June 22 [11 favorites]

I think just reserving judgment would be a beautiful gift in itself.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:23 AM on June 22 [152 favorites]

You are not required to interact with anyone inauthentically.

Do you like your cousin? (I'm reading a level of contempt here.) What do you actually want to do here?

There are so many options available to you to acknowledge this moment in your cousin's life, if a perfunctory get well soon card doesn't sit well with you.

Send a text checking in on her.
Send a friendly congratulations/happy for you card.
Go to her house and help her do lifting chores while she's convalescencing.
Take the body-wrecking children to a movie for a few hours so she can have some peace.
Order some practical items for delivery for her (a meal, groceries, amazon restock) so she doesn't have to think about errands.

I think you're getting stuck on the formality of a get well soon card instead of engaging directly with your natural impulse to reach out. The specifics do not matter.

If the real answer is you don't approve and therefore you're not comfy acknowledging it at alland that's why you're putting it off on a technicality, that's fine too.
posted by phunniemee at 8:23 AM on June 22 [16 favorites]

There are cards that express sentiments along the line of "wishing for your swift recovery," or the like, which don't imply recovery from an illness. They can be very vague.

It sounds like part of the issue is that you disapprove of her choice to get these procedures and you don't want to endorse the idea that it was anything but a choice. But I doubt that you wish her to suffer more than necessary as punishment for her choice - so I don't think such a card would be dishonest or in conflict.

Whether it's expected for you to make some kind of gesture depends on your closeness and the culture of your family, I think. What would you do if she was recovering from a necessary surgery?

If it helps, you can also think about the kinds of psychic hurt that lead people to make these kinds of drastic choices. Is it a good coping mechanism? I have my own opinions on that, but having empathy for where she has coming from might lessen your resentment.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:24 AM on June 22 [5 favorites]

I don’t think it’s required, but I think a card that says something like “hope your recovery goes smoothly!” would be appreciated.
posted by maleficent at 8:24 AM on June 22 [5 favorites]

It doesn’t matter if she chose it or not - her body is now dealing with the healing process and all that entails; additionally there is the risk that all surgery holds of things going awry during or after the procedures. I don’t think a “get well soon” sentiment is exactly perfect, because she should be taking her time and recovering at the pace needed instead of pushing herself. But a sentiment of well wishes for a calm and restorative period of healing would be entirely kind and appropriate. So for example, the gift of a soft blanket or some tasty food delivery or some flowers with a little “get well soon” card would be just fine. The nuance isn’t exactly perfect but it’s about showing kindness and care, not perfection.

I have to say though that the disdain you have for this person and her choices absolutely oozes out of your question. Yes, BadgerDoctor, you sure are a physician. And physicians always make logical choices and never act on their desires or make any kind of money mistakes? Give me a break. If I were your cousin I frankly would not want to hear from you if I knew that’s how you felt about me and my big financial decisions. So maybe in your case a lack of gesture would be right one.
posted by Mizu at 8:24 AM on June 22 [31 favorites]

Ok listen, it seems from your profile that you’re a guy, so could you at least contemplate the possibility that you aren’t in a position to understand or judge this choice? That post-childbirth, waking up and seeing a fundamentally different body that you hate every day is not the only moral choice that a person can make?
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:26 AM on June 22 [77 favorites]

If your relationship is such that you would otherwise send flowers or a card for a different kind of convalescence, and it’s no major burden of time or money, I think it would be a kind gesture to keep your personal feelings to yourself and send something. But I don’t think it’s *required* by any means.
posted by Stacey at 8:27 AM on June 22 [4 favorites]

It sounds like you don't want to send anything. And she'll probably get enough support from people who share her outlook on that kind of thing.

If I were you, I'd mostly pretend like I'd never heard about it.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:34 AM on June 22 [1 favorite]

Required, no. But I have rarely felt bad after doing something nice for someone I care about. It usually makes me feel better about myself and about them.

Being sympathetic even when someone makes decisions you find ridiculous is what distinguishes friends (and supportive family members) from random people on the street.

