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Class Reunions: Visiting the Past – and Looking Good!

Class Reunions: Visiting the Past – and Looking Good! Staff Report
Medically Reviewed by Jay Pensler, M.D

Many plastic and cosmetic surgeons report more patients coming in for cosmetic enhancements to prepare for a major event like a forthcoming class reunion. Some reunions have classmates who look like they have not aged in many years. Their secret? Nips ‘n’ tucks through cosmetic and plastic surgery.

When Melissa Jones of Lake Arrowhead, a California, was in the sixth grade in Windom, Minnesota, she once sat during a break in gym class talking with a group of other girls about what they wanted to be when they grew up. Melissa told the group she often thought about being a model.

Retorted one girl: “They don’t have ugly models!”

And the beat went on from there all through her school days. She was the archetypical geek who was always picked last when choosing sides for games. Nonetheless, young Melissa dreamed of being a model for magazines but then was brought down to earth – hard -- when she was daily tripped in the school hallway or had school books knocked from her hands.

Dumpy and Insecure

“And I would just feel dumpy again,” she recalls. “Dumpy and insecure.”

She remembers being teased about her large nose, flat chest and being nicknamed “Dumbo,” thanks to a set of large ears.

Improvements Moreover, being a plain Jane was not the only cross Melissa bore in high school; she lived with a single mother in a family that was barely able to make ends meet. Then, Melissa’s final year of high school was consumed with pregnancy and giving birth. She just knew her classmates thought she would never amount to that proverbial hill of beans.

But Melissa went on with her life, moved to California, had two more children, worked as a waitress and, one day shortly after her 28th birthday, noticed her tenth high school reunion rapidly approaching. The event caused her to think back on the slights she suffered as girl and woman, only because of the not-so-comely face she presented to the world.

“It was a small town where looks determined if you were popular or not,” Melissa says. “Later, I sort of felt sorry for my classmates because most had not changed nor even been outside that one county.”

In early 2003, Melissa watched the first episode of TV’s “Extreme Makeover” which ended with a note to viewers offering to spring for a complete makeover if you wrote the most heart-wrenching letter telling why you need a surgically assisted makeover. Apparently, Melissa poured her heart and soul into the letter, because the producers awarded her a place on the show. Over seven weeks, Melissa had a nose job, Botox, pinned ears, collagen, breast augmentation, eye surgery, a tummy tuck and brow lifts. Her teeth were whitened and she received psychological counseling.

Head Held High

And THEN she went to her June, 2003, reunion. With head held high. And with television cameras in tow.

“Many classmates I had not seen in a decade told me several times they had never done anything to hurt me,” Melissa says. “But most just ignored me and the cameras. One of my classmates noticed my chest and said first thing after our hellos how much larger my breasts had become.

Melissa reckons the most important part of her experience was not a long-denied comeuppance, but regaining her sense of confidence and self-esteem.

the most important part of her experience... “As soon as the bandages came off, my pain and insecurities vanished,” she says. “School was a chapter in my life I had long wanted to close out. And I think I acquitted myself well and put the whole sad experience behind me.”

With her confidence taking such a big shot in the arm, Melissa saved her waitress tips and started a web-based business, Planet Thong, which currently thrives as much as its madeover owner.

Melissa was not alone in her quest to look good at a reunion. Many plastic and cosmetic surgeons report more patients getting a nip ‘n’ tuck – or much more – to prepare for a class reunion.

According to San Francisco’s Reunion Research, high school reunions are in a huge growth mode, with so many Baby Boomers feeling their age, looking back at the good ol’ days and talking way back when. Experts figure about 150,000 class reunions are held yearly. Not surprisingly, most attendees want to look as good as possible.

“As the twentieth or thirtieth class reunion is approaching, more patients come in for cosmetic and plastic surgery” says Z. Paul Lorenc, M.D., a clinical professor of plastic surgery who has offices in New York City and Jamaica. “For those patients, I do a lot of eyelids, Rhinoplasties (nose jobs) and liposuction for which I need about six weeks advance notice so the scars will heal.”

Dr. Lorenc is also the author of “A Little Work; Behind the doors of a Park Avenue Plastic Surgeon.”

“Many patients have had the idea of plastic surgery in the backs of their minds for years and the class reunion is one of those big events that push them into finally going ahead,” says Michael Kane, M.D. a New York plastic surgeon.

Dr. Pradeep Sinha of the Atlanta Institute for Facial Aesthetic Surgery finds many patients coming in for surgical enhancements for class reunions right around their 40th birthday.

Growing Old Gracefully—NOT!

“The perfect candidate for a cosmetic procedure is not looking to change her life with plastic surgery or to look like some celebrity,” says Dr. Sinha. “She just wants to improve on what nature gave her.”

Judy Spector, 58, has not seen most of her classmates since their 1964 graduation. Additionally, Judy has a twin sister with whom she had always been competitive. To get ready for Judy’s May, 2005, reunion in Chicago, she has had Thermage to tone her facial skin and Botox to remove the deep laugh lines that run from the corner of the nose to the corner of the mouth (the labionasal folds). She had her lips plumped up with Radiance.

lips “I have no intention whatever of growing old gracefully,” Judy says. “When I can afford it, I’ll have it all: tummy tuck, full face lift and liposuction.”

None of Judy’s classmates, or her twin, know of Judy’s cosmetic enhancements which, she estimates, gives her the appearance of a person in the mid-40s.

“At least that’s what my coworkers think,” Judy says. “I don’t advertise my personal life. But colleagues keep telling me I look so ‘refreshed’ but they don’t know I’m going back to the doctor every three to four months to have my frown wrinkles treated.”

She wants to keep her enhancements to herself for the reunion.

Adds Seth A. Yellin, M.D., chief of plastic surgery at Emory Health Care in Atlanta: “Some of my more thoughtful patients come in seven months before the reunion for body lifts and body sculpting. But if the patient comes in several weeks before the event, we can talk about a little Botox, Restylane and a light skin peel.”

Valerie Weinberg of Alpharetta, Georgia, went to her 20th high school reunion in July, 2003, in West Palm Beach, Florida. To prepare, her upper and lower eyelids were done, her lips plumped up and, while performing an operation on her sinuses, had a small bump shaved from her nose.

“My husband kept telling me I was nuts for having the nose operation, that he could not see anything,” Valerie says. “But it sure bothered me.”

Her graduating class only contained 200 people so she was surprised when some classmates walked up and asked who she was. Valerie’s closer friends, however, whom she had not seen in ten years since the last reunion, immediately noticed there was something different about her appearance and asked. Whereupon Valerie described her procedures and operations in detail.

Of course, any enhancements in appearance may cause your self-confidence to take a giant leap forward. Sometimes, into absolute boldness.

For instance, the once shy, insecure Melissa Jones (who used to tremor in fear when fueling her car because she was in the public eye) has hanging from her rear view mirror a pendant that reads, “Please ignore these magnificent breasts.”

To view Before and After photos of various cosmetic surgery procedures, Click Here.

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