Eyes and I

I am now the (proud? confused? overwhelmed?)owner of two prosthetic eyes and for the first time in my life, my eyes not only look normal but also match. Very intense experience.

Choices had to be made about the way my new eyes would look. I could have instructed the artist to copy pictures of my old eyes. I could have instructed him to do just about anything. Instead I chose to have “normal” eyes in my face. It was a terrifying thing to choose because I knew it could change absolutely everything.

For quite some time, I have believed that plastic surgery has risks that at least for me far outweigh any potential benefit. In my own life, I have paid dearly for my “normalized” appearance. In fact, I pay a price every day because of chronic pain etc. More reconstructive surgery to “improve” my face seems like a worse idea than jumping off a five story building.

I know I have given people the impression that I don’t care about how I look, but that’s not quite the truth. In actuality, I care about the impression I create, but not in the typical way. I want my outside to feel like my inside. While I have rejected traditional standards of beauty, I do have my own desires that boil down to me visually embodying the sassy, witty, animated, quirky woman I know myself to be. Freed from societal beliefs about what beauty should be, I have been able to be how I want to be and pay only the price I deem reasonable.

Deciding to have “normal” eyes was a tough decision, but I came to realize that intentionally looking different was a deliberate choice to violate appearance norms. It felt like being different not because different happened to coincide with what I wanted but merely for the sake of being different. That’s not the type of person I want to be. As you know, having an abnormal appearance does have costs especially in terms of how others treat me. Any decision to continue looking “abnormal” would be the equivalent of choosing those bad annoying behaviors. It would bring a degree of negativity into my life that I do not want and would feel responsible for its continuation.
Total honesty dictates I also admit to wanting to have “pretty” eyes. Maybe it’s internalized social norms. After all, my eyes were the most “abnormal” part of my appearance. Maybe that type of eyes fits my internal image of myself. Maybe I’m a complete hypocrite. You decide. All I know is that deep inside I wanted them.

My reasons here seem very clear and logical. There’s a cleanness to the whole process that, trust me, wasn’t present while I was working through it. Even now I have a sense of betraying my own beliefs with this choice.
No matter the decision I made, I knew I would never feel quite the same. Yet again, I would be faced with adjusting to another version of myself. As a child, surgery after surgery, I wrapped my mind around the new face molded from flesh and bone. Now I must expand my reality to encompass this new version. Can’t quite count it, but I think maybe Jen version 5.2.

[A follow-up to this entry can be found at
It’s in the Eyes.]

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About Jen

After acquiring a degree from Vassar College in psychology, I moved to Western Mass where I ran a peer mentoring network for disabled college students as well as activism and organizing around disability issues. I also conducted research on disabled women’s body image. An Upstate New York native, I eventually followed my heliotropic nature to the sun of Southern California. I divide my time between writing (disability fiction and essays) along with moderating San Diego Bisexual Forum which is one of the oldest groups of its kind in the country. In my off hours I can often be found in my neighborhood live music venue enjoying our local talent.

2 thoughts on “Eyes and I

  1. When I had surgery to fix my septum and blocked nasal passage, I was referred to a plastic surgeon due to just how much they were going to have to do and the cosmetic effects it may of had. The plastic surgeon offered what amounted to essentially a free nose job, since he was going to “be in there anyway”. I refused, adamantly, insisting my nose is just fine. Part of me wanted to say yes, I’ve always had a love hate relationship with my nose, but I felt like intentionally changing my nose to something else was shallow, so I refused.

    Now, I wish I’d said yes. I had a chance for a free nose job. Sure, its shallow… but I don’t think there really is anything wrong with wanting to be beautiful, and it wasn’t the same as me going in specifically for a cosmetic job… it was like icing on a cake. I was already going to be having cake, so why not? I regret it very much.

    Its a hard choice to make, though. You’re talking about how look and I don’t think anyone truly feels that their looks mean nothing. I’m sure everyone cares, at least a little. Its rare that I’ll admit it, but I like being pretty… but not for anyone else’s sake, but for my own. All I want is to look in the mirror and like my reflection as much as I like myself. I’ve realized over time that its not so bad to want to look good.

  2. FK,

    I had an interesting experience many years ago. This was back when I stil had some usable vision. Working on my body image, I spent a lot of time studying my reflection. Over time, as my body image improved, I liked what I saw in the mirror more.

    I firmly believe that people view their own image through a perceptual filter that is often unknown to them. In cases of anarexia, the person literally sees a skeletal image as fat. Beautiful people can look in the mirror and view ugliness. When women have been asked to put themselves in a line-up of women going from smallest to largest name-a-body-part, those who think they have a big whatever will literally put themselves in the wrong place and are shocked to be told this.

    This is why I think people considering plastic surgery should take some time and try to like what they have before they go changing it. I wish it was ethical to do “fake” surgery on people just to see if they actually thought things were better because they were told they were better.

    I’ve heard many times that someone had deviated septum surgery as a means to get a free nose job. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of someone turning it down. Interesting.

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