Saturday, March 26, 2011

My Experience in Plastic Surgery

A friend of mine recently posted an article on Facebook that was written by an American plastic surgeon.  It is a brief discussion about “What is beauty?” and the perception of beauty.  Because so many of his patients have the unrealistic vision to look like a beautiful model or actress, he points out that a big part of his job is counseling patients.  I am almost convinced that plastic surgeons should get a degree in psychology if they are going into aesthetics.

When I lived in Istanbul I worked for a plastic surgeon for about three years, and I saw this first hand.  Perhaps even magnified because this doctor happened to be one of the plastic surgeons to the famous and elite of Turkey.  It was interesting in many ways.  In addition to learning about this area of medicine, I also had an experience in Turkish pop culture.  At the time I had only lived there for about two years or so, and still did not know much about Turkish celebrities.  This means that I usually had no idea who the patients were.  It gave me a very unique, objective experience.

The majority of the patients were very nice people, but like everywhere, there were always a few off the grid.  For example, I was always in shock at patients who had the arrogance to show up without appointments and just walk to the back of the clinic near my desk to wait close to the doctor’s office.  Of course it was their divine right to do so.

If their behavior did not indicate it, I could always tell by the buzz among the staff if someone “important” was in.  It was interesting to observe this because they looked normal to me.  It put fame into perspective – they are just normal people.  Or at least they started out that way, and were still human even though the media worships them as super human.

Famous people who were in need of recognition were often disappointed when they realized I did not know who they were and my Turkish was not that great.  In most cases, they were off to find someone who could recognize them.  If someone of superstar status came into an office in the US – say maybe a Madonna or Tom Cruise, and someone on staff didn’t recognize them, I wonder if they would be horrified with the question, “And your name is?”

As my Turkish improved, my knowledge of pop culture did not progress on the same scale.  I still did not know most of the famous people.  It’s not that I lived in a box. I just chose not to read the paparazzi pages of the newspapers.  If I successfully recognized someone I was internally a little proud of my new found fluency in the culture.

The most impressionable patient was one that visited late after appointment hours – usually, the big names did.  Unlike the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that surrounds plastic surgery in the US, I found many Turks to be quite proud of it and often name their doctors for the paparazzi.  However, the bigger stars were often more discrete even if they talked about it openly.

This patient was a very well known model in Turkey.  She is beautiful, however after seeing her before and after shots in several articles we wrote in the clinic, I know how much work contributed to that beauty.  She was beautiful before, but like many women, they feel compelled to change what they were born with. 

I was working late that night waiting for my boss to finish with his appointments so we could finalize something we were working on.  Enter super model.

After the formalities and greetings he asked her to sit down.  She proceeds to pull out a Turkish version of a well-known fashion magazine with her feature photo shoot.  “Look”, she says, almost in tears. 

I observing, watch my boss study each page of the feature.  I am able to see them and cannot find anything wrong with them.  They are in fact gorgeous.  The model looks great, the planned scenes and lighting are amazing.  It is a fantastic feature.  I am now thinking my boss is probably equally confused.  After all, he has touched every key feature on her face and body already, so what could possibly be wrong?  She has already been molded into perfection.

After sitting in silence as he turned the pages, she finally broke the news.  It was her nose.  She was not happy with the tip.  It needed to go up another 5 millimeters or so.  I wish this were a joke, but it was incredibly real.

They proceeded to discuss it.  Even her accompanying boyfriend had an opinion about it, which just made it seem even more wrong.  It actually angered me at some level that he did not find this girl perfect.  Not only did he agree with the girl, he was trying to explain how he thought the surgery should go.  Note: boyfriend was not a doctor.  I can’t say I was not jumping up and down for joy inside when my boss told him to stop talking.  The patient and my boss proceeded to talk for another 10 minutes or so about the details of the surgery.  In a few days time, she would have the perfect nose. 

Every ounce of my being was in complete shock at what just took place.  I have seen my boss counsel patients before, but never a discussion like this with someone who is considered by so many to be a benchmark of beauty. 

I almost needed to throw cold water on my face to recover from the scene to start working again.  I had a very hard time sleeping that night and felt incredibly saddened by the situation.  I am not sure if I was sorry for her, or sorry for humans – mostly women – in general and how they choose their idols based on physical appearance.

People look at a magazine cover and see a beautiful woman and think she has it all and is so happy.  Everyone wants to be like her so badly.  Or at least if they cannot have the fame and fortune, they try to physically achieve that body with rigorous workouts, diets, even risking their life in surgery to do it (yes folks, all surgeries ultimately have this risk).

I saw her during her follow up appointment after the surgery.  Frankly, I did not see a difference in her nose, but she did.  She was just as beautiful as she was when I saw her the week before.  However, she was happy….at least for the time being.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

School Search

My son just turned three years old a few weeks ago.  Ever since he made his grand entrance into the world, people have been asking, “Where will he go to school?”  Even before he was born I was asked what nursery he would go to!  I really did not know the answer to that question then, and now that he is three, I still have no idea of our preferred primary school.  While I know children grow up fast, do I really need to have the answer to this question now?  In Dubai, apparently I do.
There are public schools for locals in Dubai, but the rest of us send our children to one of the many private schools here.  While it is nice to have choices, I find the options and fees a bit overwhelming.  There are many different systems - American, British, International, etc. - all of which I am sure I do not know the difference.  And the prices, there are many to say the least. I know modern education is not cheap, but I really do not know what fee is proper value for the money.  My husband and I both attended regular, “what was available” schools and we like to think we didn’t turn out too bad.

