I woke up to a bright white light squeezing into the slits of my eyelids. Strapped down by each carpal and tarsal, I was crucified on a surgical table in downtown Santa Monica. I awoke with an inability to breathe, gasping for air from what felt like two cement bags pushing on my lungs. The nurse asked, “Do you need more morphine?” and with a quick reply of “yes,” I was sedated again.
Three years have gone by since I underwent breast augmentation. For purely cosmetic reasons, I chose to have my body altered to appeal to the standard of beauty and ultimately, to make myself happy. At the time, I was in a relationship but I did it for neither his approval nor the opinions of other males. It was a decision I made purely for myself and since then, I have not looked back.
Plastic surgery is the phenomenon that turns the superficial cogs in the great beauty machine called America. With current popular culture seeing women with oversized lips to augmented buttocks, plastic surgery is steadily growing in the States. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons estimates that the U.S. has seen a 2% increase since 2017 in the 17.5 million cosmetic procedures done. Across the board, there has been a one to 5% increase in cosmetic procedures from liposuction to fillers to tummy tucks.
Three different women reminisce on their procedures and share their stories of insecurities and confidence. To each her own; a different beginning but similar arc in their tales of cosmetic surgery.
“I never thought I had a big nose. I knew I did, like, people would crack jokes about it all the time … but I probably started getting a little bit insecure during my senior year [of high school],” said Jessica Reyes, 25. “I lied and said I broke my nose skateboarding.”
Reyes recalls bouts of insecurity from that oversized nose. She was a master at avoiding pictures to prevent her nose being captured at the wrong angle. A friend’s dad would jokingly say, “Hold Jessica up, if not she might tip over!” And after coming of age, she worried if her nose was the reason for boys not liking her.
The then 17-year-old flew to Bogota, Columbia to see a doctor who has reshaped the family’s paternal hooknose before. A $4,000 procedure done in the States would cost half the price in South America. Her surgery was a graduation gift from her parents.
Gaby Laszczyk was 20 when she had her breasts augmented. Now, 25, she ranks her confidence level 9 out of 10 from a previous five.
“I got the operation because I was insecure. I was very insecure.” Laszczyk has been self aware of her body type since before junior high school, when she hit puberty in sixth grade. Her shorter frame and wider hips contrasted with girls who had growth spurts and thinner features. A pear shaped body, Laszczyk found another insecurity when she noticed her right breast was significantly smaller than her left. Another flaw added onto her list, regardless if it was noticeable or not.
Maya Laszczyk noticed her daughter’s insecurities and presented her with an opportunity; the Santa Monica surgeon who operated on the mother for a tummy tuck would give the daughter a discounted price for her breast augmentation.
The mother and daughter split half of the $3,400 price tag for Gaby’s surgery.
Jessica Calleros, 33, never lacked confidence growing up. Her mother, only 17 years her senior, received a tummy tuck and breast augmentation a few years prior she went in for her first consultation. Having someone she could relate to, Calleros went under the knife at 27.
Calleros had breast augmentation after she earned her bachelors degree. Her choice was simply because she wanted them, not because she was influenced by insecurities. Calleros said she “always wanted to go to bigger in the breast area” and after graduation, rewarded herself. She called it “a present.”
The newly proud grad took $7,000 and went to Beverly Hills.
Reyes arrived to the hospital at eight a.m. and was put under anesthetics by 10 a.m. The two hour long procedure cut between her two nostrils to flap open the cartilage and shave down the bridge of her nose. She woke up from her anesthetics at six p.m. The healing process “took a toll on my body” and had her scared from ever getting cosmetic surgery again.
Underneath a plastered face cast, swollen eyelids, and greenish yellowish skin, was a cute button nose waiting to breathe in fresh air. With a four-week healing process in Colombia, Reyes was long overdue for her return home.
Her newly formed extremity took time to grow into. She no longer worried about what people thought about her nose but rather what they thought of her for getting the surgery. It wasn’t until months later when she felt comfortable revealing the truth that she broke her nose under a scalpel and not a skateboard.
An early view of the Santa Monica Beach sunrise set the scene for Laszczyk’s operation day.
“I was extremely nervous … but I definitely wasn’t having cold feet,” Laszczyk said. The surgeon cut a one-inch incision and inserted the disc sized implants through the nipple.
Laszczyk picked out her implant size proportionate to her 5’2 and 140 pound figure. Her bra size transformed from a small B-cup to full double D in the one-hour procedure. The surgery was booked only three weeks after her first consultation.
“The first two days were hell,” Laszyzck said. “But I can definitely see how people can get addicted to painkillers after surgery.” She used Roxicets to suppress her pain but she was still physically unable to do simple tasks like pick up a gallon of milk, speak loudly, or sleep lying down.
A hunched over, bruised flower, she wanted to bloom.
