When you’re truly not happy with your nose, your ears, your breasts, and so on, some people turn to cosmetic surgery. As a Korean, I know full well that the people of East Asia certainly aren’t exempt from going under the knife – it’s an endless pursuit for beauty. However, the most commonly sought-after procedure isn’t the tummy tuck or breast enlargement. It’s not rhinoplasty, either.
In Korea, blepharoplasty (more commonly known as ‘double eyelid surgery’) is no more major than going to the dentist. Often, it’s a high school graduation gift. You see, many East Asians have a ‘monolid’. This is where there is no visible eyelid crease. With double eyelid surgery, you undergo a short, relatively minor procedure where incisions are made to create a new fold, and stitched up to be removed within a week. You’ll be left with a new crease on your eyes.
Double eyelids are considered beautiful in Korea. However, there are many other reasons people may get this surgery. I got it done because my monolids were causing medical problems: because there was no fold, my eyelids forced my eyelashes downwards and into my cornea, rubbing against them constantly. I underwent double eyelid surgery to point the eyelashes outwards and out of my eyes. I would also be undergoing epicanthoplasty (something that usually went hand-in-hand with double eyelid surgery), where the inner corners are cut closer together.
I’d be lying, of course, if I said the aesthetic side effect wasn’t a benefit. Long would be the days where I drew centimetre thick eyeliner in the hopes even a sliver would be visible. Long would be the days it looked like I was squinting in every photograph. Long would be the days I looked like I had just woken up, tired and grumpy.
So — the day of reckoning. My surgery was performed by a fantastic ophthalmologist at the hospital. Sedated, I lay on the bed. A few times I was asked to open my eyes so they could check the incisions, the bright yellow light burning, feeling the heaviness of my arms at my sides and the crowd of medical professionals surrounding me.
After, I was wheeled back to my ward. I saw my reflection. Blood trickled from fresh black sutures, my eyes heavy from the swelling coming from my new eyelids. I blinked, and a bead of blood rubbed off an eyelash, like a teardrop.
Over the next few days, I lay in bed and iced my eyes. I had a lot of time to think. I had changed my eyes, the eyes I had been born with, manipulated them as if they were nothing more than a fresh new outfit. In 60 minutes. I went from living 20 years through windows that had seen the world for me since birth, the feature given by my mother and father, to staring at someone completely unrecognisable, in the mirror we had since I was four. In 60 minutes.
Of course, ‘completely unrecognisable’ is a complete over-exaggeration. But I’m a sentimental person by nature, and I couldn’t help seeing that in 60 minutes my eyes became a pair of strangers in the mirror. Something as constant as my own reflection lied to me. But I’m happy. Going under the knife made me truly realise that the saying ‘beauty is only skin deep’ is cliché for a reason. It’s because it’s true. I feel no different inside – I’m still me.
All they’ve done is change the shape of something that was a different sort of beautiful, and cut out a rose from a star.
Words: Minnie Jung