Home   |   Contact   |   About Us   |   Guest Writers   |   Site map
Lady Docs Corner Cafe
Please enter a term to be searched on the website

Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall, Is My Skin-Deep Beauty/Aging Fairest of ALL?

written by Thu Tran, MD,FACOG
on Sunday, 19th January ,2014

Several days ago, Michelle Obama turned 50 and made national news as expected. I always feel sorry for celebrities who never seem to have enough personal privacy to deal with certain hallmarks in life.  Michelle expressed her feeling about this hallmark of aging to People Magazine:

“A greater sense of calm and certainty and maturity and confidence.” 

Wouldn’t you say something of that nature if you were the First Lady being interviewed by a major magazine at 50 even if you, like most “normal” women, felt a little nostalgic about your younger days or even a little “blue” as you said to yourself “Dang! I can’t believe I am 50!”

Imagine if Michelle had told People Magazine how she feels irritated, nostalgic or sad about aging!   Likely, you would have seen some huge tabloid headline like “Michelle Obama Asking For Prozac On Her 50 Birthday” or “First Lady Trading Her Personal Trainer For Psychotherapist As She Turns 50!”  Of course, Michelle, as a public figure, has to be calm about turning 50.  I can’t imagine having a hysterical First Lady in the White House as she realizes she is now an “old” lady.

I believe it would be rare for someone to be “ecstatic” about turning as old as some of the Smithsonian buildings!  I have met Michelle Obama in person a few times during school events or “back to school nights” as Malia, her older daughter, is my son’s classmate.  She is very fit and personable with a beautiful smile.  Like all of us women, however, she will have wrinkles and “bags” under her eyes, no matter how often she exercises or how healthy she eats.  Nobody can escape the effects of time.  We can delay things a little bit by having a healthy lifestyle, but we cannot escape altogether.  

I once read a science article stating how a woman can look at least 10 years younger and her body physiology can be 6 years younger if she exercises moderately to intensively several times weekly.   Now you know why I have had to run marathons and bike until my legs were screaming for help.  I consider myself a normal and “not so vain” woman, but I admit I would chose youth over money or power any day.  Life is so fun but so short, so why this aging?  

I accept aging as a part of life, however, and believe we should try our best to age gracefully and with good health.  After many years in America, I still did not understand the American expression “Aging is for the Birds!”.  Why pick on this species? Birds are so free to fly and their freedom, to me, symbolizes a sign of youth.  David, my smart husband, finally explained how this expression originated.

Before there were cars, you could see and smell the “emissions” from the many horse-drawn wagons in NY. Since there was no way to control these emissions (or really the undigested oats in them), they served to feed a huge population of English sparrows.  If you said something was “for the birds”, you were politely saying it was worthless or “horse crap.”

According to an article in the Washington Post, when asked about cosmetic surgery and Botox, Mrs Obama responded:

“Women should have the freedom to do whatever they need to do to feel good about themselves.  Right now, I don’t imagine that I would go that route, but I’ve also learned to never say never.”

Bingo!  A very smart response from a very smart and savvy woman.  Her view, as I told David during our morning walk yesterday, is my exact view when it comes to “personal” beauty.  How you look should be your choice.  After all, you live with yourself 24 hours a day and you have to “tolerate” the way you look. 

David believes people should age “naturally.”  Gray hair, in his opinion, is beautiful and simply marks a certain maturity stage in our lives.  Wrinkles, to him, he says, are a natural look as we age, so why try to wipe them out? 

Who are we women trying to fool with all the Botox injections into our foreheads or eyelids and collagen into our lips?  I admit the notion of having needle injections for the appearance of youth makes me quiver.  I am one of the people who fears needles.  I do not, however, share the exact view as David.

Several years ago, I was stopped in a grocery store by a long-time patient. 

“Dr. Tran, do you approve of me having breast augmentation?”

My approval of her breast augmentation? I was flattered by her respect for my opinion, but I quickly told her how cosmetic surgery should be a personal issue and that it is generally considered safe to have mammograms after a breast augmentation.

The self perception of being beautiful is known to boost a woman’s confidence and overall psychic well being.  A happy woman to the world tends to be someone who’s happy with herself.  Not every woman thinks that gray hair makes her look beautiful as she ages.  No patient I have known is content when she has a very big abdomen.  She might not want to do anything to change the shape of her abdomen, but she definitely is not content with it. The need to feel beautiful and the definition of beauty, unfortunately, is created by society, rushing many of us to cosmetic surgeons or dermatologists as we age.  These specialties are “insurance proof” and therefore attract many top medical students.  After all, psychiatric studies have shown how beautiful people tend to have an easier chance to get better jobs or advance in their jobs and, very often, have an easier ride through life.  It is not fair, I know, but that’s how our society operates.

Have I ever advised certain patients against having a cosmetic procedure? Of course I have, many times to many patients.  Any physician who truly cares about her patients should speak her mind when she thinks the procedures are not necessary.  The patient’s self image can sometimes be very distorted and even dangerous.  We all know how Michael Jackson looked as an adorable youngster and how terrible he looked at the end of his life after more than multiple cosmetic procedures.  His cosmetic surgeons should have had the conscience to refuse to perform further surgery on him, rather than helping him continue his trajectory toward self-destruction.  He did not need so many of those procedures; he needed intense psychotherapy. I have advised patients who have a very toned and flat abdomen to forgo a “tummy tuck” after childbirth, or those with “adequate” sized breasts not to have augmentation.   I have shared with them the potential side effects or complications of the procedures.  There have been cases of celebrities who died from massive hemorrhaging or other serious complications from “tummy tucks.”  

