Plastic surgery face-off

“Welcome to the Great Plastic Surgery Debate — between women who do and women who don’t, and between the pressure to look 25 no matter the cost and our desire to be true to ourselves.” — Jane Ganahl

IMG_0349Timing is everything, isn’t it?  This week I’ve reached the two-month anniversary of the Mohs skin cancer surgery on my right cheek. As I mentioned in my essay on this topic for Michigan Prime, the five-hour procedure included plastic surgery reconstruction techniques to repair the three-inch incision.

Calling it an ordeal would be an understatement, but the pain and numbness are improving now, and the scar is healing … slooowly but surely. And there’s comfort in knowing the cancer was successfully removed.

Yesterday, the September/October issue of Spirituality & Health arrived in my mail, and the cover story caught my eye immediately. Written by veteran journalist and author Jane Ganahl, “Staring Plastic Surgery in the Face” delves beneath the surface (pardon the pun) of this controversial topic. The excellent piece shines a light on the spiritual and psychological aspects of aging — and why so many women go under the knife in order to meet the beauty standards of our youth-obsessed culture. Ganahl approaches the topic even-handedly, admitting she used to “judge” women who paid surgeons to tighten sagging jawlines and erase wrinkles.

Ganahl’s debate got me thinking. After undergoing Mohs surgery to repair a potentially disfiguring skin cancer, I’m not sure, now, if I’d submit myself to a facelift or cosmetic fillers to “fight” aging. For now, I’m grateful to be healing, and hoping to remain skin-cancer free while my new scar slowly blends into the laugh lines on my cheek.

What’s your opinion on this topic? Would you consider cosmetic surgery?

— Collage image by Cindy La Ferle —

Small-town romance

When it comes to staying young, a mind-lift beats a face-lift any day.”  ~Marty Bucella

CedarCoveIf you’ve spent any time in front of your television, you might wonder if midlife romance is a seasonal rarity or a gratuitous joke. And I’m not just referring to the Viagra ads. Hollywood doesn’t cast many older women in romantic leading roles.

So I’m cautiously optimistic about “Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove” series on the Hallmark channel. The new TV series is based on Macomber’s best-selling Cedar Cove books (I’ve lost count of how many there are) which feature several central characters over the age of 50.

In the Hallmark series, Andie MacDowell — looking fabulous at 55 — plays Olivia Lockhart, a municipal-court judge who presides over the fictional coastal town of Cedar Cove, Washington. This storybook universe manages to spin minus the grit of urban violence, but its resident characters still get divorced, struggle to overcome addictions, and rally to save their town’s landmarks while trying to balance careers with family.

Some — like Judge Olivia and her best friend Grace (Teryl Rothery)– are looking for midlife romance, post-divorce. At this point in the Hallmark series (episode 5 airs tomorrow night), Olivia is falling for Cedar Cove’s handsome newspaper editor, Jack Griffin, played by Dylan Neal.

As Nancy DeWolf Smith said in her Wall Street Journal review, the characters in Cedar Cove “seem to have time, to make time, to smell the muffins. The reason more of us don’t do that is because slowing down doesn’t work unless everybody around you is moving more slowly too, and that is not likely to happen anyplace but in fictionland.”

And yes, Hallmark’s “Cedar Cove” is fictionland — as neat and cozy as the clapboard art galleries and tea shops that line its quintessential Main Street. It’ll never be as enthralling as Stephen King’s “Under the Dome” series, or “The Walking Dead” — both of which I find highly entertaining, too. But if you’re over 50 and you appreciate small-town drama, you just might warm up to Hallmark’s sweet Saturday-night break from zombies, politicians, bloodied medical examiners, and murder investigators.

One more year …

Someday man will travel at the speed of light, of small interest to those of us still trying to catch up to the speed of time.” ~Robert Brault

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Lately it seems as if Ive swallowed summer in one big gulp, like the last swig of Long Island iced tea on a scorching afternoon. I wish I had more in my glass.

