Skin care

My Mom Made Me Get Double Eyelid Surgery

She nagged me for 10 years to get Asian blepharoplasty, and I finally caved

My eyes before (inset) and afterenlargeMy eyes before (inset) and after
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I got Asian blepharoplasty, aka double eyelid surgery, when I was 20, but my mom started asking me to get it when I was only 10 or 12. She came to the U.S. from Korea (my dad is Chinese) and she always wanted me to be beautiful. My mom associated success with having a good job and being pretty, and she wanted me to obtain her version of success. She never actually told me I wasn't beautiful, but it's considered beautiful in Asian culture to have big, Western-looking eyes. There's a special tape that you can use to get the look, but she pushed me to get surgery.

For years, I resisted getting the double eyelid surgery, mostly because I was scared of the procedure. But during winter break of my sophomore year in college, my mom set an appointment. It almost felt like she tricked me. She insisted it was only a consultation, but a day later, I had the surgery. It happened so quickly that I didn't really have time to do research or think about the repercussions.

Upper blepharoplasty is a cut-and-sew procedure that removes some of the skin from the eyelid to create an eyelid crease. Some older people get upper blepharoplasty when they notice their eyelids starting to droop or sag, which impairs their vision. It's a very quick outpatient procedure -- you're not even put under anesthesia. You're just heavily drugged, because after they do one eye, they need to sit you up to see what you're going to look like with your eyes open. I remember being in a good mood because of the drugs. The only time I freaked out was when the drugs were wearing off. I felt no pain, not even during recovery, which took about a month.

When I went back to school and people asked me about the stitches on my eyes, I didn't care. It was obvious that something about my appearance had changed, so there was no use hiding it. I don't get embarrassed about that sort of thing. I also wore glasses, which made it hard to see the stitches.

When I meet Asian people, sometimes they can tell I've had the surgery, but it's not treated as something to be ashamed of; it's so common in Asian culture. Most of my friends aren't Asian, but of my Asian friends, a lot of them want the surgery -- even men. A girl I used to work with had the surgery, and you could tell she did something to her eyes, because it didn't look good. Her eyes looked like they were permanently swollen, and they were uneven in size, too. Luckily, my surgery turned out well.

My feelings about the surgery are complex. Do I wish the surgery had happened a different way, and that I wasn't forced into it? Yeah. Your mother trying to change how you look is always hard. To this day, my mom bothers me about my appearance, whether it's my hair, my weight, or my skin. She's a very driven businesswoman and, like a lot of Asian parents, the best is never good enough. Growing up it was hard, although now that I'm in my late twenties, I don't care as much. Would I have done the surgery if my mom hadn't pushed me? Absolutely not. I would never have cared enough to do it on my own. I'm very low-maintenance and not that concerned with the way I look. I dress fashionably but casually, I wear little makeup and I don't usually style my hair. Plus, I'm scared of surgery. I won't even get Lasik!

That said, I'm not traumatized by how the whole thing went down. I like the results. I almost wish I didn't like the results just to spite my mom -- so I could say, "Mother doesn't know best!" But I think the double eyelid makes me look better. Makeup is more fun to use and easier to apply. Eye makeup tutorials and products are geared toward people with a Western eye shape, so there's more versatility in terms of what I can do with makeup. Also, my eyes look much bigger.

Would I encourage people to get double eyelid surgery? Sure. And I do. Some of my Asian coworkers have played around with the double eyelid tape, and they like the way they look with an eyelid crease, so I tell them to go for it. It's relatively cheap -- only a few thousand bucks.* And, again, I like the results of my surgery.

People who criticize the double eyelid surgery say that Asian people are trying to fit the Caucasian beauty ideal. But I think of myself as American -- I live here. I don't feel an obligation to maintain what my ancestors look like. And, frankly, there's a much higher standard of beauty in Asia than there is in America. In Korea, girls wear full false lashes every day and get injections so that their skin glows. There's more pressure to look a certain way, more pressure to represent an idealized version of femininity. For me, the important thing is that I like the way that I look now.

As told to Katie McCarthy

*In a study conducted on behalf of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the average cost of blepharoplasty in 2012 was $3,804.

*Author's name has been changed

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