I get that you have a much better understanding of the risks and downsides of this procedure than she does. Remember the last time you did something kinda dumb because you didn't know something? Maybe paid way too much for a car repair, or left some home maintenance for too long, or bought shoes that didn't fit? It happens to all of us.
posted by knobknosher at 8:34 AM on June 22 [6 favorites]

I mean, I am pretty down on the way that dumb, patriarchal, capitalist-fascist ideas about beauty lead people (increasingly men too) to have expensive unnecessary surgeries and risk their health, but my feeling is that you shouldn't go around punishing or excluding people for being socialized into this. If your cousin is actually an awful person who snobbishly looks down on women who don't look like swimsuit models and says mean, body-shaming things about others and has had the surgery so that she will avoid "letting herself go" like those other slatternly women, sure, don't send her a card, but otherwise why not be nice? If you basically like your cousin, why not be nice?

Like, I also really hate certain types of risky sports because I think they're dumb and socially irresponsible, but if a friend got in a terrible wingsuit accident and were in the hospital, I would immediately want to assist in any way I could, and I'd let my hatred of wingsuits go. I'd say I probably feel as strongly resentful of stupid sports as you do of big plastic surgeries, so I think this is comparable.

A card or a thoughtful gift certificate for something she can order online during her recovery have the advantage of being a bit impersonal - you can write something nice without feeling it. And honestly, future you will probably feel better knowing that you did the kind thing for your cousin than if you made her feel bad or excluded or ashamed when she has after all had the surgery - it's not like you can convince her to unhave it.

Sometimes when I have to do something that I believe to be the right thing to do but don't really want to do, I try to get into 19th-century-novel-hero mode, where noblesse oblige and honor and so on require one to do the right thing with a stiff upper lip and I do find that this helps.
posted by Frowner at 8:38 AM on June 22 [17 favorites]

It sounds like you don’t think she deserves any get-well gifts, which is different from it being “appropriate.” She’s not going to think it’s weird if you send her something…she’s recovering from surgery!
posted by cakelite at 8:47 AM on June 22 [7 favorites]

I agree "get well soon" sorta implies illness, whereas "wishing you a swift recovery" or something is a better fit. I'd treat this as you would any other medical recovery - if you'd normally get a card and flowers, do it.
posted by coffeecat at 8:58 AM on June 22

I think one way that might help you get on board with supporting your cousin is to remember one reason some women do those procedures is because of pressure either from their partners or fear that their partners will leave them if they don’t keep up with the way they first appeared to them. It may not be vanity creating this.

I’m fully comfortable with how I look, but once considered getting a breast lift/tummy tuck for exactly those reasons, until I realized it’s better to just ditch men that feel that way. But truly, a lot of men do. You’d be horrified to realize. A man I was desperately in love with once said he would love me “except for my stomach”, which was a perfectly normal post-natal stomach with some stretch marks and a bit of a pooch. That shit is everywhere and hard to escape.

I think “wishing you a complication-free and speedy recovery” is probably the best and most honest way to go though - because presumably, you do wish both of those things!
posted by corb at 8:59 AM on June 22 [22 favorites]

Goddamn are people piling on here.

Send a card or don't: actual help would make a difference, but the message on a greeting card is forgotten quickly.

I agree that there might be better uses for $15k (like seeding a 529 account), but doing her PT or helping your spouse with their surgical drains sucks no matter what the cause of the surgery was. And that's still worth acknowledging.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:03 AM on June 22 [6 favorites]

which, as a physician, I find ridiculous

As a cousin and tbh more importantly as a physician presumably interacting with patients whose choices you might not approve of... work on the judginess, because it impacts people.

Get her balloons or flowers or whatever you want saying "thinking of you". Or don't. Whether it's "required" or not depends on the relationship between you, your family dynamics, how involved you've been in this up until now, etc.
posted by trig at 9:07 AM on June 22 [20 favorites]

Mod note: One comment removed. Please keep the Content Policy for Ask MetaFilter in mind and avoid snarky or judgemental answers, thanks.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 9:16 AM on June 22 [1 favorite]

“not injured” lol you just said she had her several parts sliced open and sewn up again, is this a special delusion of the trade where it’s not an “injury” if a scalpel did it

if you don’t care how well or how soon she recovers from her agonies because some other doctor made a lot of money off them, you don’t care. but it would not be “inappropriate” to care.
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:19 AM on June 22 [18 favorites]

I disagree with your reasoning but not the conclusion. I've had expensive1 "elective" procedures and probably would have perceived such "get well soon" messages as snarky commentary, not kind gestures at all. People who are genuinely supportive tend to explicitly say so and/or demonstrate it in other ways in addition to any such gifts.