Realizing I would want him to have some other stimulation than just home life when I returned to work, I started looking for nurseries shortly after he was born.  It was an eye opening experience, and I began to learn more about the mommy instinct.  I could walk into one place and in pretty much less than one minute understand if I liked it or if it felt like an appropriate place to send a child.  Sometimes it was a smell, or kids watching television that turned me off, other times it was an unexplainable feeling.

I found one nursery that I really liked compared to the others and since they took children from a young age, I preferred this rather than waiting until later.  However, there was a big issue in the manager, or head teacher, or whatever she was because according to her, it was just impossible that my child would get into that school because of the very important Waiting List.  I emphasize this word because it is almost like a four-letter word or cliché in this city, or something of a higher importance with almost divine power. 

I went back again a few weeks after my first visit to look and press more about this magic list and when it might open up.  Oh the vagueness.  “Well, we don’t really know”.  Huh?  You don’t know at all how long your waiting list is?  Now I have heard of the more desirable passport, and I believe most of the children at this school could have a British passport, so perhaps some riff raff from the colonies was not acceptable.  I pressed on this subject, but yet they just really did not know.  Whatever.

I am not sure if it has become apparent through my blog, but I am stubborn… or maybe the positive spin is determined.  Some of my son’s teachers have found him determined.  Kind women. 

I went back to look at the same nursery again with my husband because I really wanted our son in a good place before my maternity leave was up.  And while this woman was telling me it was virtually impossible in this lifetime, I am told that it is often the message that many good schools here send. I must be persistent.  So I play the game. 

My husband is much more clever and patient with these things than I am.  So we go, see the school, and again I listen to the impossibility of how long the list is.  I may have a better chance at walking on water. 

Just before leaving, my husband casually drops his business card and instructs the woman to call him in case anything opens up, as I will be travelling next week.   Ironically, about five days later he did get a phone call from the school saying a place had opened up.  I am sure that had nothing to do with the Ivy League school name that was on his business card at the time.

I was both happy he got in, but also very angry that a business card or a brand could have been the reason behind it.  I don’t care if it worked to my benefit.  Out of principal, it is not right.  It is not a bad school by any means.  I love it and so does my son, but I hate this kind of divide.  And I know it is not just in Dubai, this happens throughout the world.  I wish that everyone was treated equally and privy to the same opportunities, but sadly, this is a reminder that we are not.

This was just the experience for nursery school.  I have only begun to scratch the surface on the “big boy” schools and what waits for us out there!  

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What the F?!

Last weekend I decided to take advantage of the tail end of the Dubai Shopping Festival to find some clothes on discount to fit my son who grows like a weed.  The prices of kids clothes is really almost criminal these days, so until they are older and much more choosier, this is the only way.

One thing that often surprises me here is the music that is played in some of the stores.  This was a place that sells beachwear and surfboards, so I get that the music should be a bit edgy, but when I hear the repeated use of the f-word, I am always a bit shocked and confused.  How does that work in a Sharia law country?  Even in a non-Sharia law country, it’s an unlikely mix except maybe in a tattoo parlor?  While Dubai is very cosmopolitan, I’m not just sure how down it is with urban language.

This is not the first time that I have come across this, nor am I the only one. I have other friends in Dubai who have had the same experience.  Once I was in a shop that sold professional clothing for men and women and some of the raunchiest rap music I have ever heard was on.  I asked the staff if they were aware of what the lyrics were saying; they had no idea.  When I explained them to the manager, he immediately ran to the back of the store and turned the music off creating a very embarrassing silence.

I’m personally not that offended by people who use the f-word, or other four letter words.  I grew up in Texas, and both men and women alike use it.  It can be useful sometimes.  At the least it’s a great emphasizer, or stress reliever.  I have cleaned it up now that I am a mom, although I am human, I digress sometimes.  I do not use it graphically, and I do not like to listen to it where my response is “eww” or some other similar reaction to disgust.

So, out of curiosity, I asked the manager who selects their music.  Perhaps it’s a playlist sent from the company.  For many vendors this is an important extension of their brand.  He informed me it was just various playlists from the employees’ i-pods.  Basically, whatever they were in the mood for.

So, I then have to ask, “How does that work with the f-word and all in Dubai?” He was kind of embarrassed and didn’t know what to say.  I didn’t want to embarrass him, or put him on the spot, but since I have come across this before, curiosity was killing me.  So I proceed.  “How does that work if His Highness, Sheikh Mohammed came in to shop?  I mean do you think he would mind the f-word in the music?” While his primary language is Arabic, like most locals in this country, he speaks English very well.

The shop manager then proceeds to explain to me that they would for sure change the music if Sheikh Mohammed, or someone else of high level came into the store.  I am visualizing this seeing staff leap over surfboards and bikinis as Sheikh Mohammed enters.  Would they make it to the i-pod in time to push the button to the next song, or even better, change it to the Sheikh Mohammed preferred surf playlist?

The manager then proceeded to ensure me that they were careful with their choice of music and if a song had too many profanities in it, then they definitely would not play it.  However, one or two f-words are okay.  How can I argue with this logic?  It clearly makes sense! 

On that note, I proceeded to purchase some new swimming shorts for my son and head over to the other beach shop across the hall to see if there was anything on sale for mom.  As I walked in, my favorite Nelly song Hot in Here was on.   I love this jam, and I probably do not understand half the lyrics with out the help of an urban dictionary.  For those of you not familiar with this song, its gettin’ hot and Nelly is encouraging a girl to strip as they dance.  But the groove is excellent.