You had mentioned that your mother is a psychiatrist. Do you find that the desire for plastic surgery in physically able individuals masks deeper personal issues; wouldn’t a trip to your mother’s office better serve your clientele? Where do you draw the line?
There are two ways to look at plastic surgery. Firstly, people are looking to enhance what they already have for a psychological boost. Secondly, there’s the reconstruction aspect. One breast may be bigger than the other, may hang more than the other and no amount of counseling can restore lack of confidence. Every time this woman looks in the mirror, puts on clothes, wakes up in the morning, she is self-conscious. Obviously there are people who go overboard, who become addicted to the surgery high, but those are the individuals who, no matter how hard you try, are never going to adjust their expectations. Where do you draw the line, then? Do you have to?
What percentage of prospective clients do you turn away?
I would say around 10%. These clients generally have unmanageable expectations of surgery. They are not good surgery candidates.
I always get into a heated debate about this next topic—liposuction. I simply find it hard to believe that there are certain figures that are absolutely unalterable. I am a firm believer in diet and exercise as a lifestyle choice. If you only try to lose weight at the gym for one month and then, literally, throw in the towel in favor of lipo, aren’t you just taking the easy way out?
There’s no doubt that healthy diet and exercise go a long way, but it’s true that the area from your bellybutton to your pubic region contains body fat that cannot be exercised away. You hear of the saddlebags, the love handles, and the saggy upper arms. We can fix that. People looking for lipo can come in for 2 hours and leave with minimal, if any, downtime. We book them on Friday and they’re back to work on Monday. Of course, there are extremes. I have Wall Street guys come in the morning to take care of their beer bellies and they’re back on the trading floor before the market closes.
All of these medical and technological advances serve to project a “quick fix” image to minor body image issues. You mentioned that you are constantly reminding clients of the surgical aspect of what you do—it’s not an in and out massage. For example, Botox parties—misnomer?
The primary goal of consultation is to educate a prospective client. Some people want every single wrinkle gone, and that’s generally when I pull out “the book.”
At this juncture, Dr. Shafer pulled out a rather large look-book of celebrity faces before
photo retouching, au naturel if you will. I found, to my dismay, that Angelina Jolie still looks stunning, even without makeup and airbrushing. Though Dr. Shafer pointed out to me Jolie’s aesthetic infractions (“See? You want to look like Angelina? Well, that and that were probably air-brushed out”), I remained, as the photograph, untouched.
“Regarding ‘Botox parties,’” Shafer continued, “when people are drinking and having fun, they are toeing a fine line between informed consent and impulsive decision. People are also beginning to go their local salon for injections; distributors can sell to anyone, so you have to be careful that you are getting injected by a professional and not an OBGYN who has never been in an operating room and bought the product wholesale.”
Tell me more about Botox. What other shortcuts to the fountain of youth are available in a syringe?
Dr. Shafer opens the refrigerator and, among an assortment of sliced bread and what appears to be yogurt, a tiny box adorns the minimally decorated shelf. He pulls out a bottle whose bottom is peppered with a discernable white powder—Botulinum.
See here? Botox is a powder that, when mixed with a saline solution, can be injected directly into the face. It’s good stuff. We also provide collagen, fat and hydroxyl apetite injections. Hydroxyl is the stuff that your bones are made of. We turn it into a paste and inject it as an implant, to redefine the jaw line, increase cheekbone prominence, etc. All of these procedures are non-invasive and all have been developed within the last 10 years.
In the Hippocratic Oath, the practitioner is called to swear that he or she will work to “preserve the purity of my life and my arts.” How would you interpret this selection; in effect, do you choose when to operate based on a personal understanding of morality and aesthetics?
You have to have an aesthetic sense to be in this line of work. People place a lot of trust in you and, quite frankly, you don’t want to mess them up. About 2-3 people per month come in to fix something they had done, cheaply, abroad. I want my clients to look natural, to walk down 5th avenue and be complimented on how great they look. I never want my clients to be asked the question, “What did you have done?” When a client comes to me, I sit them in front of the mirror and ask, “Tell me what you don’t like about yourself.”
(Ed note: Dr. Shafer has never seen “Nip/Tuck.” Worried for a moment that Hollywood had infiltrated the pristine Manhattan office, I asked where he had gotten the line. “I have never seen the show,” he replied, with a puzzled look. Confidence restored.)
“I will never recommend surgery unless the client has a clear understanding of what they want to change; “I don’t like my stomach,” or ‘I can’t stand my thighs.’ I will never answer the question, ‘Do you think I need surgery?’ Of course I won’t.”