I was twelve when my parents offered me a double-eyelid surgery. We were in Shanghai that summer, and, coincidentally, one of my father’s friends, a first-class plastic surgeon, was there too.
My parents didn’t think of this proposal as strange - the practical considerations were more important than any concerns. A young skin heals faster, which would make the result look more natural. Besides, it was the summer holiday between primary and secondary school. After that summer, I would be around a new group of people who wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
In my mother’s time, 1980’s China, double eyelid surgeries weren’t as prevalent yet, but it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a popular aspiration. The biggest concern wasn’t moral, or physical, but monetary. My mother wasn’t rich, but she was in a privileged position as a medical student. When she visited the clinic next to the hospital where she interned that summer, the surgeon offered her the procedure for free, in the hopes that she would enter his social circles as future doctor.
My mother didn’t hesitate for a second, even though she knew that the hot and dusty days of summer weren’t ideal for healing wounds. It had to happen right then, because she had just finished her studies, and would start her job in the fall. That granted her the same anonymity she later envisioned for me. When I asked her why she did it, she simply said, “Because it was important for me”.
Published in NRC. Next and NRC Handelsblad, Dutch national newspapers