'The Plastic Surgeon’s Wife,' June 2008
He’s one of the best in the country — the doctor Mary Ann Tighe’s friends flock to when it’s time for a little work. Does that mean lipo on-demand for her? Hot- and cold-running collagen? Nips, tucks, and Botox whenever the mood strikes? Her honest-to-God answers, as told to Valerie Monroe.
Have I ever been tempted to have work done? Yes! Of course! In my early 30s many of my girlfriends were going to my husband for collagen injections. So I said to David, “Why can’t I have collagen , too?” ”Because you don’t need it,” he said. I pestered him till he finally agreed. I had the injections, and it hurt like hell. But I liked the way it looked, so I continued to have them. Then one day, at lunch with a friend who also went to David for collagen, we were talking about how much we liked the effect, and I said, “Yes, but it’s so painful,” and my friend looked at me with surprise and said, “With the liquid Valium, it doesn’t hurt at all.” And I said, “Liquid Valium?”
So I went to my husband. “I was waiting for you to figure out that the gain wasn’t worth the pain,” he said. I quit the collagen, because I figured if he was trying this hard to deny me what he thought I didn’t need, I wouldn’t push it.
For years my friends were going to David for facelifts, to have their eyes done, forehead lifts, you name it. And I would ask him, “Do you think I need what my pals had?” He would always say no, that he’d throw me out of the office. For years and years, that’s the response I got. And then one Saturday, when I was 56 — I’m 59 now — we were standing in front of the sink in the bathroom and I said to him, “Do you think I should have my face done?” And he said, “Only if you think you need it.”
The first thing I did was to look again at my face.
David has an extraordinarily keen eye. So his not wanting to improve me had meant that I didn’t need improvement. Looking in the mirror that day made me wonder what was wrong with me that wasn’t wrong before. While I was shocked at his response, I can’t say I was distressed, because I immediately assumed David would fix me. I remember thinking how soon could I arrange my calendar so I could have the work done.
David gave me a full facelift. (Years before, I had had my nose done by his mentor, when David was still in training. It was so good, no one ever knew I’d had it done.) I’d had an incredibly busy year, so I was enchanted by the idea that after the surgery, I would have to just lie around. I had the facelift between Christmas and New Year’s. For the first three days, I recuperated at the Carlyle Hotel, to emphasize the pleasurable aspect; I wanted a holiday, and it was the yummiest vacation imaginable.
I had zero pain. I didn’t even take the pain pills. There were drains behind my ears on the first night, and that was uncomfortable and awkward, but they were removed the next day. Those three days in the hotel were more than enough for me to get back to my normal self. I didn’t go to work for ten days, but everyone knew what I was having done. I have a relatively high profile in my office, so rather than deal with subterfuge, I just said, “I’m taking two weeks off to have a facelift.” People in my office went, “Ewww, too much information.”
I was delighted with the outcome. I see a photo of myself pre-facelift and I think, Boy, I looked tired or old that day. But the most interesting thing was that in a matter of weeks I had completely integrated the experience so that I just thought, This is the way I look. Sometimes now I have to remember I had it done; I have no visible scars, and I feel pretty certain you wouldn’t know I had a facelift. I don’t feel as if I look my age. Part of that is genetics, and part of it is that I got a free pass.
I understand now that because David is a plastic surgeon, I had assigning him the responsibility of monitoring the way I was aging. At the sink the Saturday afternoon, I realized from that moment forward it was going to be up to me how much I wanted to fight the aging process.
I’d never say I’m done with surgery. If I live to be 90, I’m certain I’ll do something else. Periodically I’ll see someone and think, That person would look so much better after a facelift. But I was talking recently with Deborah Szekely, the founder of the Golden Door spa, who’s in her mid-80s, and she asked me if a facelift should be part of her five-year plan. I told her no. She looks great; she’s so beautiful. Her vibrancy shows through her face. For some people, surgery lifts their spirits, but for others, they’ve just got the spirit.