Plastic Surgery Getty Images Entertainment/ Robin Marchant
By Nancy Mendelson

If my family had a coat of arms, our motto would surely read, “It is better to look good than to feel good,” and the crest would undoubtedly depict a taut, wrinkle-free, surprised looking face. Billy Crystal’s “Fernando” on SNL would have nothing on us; looking “mahvelous” was non-negotiable. Feeling “mahvelous,” on the other hand, was never relevant.

Fortunes were spent, pain was endured, and sacrifices were made — all in pursuit of the elusive approval of some deity that values beauty over substance. And yet, my family members were never — and I mean NEVER — pleased by how they looked, no matter how many rounds of collagen shots, facelifts, eye jobs, tummy tucks, boob and butt lifts, hair plugs, fad diets, exercise equipment, and anti-exercising contraptions they invested in.

All of this made my early years both interesting and scary. Interesting, in that several family members were early adopters, so I was exposed to some seriously weird gadgetry and gimmickry at a young age…and scary, in that I was exposed to some seriously weird gadgetry and gimmickry at a young age.

Once, we received a machine designed to “exercise” a user’s muscles while they sat and watched TV. I don’t remember the name of this special instrument of torture, but I do remember having electrodes attached to my tween-age body, while electricity was zapped into my still developing muscles, then watching as those muscles moved without any cue from me. For obvious reasons, that freaked me out.

It was then that I vowed to put significant effort into developing my inner-self in order to create some kind of balance. But the dye was already cast. Try as I might, I was still profoundly affected by the disproportionate value my family placed on appearance — and still am, although to a lesser degree.

Admittedly, aging gracefully is easier said than done, especially in New York City, where the pressure to look good is significant and ubiquitous. Yet no matter how often I entertain the idea of plastic surgery, I know it is not the right road for me.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not anti nip and tuck, as long as it’s done well — WELL being the operative word. In the elusive quest for perfection, I have seen too many attractive people — family members included — destroy their naturally good looks in a desperate attempt to look younger. I have seen surgery become addictive, and I have seen surgeons shamelessly manipulate their patients.

I used to pride myself on my ability to spot “work.” It’s in my DNA, after all. But these days, even my untrained, uninitiated husband can detect it from a mile away; it’s that obvious. There are a lot of unnatural looking people walking around. You know I’m right. Come on, “Real” Housewives of anywhere in the U.S. What do you really look like?

Isn’t the objective to look effortlessly beautiful and not to provoke a guessing game as to how much and what kind of work you’ve had done? What went wrong?

Please do me (and yourself) a big favor: Before you’re pressured into altering your appearance permanently, ask yourself, “Is it really better to look good than to feel good?” If the answer is yes, then go for it, I guess.