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Plastic Surgery and Divorce

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An article last weekend in the online version of the Washington Post discusses a phenomenon the author, Ellen McCarthy, describes as “surgical vengeance.” In contrast to the premise of the television show, Bridalplasty, where brides-to-be compete for cosmetic surgery, the fact that divorce motivates many women to seek plastic surgery is at the heart of McCarthy’s article.

But is it accurate to use terms like “vengeance” and “payback” as McCarthy does, to describe these women’s objectives?

In some cases, yes, it’s fair to acknowledge that there’s a measure of revenge involved in the decision-making process. The Washington Post piece, called “Ultimate payback after a breakup? Plastic surgery” highlights the fact that so many women consult plastic surgeons around the time of a marriage breakup that some doctors call it “vengeance plastic surgery.” Indeed, one young East Coast ex-wife interviewed for the article elected for breast augmentation after discovering her husband cheated on her.

Even around the time of a divorce, however, it’s likely that many women choose a cosmetic procedure or two to mark this key milestone in their life and help them prepare for the future in a more positive way. In fact, another woman quoted in the article explained that her reasoning had more to do with the fact that she needed to get back out in the dating scene than anything else.

There's a third possibility as well. According to plastic surgeon Loren Eskenazi, the motivations her patients often express go even deeper than preparing to date again. In her book More than Skin Deep: Exploring the Real Reasons Why Women Go Under the Knife, Dr. Eskenazi wrote that almost every patient she sees is anticipating or going through a profound life change, such as divorce, and seeking surgery to “have the outer body reflect an inner change that was already taking place.” In other words, Eskenazi said, the majority of her patients “use their surgery as an opportunity to heal and grow.”

People going through a divorce and considering cosmetic surgery should pause and consider their goals honestly.

Add a Comment2 Comments

Thanks for your message, Dr. Runels. I know of many exceptions, but I think I have a sense about what you're getting at. When people are dissatisfied with their looks, it's not at all unusual for there to be underlying psychological factors to consider--factors that may contribute to challenges in other areas of their lives. I'm speculating too, of course.

Coincidentally, I just posted an article more-or-less panning the Vampire Facelift! Feel free to add a comment to clarify/refute.

I appreciate your taking the time to post.

February 10, 2011 - 7:25pm

Very wise article.

On a related note, I've noticed (as a physician) that very few women stay married to the man they are with when they get breast implants. It may be a year, or 5 years, but, I honestly know of no exception to the rule.

I'm not saying there are no exceptions. I'm not saying the surgery causes the divorce. But, the two are without question correlated.

I have ideas why this may be the case--but I'd be speculating.

Thank you for the thought-generating article.

Charles Runels, MD
Designer of the Vampire Facelift (TM)

February 10, 2011 - 5:08pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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