I turned forty-nine this month, and already Im wondering how to make forty-nine last as long as I can possibly stretch it. I plan to age gracefully — no dragging my heels into my fifties. Id like to become one of those plucky old women who wear purple and “learn to spit,” as the Jenny Joseph poem goes.

But not so fast.

Recently, my son Nate and I were having a mock philosophical discussion about the velocity of time. He was anxious for the arrival of the new family car wed ordered, which had been delayed in production. To him, the days werent accelerating fast enough; time was stalling like a faulty engine. Later he complained that summer break was ending too quickly.

His senior year of high school started last week, and Im still trying to wrap my mind around that idea, too. Weve been shopping for colleges since May, and applications will be mailed soon.

Just one more year.

Another mom, whose only child is my sons age, also tastes the bittersweet tang in this last swig of summer. Our lives will change too, she reminds me, when high school ends.

This will be the last year we rush to nuke meals in time for play rehearsals and tennis games.

This will be the last year we quit work early to snag front-row seats at concerts and award banquets.

This will be the last year we snap photos of our kids in tuxedos and prom dresses. And the last year for school uniforms, bagged lunches, bake sales, teachers luncheons, fund-raisers, permission slips, and field trips.

Of course, theres the sweet ring of freedom in all of this, too. Dont think it hasnt occurred to every middle-aged parent who stands teary-eyed on the same threshold.

I chose to work at home when Nate was younger, combining freelance writing with Tiger Cubs and carpooling. Later on, I tried to stay involved in high school activities. Meanwhile, Ive put a few dreams on hold, not to mention the career goals Ive filed away. Ive looked forward to the time when I can start my day without checking the school calendar. But Ill miss other aspects of having a kid in school. Ill miss the sense of community Ive felt while comparing notes with other parents; Ill miss all the Mothers Club meetings and school conferences. And Ill miss the incomparable satisfaction I get every time I work on projects involving young people.

This hit me on the long ride home from the campus of the University of Notre Dame, which I toured earlier this month with Nate and three of his closest friends – Andrea, Lauren, and Ryan. Though Ive known these kids since they were small, it had been a while since wed spent so much quality time in my compact station wagon. Between long stretches of road construction, periodic rain showers, and the Bare Naked Ladies blaring on the CD player, I remembered how much Ive enjoyed the easy laughter and awesome energy of these kids. And Im excited about this next phase of their lives.

But whether they head for Notre Dame or Michigan State next fall, Im going to miss them. A lot.

As we drove closer to suburban Detroit, my backseat crew quieted down. The sky cleared, and one of the richest sunsets Id ever seen suddenly appeared in my rearview mirror. My right foot instinctively moved toward the brake pedal – as if that would make it last a while longer. I didnt notice the cars tailing me on the expressway until Nate pointed out that I was driving like an old woman, way below the speed limit.

Just one more year. Pour it slowly, please. –Cindy La Ferle

This column was originally published in The Daily Tribune of Royal Oak and is included in my column collection, Writing Home, now available in print and Kindle editions. 

Facebook-free at 4 months

“There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s been four months since I pulled the plug on the Facebook account I opened years ago. Honestly, I do miss it … sometimes.

I miss the posts from out-of-town friends and relatives. I miss updates from fellow writers and newspaper colleagues — especially the ones who post links to articles, books, or films I’d enjoy. I miss the automatic birthday reminders. I miss the photos of cute kids, dogs, and (especially) cats posing in costumes.

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I keep promising friends who ask why I’ve “gone missing” that I’ll return … someday. And truly, I will. All I have to do is type my password to get back in the game and start playing again. Meanwhile, Facebook abstinence has forced me to schedule more face time with local pals, many of whom I didn’t see as often when we were keeping in touch via social media. Gotta love irony.

Still, the things I don’t miss override the occasional bouts of FOMO (fear of missing out). Here’s what I’ve discovered so far.