1 does it really matter if insurance pays for it? It's still a ton of money, and why should my contract with them legitimize my decisions? Though $15k is actually pretty budget-conscious for what you're describing, fwiw.
posted by teremala at 9:23 AM on June 22

Being kind would come first to the average person's mind or so I would think.
posted by y2karl at 9:43 AM on June 22 [3 favorites]

Who are you to decide that her getting this was ridiculous? Getting a BA and abdominoplasty made a huge difference (for the better) in my quality of life. I'm sure for a lot of cis women it's every bit as beneficial. Is a "get well" gift warranted? Absolutely. Would I have wanted one from someone with your attitude? Absolutely not.
posted by Tabitha Someday at 10:20 AM on June 22 [13 favorites]

No, you don’t need to send her a get well soon card or anything. I just had my own version of a mommy makeover and had a check up with my surgeon and a kind of related topic came up and he said “I’m also a physician, I can listen, it’s my job”… I also have chronic migraine and see doctors regularly and it’s really important that we take women’s problems seriously. If her nipples were down to her bellybutton after giving birth and having her breasts swell to the size of watermelons and then deflate rapidly, well? That might be a problem for her, and very depressing and if she wants to change that… it’s not ridiculous. Mine did that after just puberty- they went from a triple double D down to deflated small b’s and then I gained 30 kilos in pregnancy…. And they did it again twice. So….. you don’t know what’s happening under her clothes. That’s between her and her actual surgeon physician and you are dealing with her as her cousin and you should deal with her as her cousin not as if you were her physician because you aren’t.
posted by pairofshades at 10:50 AM on June 22 [15 favorites]

And what I meant to add about the migraine is that some perhaps well meaning relative family member physician gp’s have stuck their nose in saying I need to relieve my stress or sniff pepper mint- but they just don’t know my journey and they aren’t neurologists and they don’t have a focus on migraine patients and don’t have migraine themselves and they aren’t waking in my shoes. So unless you haven’t had a massive change in your body composition and had a pregnancy and baby and are a cosmetic surgeon yourself- I would stick to how you relate to this person and how you care about them and send a gift or card or gesture as how your normally would.
posted by pairofshades at 11:02 AM on June 22 [4 favorites]

Google is telling me the death rate due to childbirth is about 1 per 5,263; the death rate for tummy-tuck is about 1 per 13,000; and giving birth costs about $18,865 on average. Maybe best to skip giving birth, which means one could also skip the tummy-tuck and so, voila!, $33,865 saved! And the cherry on top would be that the people they know wouldn't have to ponder whether to send a card or flowers. But, since they do birth and they do tummy-tuck, it would be nice to send them either.
posted by SageTrail at 11:13 AM on June 22 [7 favorites]

"Fondest wishes on a speedy recovery" is completely nonjudgemental and entirely authentic. Send balloons or a nice small potter flowering plant.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:52 AM on June 22 [5 favorites]

She just had major surgery and can’t get around. Send a gift card for Uber Eats/Doordash/takeout. Wouldn’t you want the same for yourself after surgery? Treat others the way you want to be treated.
posted by shock muppet at 1:07 PM on June 22 [3 favorites]

My body is disfigured by pregnancy and I wish I'd had a tummy tuck when I was younger and in better health. Women are so judged by looks, try to accept that your cousin is making a choice that is okay. You don't need to send flowers, a card, a gift, but it would be excellent to just withhold judgement.
posted by theora55 at 2:28 PM on June 22 [8 favorites]

Your profile says you're a guy so you've presumably never experienced firsthand pregnancy, childbirth, or lactation. Be kind to your cousin, you don't have the experience to understand what she's been through and is going through. If you live close enough bring her a home cooked meal or three, and if her kids are young offer to take them out for an afternoon. If you aren't nearby send her a gift card for meals and keep your opinions to yourself.
posted by mareli at 3:48 PM on June 22 [5 favorites]

