Monday, November 21, 2011


Despite the fact that we had NOTHING in common - other than we both made our dramatic debut in 1959 - for most of my prepubescent years, Barbie and I were best friends.

I made certain she had everything she ever wanted - a trunk full of Fashion Avenue outfits, perfectly scaled accessories, orange sherbet convertible, and a two story dream house.

Everything but Ken. I never let her near him. I was determined to keep Barbie emotionally detached and co-dependent.

Despite the lack of male attention and a possible diet pill addiction, she never aged. Fifty years later, she still had the same tiny waist, perky breasts and buxom bottom.

Yes, it’s true she drove a glitzy car and lived in a pretentious house, but it was her flawless, youthful complexion and toned torso that I envied.

And so, two months shy of my 50th birthday, I elected to undergo plastic surgery.

Instead of doing online research, I turned to my back country clients for their personal recommendation. If he was good enough for the wife of a man whose year end bonus exceeded eight million, then he was good enough for me.

One phone call and four personal referrals later, I was sitting almost pretty on the Upper East Side in a prominent Park Avenue, flawlessly decorated, doctor’s office.

“How long will I be out of work?” I asked.

“No more then ten days”

“Will you put that in writing?”

“It’s in the literature”

It was. So was the cost. Mini face lift, upper lip dermabrasion, tear drop shaped saline implants; $42,000. Add to that private nursing and overnight hotel accommodations and we’re tipping the scale at 45 k.

“Why can’t I have silicone?”

“Its not recommended for women your age”

Knowing I couldn’t have them only made me want them more.

"What about a breast lift?" I asked.

If he hadn't explained the procedure - how he'd need to remove my nipples - I would have jumped at the chance to have my breasts in the same spot as they were in my 20's.

"You may loose senstion in your nipples" he added.

"Enough already," I shouted. "I'll settle for the mini lift and dermabrasion." I conceded.

"You'll have to complete your physical two weeks prior to surgery.  And you'll need to discontinue alcohol 10 days prior."

"Does wine count?" I asked

"Yes," he answered adding a stern glare.

I arrived the morning of my surgery with a confession. Yes, I'd gone for my physical, completed the paperwork and paid my bill in full, but the night before I self medicated with  a bowl of chardonnay instead of the valium he had prescribed.

"I had a glass of wine last night," I confessed.
"So did I," he added.
"How much did you have?"  I asked
"How much did YOU have?" he asked.

Four hours later, I was wheeled into the recovery room. It was here, during these twilight moments, that I knew something was wrong.

Because the nurse’s preoperative instructions failed to mention a catheter, I was convinced the peculiar vaginal sensations I was experiencing corroborated my worse only to death fear - that I had been sexually violated.

Under my post-op hazed, I began an imaginary lineup of my possible assailants.

The anesthesiologist is most certainly gay. The nurse is too obvious. It must have been the doctor!  

“I need to speak to the doctor right away?” I yelled.

“He can't now, he’s very busy.”

“I bet he's busy," I added, "busy molesting patients!” 

When he showed up 20 minutes later I could tell he was overly focused on my left cheek.

“What is it?” I asked

“It's nothing to worry about, it’s just a little blue.”

“It’s a hematoma, isn’t it!” I yelped.

“’s NOT a hematoma” he stressed.

Two weeks later I was back on the table, this time for a "simple office procedure" to correct my "mild" hematoma.

My first mistake was underestimating the complexity of the term, “office procedure.”

My second mistake was failing to follow the preoperative instructions by not taking the mega dose of valium prescribed by my doctor. My ill-equipped, irrational thought process was -  I’m calm, I'm strong willed, I can handle this simple “office procedure”.

The local, as it turns out, was excruciatingly painful.  It involved numerous injections inside and surrounding my left ear.

I envisioned this office procedure as a tiny slit, followed by gentle endoscopic suction, and  closing with a stitch or two.

The nonfiction version was revolting. His incision stretched from the base of my lobe past the upper crest of my ear. Although I was numb, I could feel and worse, envision, each step of the procedure.

Strapped to an elevated, 45 degree angle operating table and frozen in fear, I felt the coolness of the surgical steel clamps lifting my skin and listened as the aspirating sound of a pulsating hose sucked away my coagulated clots. Even the gentle glide of 15 gauge sutures resting upon my cheek grabbed my attention.

But the worst by far was the full body jolt created when the tip of an electrified probe cauterized my blood vessels - like the zap of a heart defibrillator.

When the nurse asked if she should pump in some soothing music I was quick to reply, “Yes, anything but country.”