Ultimately, these patients have to make up their minds independently and I hope they will do the “right” thing for them.  I jokingly reminded David how Botox, which he repeatedly calls “a toxin”, can have certain advantages, not necessarily for the women who receive the injections, but for their children.  We have a friend who’s a dermatologist in our area.  She gets Botox injections from her office staff and claims her teenagers have been happy with the shots.

“They say I look so happy, even when I nag at them.  They cannot tell when I frown anymore.” 

It is amusing how in our medical training (in the 1980’s), we were taught that botulinum was a serious toxin.  In modern society however, many men and women are willing to be a pin cushion to obtain a wrinkle-free appearance!

On the other hand, I do not believe we should see our 50th birthday as a beginning of the end.  Why pick 50 to decide what you should do with the rest of your life? The lifespan of a woman in the U.S. has reached the early 80s, which is a big improvement, but to wait until 50 to decide what you should do with the rest of your life is foolish.  Many of us, even those who exercise frequently, start seeing and feeling the decline in our physical and mental health.  It might not be possible to explore the world by climbing the mountains we have always wished to climb or swimming in the ocean we have always dreamed of swimming in.  Making a career change, if we hate our current job, might be one idea but might not be possible as many firms choose not to hire older employees.    

I believe we should live and make our decisions at the moment and not delay until a later stage when it might be too late.  Happiness is fleeting, but to allow misery to linger is not a good strategy in life.  Do not buy into the cliche you often see from the modern media when it comes to aging, as seen in another article in the Washington Post about Michelle Obama’s “epic” birthday, written by Karen Tumulty:

“For anyone - but especially for woman - a 50th birthday is a moment for coming to terms with a life. Coming to terms with what it is, as measured against what she had hoped it would be...”  

This sentence might sound very eloquent to the readers but, if you think about it, it is very illogical.  Why “especially” for woman?  Are men more oblivious to aging, or less neurotic compared to women which, is, in itself, a stereotypical comment.  Why wait  to come to terms with your life when you are more than half way over with your life? Why not examine your life as you go along and readjust it in a more timely manner, as I mentioned above?  Make every day the first day of the rest of your life as you want it to be, because it is.

Yesterday, after we came back from our walk, I turned on my iPhone and saw a new email from my father, one of the numerous emails he sends to his children every day.  Remember that my dad is 91 and, although very fit, he now spends much of his time “surfing” the web or reading emails from numerous elderly friends from all over the U.S. Many of his emails need to be deleted quickly as they are internet hoaxes.   Others, however, carry eloquent and wise messages that we all know but often ignore.  This new email copied below is one of the wise ones which came at the perfect time for this blog . Being religious or not, I hope you will appreciate the message.  

The Suitcase

A man died, when he realized it, he saw God coming closer with a suitcase in his hand.

- God said: Alright son its time to go.

Surprised, the man responded: Now? So soon? I had a lot of plans...

- I'm sorry but its time to go. 

- What do you have in that suitcase? the man asked.

- God answered: Your belongings.

- My belongings? you mean my things, my clothes, my money?

-God answered: Those things were not yours they belonged to the earth.

- Is it my memories? the man asked.

-God answered: those never belonged to you they belonged to Time

- Is it my talents?

-God answered: those were never yours they belonged to the circumstances.

- Is it my friends and family?

-God answered: I'm sorry they were never yours they belonged to the path.

- Is it my wife and son?

- God answered: They were never yours the belonged to your heart.

- Is it my body?

- God answered: that was never yours it belonged to the dust.

-Is it my soul?

God answered: No that is mine.

Full of fear, the man took the suitcase from God and opened it just to find out the suitcase was empty.

- With a tear coming down his cheek the man said: I never had anything???

-God answered: that is correct, every moment you lived was only yours. Life is just a moment. a moment that belongs to you. For this reason enjoy this time while you have it. Don't let anything that you think you own stop you from doing so.

-Live Now

-Live your life

- Don't forget to be happy, that is the only thing that matters.

Material things and everything else that you fought for stay here.

-YOU CAN'T TAKE ANYTHING

Well, I will summarize my two cents about this whole subject of youth and aging and what you can bring with you in your eternal suitcase and what you have to leave behind.  While you are on earth and even after this “epic” or “crisis” 50th birthday, you can continue to enjoy life if you continue to have good health.  David took a photo of me yesterday after bootcamp to post with this blog, as he and I decided to take a power walk through our neighborhood.  Well, almost a power walk since David has not felt well lately, hopefully because of a virus.  I just wanted to show you how, even in the very cold weather (under 32F yesterday morning), you can bundle yourself up and take a 3 mile walk or however far you can walk in your neighborhood.  The sun and the energy you radiate from this walk will warm you up before you know it.  No matter how physically beautiful you look, you will not be a happy person if you are not in good health.  

You should ultimately be the one who makes yourself happy.  Hopefully, you will not let society define who you are or how you should be.  We are each unique in our own way.  As Dr. Seuss would have wished for Michelle Obama on her 50th birthday:

“Today You are You, that is truer than true.  There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

Until next blog, as it’s time for me to go icing my aging knees. JUST KIDDING!


Thu, aka Dr. Theuss, a modern version of Dr. Seuss

Stay informed
Subscribe to Lady Docs Corner Cafe and you will be notified each time a new article is submitted.

comments powered by Disqus
Stay informed
Subscribe to Lady Docs Corner Cafe and you will be notified each time a new article is submitted.
Latest entries
Trauma and the Holidays
Challenging Family Scripts and Setting Healthy Boundaries During the Holidays
Diabetes, fiber and the micro biome
Food as Medicine
2019 National Race to End Women's Cancer
A walk in the gardens - just what the doctor ordered
Exercise is the Key to Healthy Aging

Contact Us


Lady Docs Corner Cafe © 2013 - All rights reserved   |   Privacy Policy   |   Disclaimer