For starters, I like people a lot more when I’m not on Facebook. As human nature dictates, other folks seem more intriguing and attractive when we don’t know too much about them. Or, as rock star Stevie Nicks said: “Little girls think it’s necessary to put all their business on MySpace and Facebook, and I think it’s a shame….I’m all about mystery.”

On Facebook, however, nothing is left to the imagination. It’s not unusual for users to post photos of their bathrooms or discuss personal hygiene products. If you can’t name the top 10 things you should never share on social media, you’ll want to read this article.

When I was following the ever-flowing stream of updates — from more than 600 “friends” — I was often annoyed or baffled by so much weird behavior. Facebook may be a social network, but not everyone who comes to the table follows the basic tenets of courtesy, let alone the Golden Rule. Some users don’t communicate online with same degree of sensitivity or social savvy they’d practice face-to-face at a business function or a cocktail party. Social media is a free-for-all.

For instance, I enjoy civil political discussions with folks who’ve earned my trust and respect over the years. (Even the ones who don’t agree with me.) But I got weary of Facebook users who ranted ceaselessly on their pet causes or candidates, some deliberately inviting war-like hostility from opposing sides. Reading those updates just added more acid to my morning coffee.

Bragging rights?

On Facebook, you can share way too much of a good thing, too. Maybe that’s why they’re called “status” updates.

All too often, I felt as if I were eavesdropping when I visited friends’ FB pages — especially when I stumbled on overly cozy exchanges that should have been kept private.  “My new haircut (six photos included) was worth $125 dollars, don’t you think?” … or … “We just hosted a huge party and hired a rock band” (And, oops, not all of your friends were invited.) … or … “Honey, I am so proud of your perfect SAT score!” … or … “Look at the five-course meal (eight photos included) I just whipped up to surprise my darling hubby!” 

As most of us would agree, even the most clever show-offs tend to alienate the people they’re trying hardest to impress. Real friends, after all, don’t present an over-crafted public persona at the risk of damaging key relationships.

As far as I could tell, Mark Zuckerberg and his cronies were the only ones profiting from my self-promotional activity on Facebook.

To be totally fair, I questioned my own carefully curated status updates, too. Was I bragging or sharing news? Was I overstepping healthy boundaries? And who among those 600 “friends” really needed to know my business? Was I morphing into a … narcissist?

At the suggestion of another published writer, I started a professional Facebook page — to keep self-promotion separate from personal updates and family news. Problem was, fewer than half of my Facebook friends bothered to visit my “author” page, which sort of defeated the purpose. Or maybe my “friends” were sending an unspoken message that reflected their disinterest in my work. Either way, it was twice as exhausting to keep up with both pages. As far as I could tell, Mark Zuckerberg and his cronies were the only ones profiting from my self-promotional activity.

If and when I reactivate my Facebook account, I need to rethink all of this. In the meantime, I’ve joined legions of others taking longer breaks from Facebook, some with no intention of returning.

Wise advice for users

A few years ago, I interviewed Linda Weltner for a Writer’s Digest article. Having admired her work for years, I asked the award-winning Boston Globe columnist to share her advice on crafting personal columns that others can’t wait to read.

Of course, Facebook updates aren’t exactly newspaper columns. But given the public nature of Facebook and other social media, I believe its users would do well to borrow a page from Ms. Weltner.

“Never base a column on anything that costs a great deal of money,” Weltner began. “There’s an upscale consciousness that can lead to complaining about decorating your yacht, if you know what I mean. You must constantly step back and ask, ‘Is this an equal-opportunity experience?'”

Weltner also told me that she always questioned her own motives whenever she put anything out there for public consumption. She never used her columns to “prove” she was right about anything. “It can’t be done without bragging,” she said. And bragging turns people off, no matter where or how it’s published.

UPDATE: 

This post was featured last week on BlogHer, which prompted many new and thought-provoking comments from around the country. Please check the “Comments” section below to read the continuing conversation on this topic.