I'm slightly confused how you're a doctor but don't seem to know that pregnancy can cause diastasis rectii, which has a "tummy tuck" as one possible surgical solution. Maybe work on your medical knowledge as well as growing some empathy.
posted by augustimagination at 3:56 PM on June 22 [8 favorites]

If your cousin had an accident on a moped without a helmet, would you express your wish for a speedy recovery? Of course you would. How is injury through stupidity or insecurity any less worth a gesture of concern?
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 6:10 PM on June 22 [2 favorites]

Please email her an Uber Eats gift card for $200 with a note saying "Hope you're healing well!" and stop having mean contemptuous thoughts. Ahem,


I'm going to guess that since you're a physician, you likely drive a nice car or have some other kind of noticeably fancy status object or hobby gear that people sometimes nod at approvingly, and respect you for, right?

Well, an hourglass figure is her version of a nice car. And I bet in the past 5 years, you spent more on the car / status hobby than she did on the surgery.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 7:24 PM on June 22 [15 favorites]

It's time to take your physician hat off, and put your family hat on.

I'm related to a physician who can get similarly judgy. It can be rather... unhelpful. Particularly if I feel put on the spot and like I have to justify my decisions.

But all you have is training, you do not live inside her body and you do not actually have a stake. You aren't her physician. And she didn't spend your money and this isn't disrupting your household.

Your role is to get your nose out of her business, put your job out of consideration, and simply be a supportive cousin.

Card. Flowers. Maybe a gift card for takeout.

posted by champers at 2:10 AM on June 23 [5 favorites]

Mod note: One comment removed. Please keep the Content Policy for Ask MetaFilter in mind and avoid snarky or judgmental answers, thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:42 AM on June 23

> I agree that there might be better uses for $15k (like seeding a 529 account),

Struggling for a non-snarky response to this one.

Others have called out the disdain you feel, OP, so I won't pile on, but I'd think as a physician, you might have even better ideas about how to aid the discomfort she'll be in post-procedure. Maybe pillows or smoothie ingredients or skin-friendlier adhesives, whatever.
posted by anthropomorphic at 4:57 PM on June 23 [4 favorites]

I’m going to come at this from a different angle, since you’ve already received a pile-on about your attitude towards her choice. Basically, I’m honestly surprised you feel the need to send anything at all. When I had medically beneficial but still elective surgery my actual close friends just texted to check on me, and because they knew I had my needs taken care of, just made sure to inquire about my recovery periodically, like they would if I’d fallen off my bike or whatever. No one sent me flowers or a card, least of al my cousins. It didn’t feel necessary? Unless this is the sort of relationship you already have with your cousin, where a formal get well card would be standard for another type of injury, I’m really not sure you need to do anything at all, other than communicate the way you normally do, and include polite inquiries as to how she’s feeling in that communication. If you really don’t communicate that often/aren’t that close, but feel obligated to do something because of family culture, then yeah just send flowers and a bland card. If you actually want to do something nice because you care about her and know how hard the recovery will be (and maybe that’s playing into your feelings about her making this voice voluntarily), then folks above have some good suggestions.
Basically I think your feelings about her choice may have you way overthinking this.
posted by JuliaIglesias at 5:15 PM on June 23 [4 favorites]

Your question comes across as though you've talked with one of your relatives and they tried to convince you to send a card or make some other kind gesture is "required of you".

Obviously there's not any legal requirement that you send a card or make a kind gesture. You won't be arrested or fined for not doing it. But if you like being part of a family and this is what your family thinks is appropriate, do the thing, and thank the person who kindly pointed out to you that you should do it.

You probably make a decent salary, a card is as little as $2 plus postage, you can probably afford to throw a gift card for Amazon or Uber Eats in there too. You don't like "get well soon", and feel like it's going to harm your moral values because you are expressing a generic sentiment with a cheap card, fine buy one that says "thinking of you" or some other pithy greeting card sentiment. The greeting card industry also has many other premade sentiments available if you wish to spend time browsing them.

If you consider what you get paid per hour, is this issue really worth the time you are spending thinking about it? Just do this small family harmony thing and move on with your life.
posted by yohko at 10:37 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]

Here are 207 different "Thinking of you" type cards. You can even pay to have them mailed for you so you don't have to deal with that.
posted by yohko at 10:42 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]

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