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by LOIS W. STERN    

Yana Berlin, our first lady of, tells me that my last column, Nips Tucks and Kisses, made her  rather curious about the contents of Chapters 5 and 6 of Sex, Lies and Cosmetic Surgery. Although I can't reproduce two full chapters in the space of a column, I can tell you that I titled Chapter 5  Utter Humiliation, because that's the way I felt the day I spoke to my plastic surgeon about things I would have been better advised to keep under wraps! Then, based on my many interviews (held with both women who had undergone cosmetic surgery as well as professionals), I titled Chapter 6,  You Might Fall in Love With Your Plastic Surgeon.  

When a reader named Georgia first wrote to me about her physical attraction toward her plastic surgeon, she shared that she had an eyelift over ten years ago, and just recently had a facelift – both procedures with the same plastic surgeon. She was open about her unexplainable amorous feelings toward her surgeon after her first surgery, and that it happened again after her recent facelift. When I asked her how she reacted to these feelings, I knew I was going to love this gal. She is so upfront, funny and honest! Here is what she wrote:

"My feelings towards my surgeon are lessened somewhat, but I can still feel excited when I think of him. There for a while I obsessed over him & used this obsession to keep me on the treadmill as well as an incentive to diet to lose weight!  Sometimes thoughts about him come in handy!!  I have not told my husband about this fixation & probably won’t.  As far as I’m concerned it’s a harmless fantasy as long as I don’t act on it!  Obviously, I haven’t “gotten over it” but then perhaps it offers some excitement to my life & I don’t want to entirely (get over it)."

Georgia apparently enjoyed my detailed account of how my surgeon responded to my confession, as she wrote:  

"I loved your account of your surgeon’s reaction!!  My surgeon has actually been quite laid-back about my (limited) confessions about my attraction to him.  It didn’t appear to ruffle him in any way when I spoke to him about it . . ., & he didn’t have one of his staff present during my subsequent visits to chaperone, nor did he edge towards the door! "  

My personal experience was a bit different. Aside from being highly respected and artistically and technically skillful, my plastic surgeon is a kind and gentle man. So his response showed compassion. That was a big plus. But I also felt his discomfort - a not knowing quite how to answer me. So first he told me he always liked to get to know his patients, and then he carefully navigated the conversation elsewhere - to an interesting story about one patient in particular without revealing her name. Georgia's surgeon apparently remained nonplused.

"When I talked to him about it in follow up visits, all he said was “Don’t worry, you’ll get over it.”  He (also) said that he probably should have taken a psychology course while in college, but since he zipped through in 3 yrs. there wasn’t much time."  

kendal wrote that if she underwent cosmetic surgery and felt in a vulnerable position afterwards, she would look for comfort from her surgeon.

"I wouldn't expect the man to be with me forever, yet I would look for some support and positive energy from someone that I felt so close to to cheer me up."

Yana wrote:
"I would of liked to have my surgeon be compassionate and caring, and if this 'I'm in love with my surgeon' is a frequent occurance, I would like my doctor to be upfront and personal and tell me that it's natural for patients to experience this feeling."  

I agree with Georgia, Kendal and Yana. Right on, gals.

Here are my further thoughts:
First, I do believe the attitude the surgeon conveys to the patient is paramount – a message delivered with kindness so the patient doesn't feel rejection. And my plastic surgeon got high marks on that score. But Yana's point is well taken. It would help considerably if patients could be given some explanation for why this was happening to them.  

Probably it was over a year post-surgery when I told my plastic surgeon that I was including a chapter about this topic. After he read the draft, he thought it was quite good, but asked me if I was sure I wanted to publish this. (His concern was for my comfort, not his own.) I explained that it was hard for me to make that decision, but that I decided to do so, because I believed it was much more prevalent than we know, and I knew that having been through it, I was now in a position to help others.

He thought for a moment and asked me if I really thought so (that it was so common). His question confirmed my suspicion that surgeons have limited knowledge of this issue. I agree with Georgia that it should be covered in their training, and I hope one day to do just that by presenting a seminar for plastic surgeons. The first thing I would explain would be the relationship between physical appearance and sexuality. The second would be about the how's and why's of transference so, as Yana said, they could give that next overwhelmed patient an upfront response!  

Patty and I encourage our readers to send us private messages. We will respect your privacy and actually respond.

Lois W. Stern

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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Yana Berlin wrote Jun 3, 2008
    • Lois,

      Your surgeon sounds like a really nice guy on top of being a good specialist.

      I have to say that is soooo important. I recently had rotator cuff surgery, not only am I not in love with Mr. Zero personality, but I really hate any kind of interaction with my doctor, because he is so  in-personable, short and unsympathetic, having said that he is very good at what he does with shoulders and I made a decision to ignore his lack of communicating skills and opt for his expertise.

      Yesterday when I walked out of his office, I was frustrated and simply pissed off, wanting to send him a note that taking that psychology class sometime early in his training would of done him much good.

            Report  Reply

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Goldenapple wrote Jun 4, 2008
    • I agree some docs can be really rude.. a doc should make the patient feel comfortable and not nervous. But most fall in the latter category

            Report  Reply

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Lois Stern & Patty Kovacs wrote Jun 4, 2008
    • Dear Yana and Golden Apple,

      I have heard some people make comments such as: “I don’t plan to marry the guy. He doesn’t need to be Mr. Personality, as long as he is a competent physician.” Yes, of course, competence is key, but as both of you astutely note, kindness and sensitivity can make a real difference in the patient’s comfort level and sense of security - both of which definitely accelerate the healing process.  

      We need to give a course in this aspect of medicine!

      Lois W. Stern
      Eye On Beauty Co-columnist

            Report  Reply

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