Susan and Kernit Rankin of Scottsdale met when they were young and fit. They became best friends. Married 25 years ago. Exercised together. Raised three grown children. They even run a California winery together.
"We do a lot together," 50-year-old Susan says. Including cosmetic surgery. "Susan wanted to have a face lift forever," 55-year-old Kernit says. "So I went to the doctor’s office with her and I said, ‘Why don’t you take 20 pounds off my tummy while you’re at it.’ "
So a week after Susan had surgery to "make me look as young as I feel," Kernit went to the same doctor and had liposuction to smooth his midsection and get back the six-pack he sported when he was in college.
"I’m really glad I got to go first because he was really an excellent nurse," Susan says. "But he’s a completely different patient. He just wanted to be left alone."
The latest wrinkle in the beauty-for-sale business is that the number of couples going under the scalpel together appears to be increasing faster than Pamela Anderson’s bust size. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, 36 percent of cosmetic surgeons have seen an increase in the number of couples who are going to the doctor’s office for date night.
"It’s a fairly recent trend, but I’m seeing a lot of couples who were beautiful young people when they got married, they’ve aged gracefully together and now they want to start looking good again for each other," says Dr. Marc Malek, a Scottsdale cosmetic surgeon who performed the Rankins’ procedures. "Going through the experience together is great because it allows them to relate to one another more. They know what the other is going through and that creates a better environment for the recuperative phase of surgery."
It’s often the wife who gets her husband into the doctor’s office.
"Many men feel like it’s not macho for a guy to have a cosmetic procedure done," he says. "But when his wife says, ‘Honey, I got a tummy tuck, can you get those love handles taken care of?’ Or the husband sees his wife taking care of herself and making herself look better, he suddenly encounters an accepting environment where he feels more comfortable thinking about cosmetic surgery."
Not only are men also looking to surgery to make themselves more attractive to the opposite sex, they hope it makes them a more attractive employee, a survey by the American Academy of Facial and Plastic Reconstructive Surgeons showed.
"Men and women responded differently to the economic downturn, with some women holding off on personal improvement and many men choosing to invest in themselves, possibly to increase job security," says Dr. Dean M. Toriumi, president of the academy. "Baby boomers want to look as good as ever so they can compete with younger people."
Typically, men flocked to get nonsurgical procedures, which often means more immediate results and a return to work the following day. They went to their doctor’s office to soften deep wrinkles (497 percent increase in fat injections), to eliminate their frown (88 percent increase in BOTOX injections) and to smooth their skin (79 percent increase in microdermabrasion and 13 percent increase in laser resurfacing), an academy survey showed. Men who visited the facial plastic surgeon to buff their image were typically ages 40 to 59.
Among both men and women, the fastest growing procedure compared to the previous year was nose jobs (47 percent increase for men; 5 percent increase for women), according to the academy’s survey.
And nearly half of patients told their surgeons that looking younger was the reason they wanted to undergo facial cosmetic surgery. Men are more likely than women (25 percent versus 10 percent) to say they want facial cosmetic surgery for work-related reasons.
But forget job security. Does the increase in the number of husbands and wives heading to the surgeon have anything to do with the high divorce rate and fear of his running off with his secretary or her hopping into bed with a bartender?
"The motivation to seek cosmetic surgery should never be the fear of your partner straying," says New York surgeon Dr. John Sherman, who was featured in a Vogue article on the couples’ cosmetic surgery phenomenon. "No relationship has ever been salvaged because of plastic surgery.
On the other hand, do I think some couples’ sex lives are improved by plastic surgery? No doubt. If you take a woman who has sagging breasts and you give her back the breasts she had fifteen years ago, of course there’s a new dynamic in the relationship. But that’s a temporary situation. Six months later it’s on to the next issue. A marriage doesn’t hinge on whether a man has love handles or a woman’s nipples are two centimeters higher or lower. Still, if surgery makes you feel better about yourself, you might have more selfconfidence, which never hurts in a relationship."
But for the Rankins, the decision to have the his-andher body repair was strictly for themselves.
"It was all for me," Susan says. "I couldn’t stand all the wrinkles. It made me crazy. Now, when I look into the mirror, I see the person that I feel like on the inside. I didn’t feel like that lady with all the wrinkles."
While Susan is happy with her face lift and doesn’t plan any new surgeries, her husband is not ruling out a return trip to the operating room.
"Medicine has come such a long way, you might as well take advantage of it," he says. "If I get older and I get a lot more wrinkles, I’ll get my face redone, too."
Straight dope on plastic surgery
"The Naked Truth About Plastic Surgery’’ promises the straight dope on primarily vanity procedures including BOTOX injections, breast implants, liposuction, nose jobs and face lifts. Info: www.nakedtruth.com or (800) 314-0128. $29.95 each video (DVD or VHS), $104 the five-volume set, plus shipping and tax.
The authority: Garth Fisher, volunteer assistant clinical professor of surgery at the University of California, Irvine, boasts a star-studded Beverly Hills practice. He also trumpets a mention by Best Doctors in America, a patient consult group. That happened in 1996-97 — something he doesn’t volunteer; the group says he’s not in its current database.
THE DRAWS: Information, inspiration (for some) and skin. Presumably to demonstrate ideal bodily form, bikini-clad models run into the ocean. But segments on breast reduction and lipo leave ‘‘Baywatch’’ behind. Save complication photos for post-dinner viewing. Still, if you’re considering any of these procedures, they’re must-sees.
WHO KNEW? A tummy tuck involves ‘‘relocating’’ your belly button. . . . ‘‘insurers may reject disease coverage in women who have had breast implants. . . . The collagen used to plump up facial wrinkles comes from cows. . . ." Despite a complication rate of roughly 20 percent, liposuction is one of the most commonly performed procedures.
STRAIGHT TALK LIMITS: "If you can reach your goals without surgery, you are better off,’’ says Fisher, of lipo. Bravo. Why not the same caution for breast implant surgery, given its complications? Other silences: Cost. And this: Is chasing cosmetic perfection, in general, worth jeopardizing your health?
Source: Susan Morse, The Washington Post