Somehow my swift dismissal of cowboy classics eclipsed my disdain of Pop and Hair Band music infamous of the 80’s. And so, when my 30 something nurse tuned her dial I was flooded by Madonna’s morose performance of “Borderline,” Abba’s “Take a Chance on Me,” Queen’s “I Want It All,” Foreigners “I Want To Know What Love Is,” Kiss’s “Doctor Love” and my absolute worst favorite, Donna Summers “I Will Survive.”

And since I was a captive audience, I relinquished my repugnance and mentally transformed myself onto a Broadway stage. Here, bathed in the imaginary glow of theatrical lighting, I performed a brilliantly choreographed dance entwined with grandiose leaps, never ending spirals, deep body bends, and tenderly cupped hand extended glides. My only visible expression was the nervous wiggle of my toes and deep, deliberate breath.

When it was over I reclined in a dimly lit, floral schemed recovery room; eager for the comforts of home.

As promised, during the previously discussed and punctually noted recovery period, my husband called. I assured him I was fine, that the worst was over, and that I was capable of heading home on my own. And so, armed with a mound of ultra plush tissues, a plastic container of ice, and a fist full of well chilled gauze pressed against my incision lined blue swollen left cheek, I eagerly exited the office.

No sooner had I reached the bottom step of my doctor’s sophisticated Park Avenue suite when a well fashioned woman walking two highly spirited standard poodles eagerly approached. In the eyes of an under trained, overly ravenous pooch, my container of ice must have resembled a bowl of kibble. Their swift, grandiose leap resulted in an eruption of ice, which prompted my ill timed slip and unguarded crash to the ground.

My painful cry of "OHHH" was acknowledge by the warm wet lick of disappointed chomps and the gentle discouragement of their misguided best friend. "Fi Fi, Bo Bo - leave the lady alone she just saw the ….dermatologist." Apparently dermatologist is Upper East side code for plastic surgeon since the doctors brass plated signage only exposed his name.

By then it was about 1:00 pm, prime time on Park Ave and there were no open cabs in sight. I gallantly crossed at the walkway and headed downtown toward Grand Central Station. Despite my crippled demeanor, it was impossible not to notice how disinterested by-passers were.

When my husband called a second time and I greeted him with a frustrated "FUCKING NEW YORKERS!" he instinctively sensed my distress and bolted from his 57th office.

The hunt was like a scene out of a Woody Allen movie, as we waywardly wandered the bustling streets in a frenzied attempt to find each other. By the time we reached opposite sides on 62nd Street, his frantic eyes mirrored mine. Without waiting for the ‘walking man’ flash, he darted in my direction. And then, with super husband powers, he hailed a cab and a few bumpy clicks on the meter later, we were safe inside Grand Central Station.

Arm and arm, he walked me through the center corridor with its sea of determined rail riders, down the staircase to the lower level, onto the platform and into the safety of the train’s first open compartment. Then, with his classic, cool demeanor, he tossed me a twenty and said “take a cab, don’t drive home” to which I replied “thanks for making me look like a hooker.”

I would have laughed if it wasn’t so painful and he tried his hardest not to.

Halfway home I remembered I had brought my previously prescribed post surgery painkillers. I quickly opened the vile, noticed the enormous horse pill sized capsule and realized I had no water to wash it down. But I am, if nothing else, clever. I poured the remaining pills into my pocket, dipped the now empty vile into the half melted ice and swiftly washed my pain killer down.

Although the train was packed, my act went unnoticed. It was not until the remaining water spilled and then traveled sideways towards my oblivious neighbor, that my actions created a disapproving glare.

The journey home was bumpier than most. There would be many more spills along the way. I arrived at the Greenwich station disheveled and weary. A wafer thin woman dressed in a chic Theory suit, fuck me pumps, and Jackie O shades, strutted ahead of me and stole my cab.

I had no strength left to challenge her. I stood front line and center stage at the taxi stand; in full view of a fury of commuters who seemed mildly amused by my distress. After several minutes the cab door opened and Jimmy, my valiant driver, offered to escort me home.

“Where to Miss?”

I don’t’ know what I found more pleasing, that I was finally on my way home or that he called me “Miss”.

Later, when he asked how “I waz doin,”I tearfully recited the misguided escapades of my otherwise glorious spring day.

By the time we reached my destination I had reduced my mound of aloe laced, Park Avenue tissues to a mere shred.

“Make sure someone takes care of you,” he said and with that I tossed him my husband’s twenty dollar bill and called it a day.

Green Monkey Tales © 2009 Shannon E. Kennedy

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Thank you for encouraging my JOY of writing. By reading and commenting you are feeding my soul, stroking my heart, and in the end...making me a better writer.

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Shannon E. Kennedy


Photo by Joan Harrison