“They put an IV in me and gave me some medication that made me feel really kind of intoxicated,” Calleros said. “I woke up and I was in a lot of pain initially… I felt really nauseous from the anesthesia.”
Her breasts were wrapped tightly by elastic bandaging to minimize swelling along with a support bra. Calleros was prescribed Vicodin but the overtly strong medicine proved too much for her body, resorting to Tylenol.
At 5’5 and maintaining a weight of 130 pounds, Calleros went from a C-cup to what she feels like is “larger than a double D”.
“My parents wanted me to [have a nose job] because it hurt them more to hear mean comments about me,” Reyes said.
Only support came for her parents and Reyes said she never felt forced at all. If her children happen to be born with her nose, she would “give them the option [for surgery] if it’s something that really bothers them… but try to encourage them that they don’t need it in a way.”
The male counterparts to the mother and daughter duo had different opinions on the youngest getting surgery. Laszczyk’s father said to her, “You should go even bigger and get your money’s worth.” While her year older brother called her a “bimbo.” Despite the polar opposite comments from her family, she wasn’t bothered by either remark.
Laszczyk said, “people immediately think that you get [plastic surgery] done and it’s just like ‘Ok, you want to look like the people in the magazines.’ … It’s like, that’s not it at all. Sometimes you get things done because it really means a lot to you. Like you know you’re not going to regret it and you love who you are. It’s just why would you want to live with something that’s in the back of your mind all the time?” Laszczyk’s mantra is “if you look good, you’ll feel good, you’ll do good.”
Calleros says she “probably wouldn’t get [cosmetic surgery] again” because of the pain. She does feel that sometimes she went too large for her body type, but still won’t consider a reduction. Calleros says her breasts have caused some back problems and says at times, are extremely sensitive.
“I got them done for the right reasons,” Calleros said. She hasn’t regretted her choice and still holds positive connotations for plastic surgery.
“I think as long as somebody is doing it for the right reasons and just for themselves, then I am so pro-plastic surgery,” Calleros said. “I feel like do whatever makes you happy and don’t care what anybody says. If someone says something negative, that is not their choice to make for you. Do it for yourself.”
Rosalina Camacho, Coordinator of the WoMen’s Center at Cal State Fullerton, says that socialization and the media push women into getting plastic surgery. Insecurities stem from comparison to models and actresses, noting trends in cosmetic procedures from lip injections to resemble Angelina Jolie to buttock augmentations to resemble Kim Kardashian.
The idea of a perfect woman, she says, comes from the objectification of women. While men are perceived as handsome as they age, women are replaced with younger, glowing faces.
“There are various reasons why someone would want plastic surgery, like wanting to fit into a specific kind of career or just to have the perfect idea of a body,” Camacho said. “Women, because they feel insecure in a certain area, want to feel more secure [and plastic surgery] really gives them confidence.”
Logan, 26, and Stan Laszczyk, 62, both agreed that as long as it’s for the right reasons, and isn’t detrimental to your health, plastic surgery is acceptable. While the former questions the psychological and scientific aspects of it, the latter said “if they had plastic surgery for me I would get it for my self.”
Logan is a medical device engineer and at first disagreed with his younger sister going underneath the knife without having any life threatening ailments. He said knowing the science of it and the risks involved, he “didn’t understand the real reasons for it.”
“[Gaby] never told me reasons why what made up her mind,” said Logan. “But she’s my sister, she made the decision I’ll always be there for her. It doesn’t really bother me anymore […] I know she’s not a superficial person at heart.”
“Logan is more of a conservative guy than I am,” said the father about his son. “But if you know [plastic surgery is] appropriate than that’s the right way to go. You’re only young once. Life is very short, life is competitive.”
Looking back on the past three years since my surgery my mental health increased tenfold. It was a domino effect for me: breast implants led to makeup tutorials led to hair styling led to exercising led to a new wardrobe led to the body I finally grew into 22 years later. I finally felt myself, that my external beauty reflected my internal beauty even when I’m in sweatpants, hair tied, chilling with no makeup on.
At this point, I receive the same amount of attention from women and men, good and bad. When I confide in other women about my surgery they’re usually ecstatic and ask for my doctor’s name. On the other end, I’ve had an old female boss look at my Instagram account and say how disappointed she was when saw pictures of me in a bikini. Which leads to another discussion, would I have received the same disapproval if I was flat chested and skinner? How does a woman’s full figured body discredit her work skills? In addition to this unsolicited judgement, their is also always that average male nobody who is brave enough to stare or comment on my breasts. Regardless, I am proud of the way I look and still have yet to regret my decision.
The point is that makeup and cosmetic procedures empower a person to have the confidence they never had before.While some people find solace in music or in sports, why look down on those who find solace in beauty?
In solidarity, I can easily agree with the women before me and their beliefs on cosmetic surgery. Do it for yourself and never anyone else.