10/07/2014 06:04 pm ET Updated Dec 07, 2014

Get Plastic Surgery or Buy a Car?

Elaine Ambrose

After I stumbled into midlife, my body began to fall apart and I didn't have a guaranteed warranty to fix anything. I reached a pathetic level of body betrayal when I needed to wear reading glasses so I could see close enough to pluck my chin hairs. I also felt chagrined by the transformation of my once-adequate body into a clone of Jabba the Hutt from the Star Wars movie. I really wanted to be Princess Leia, but that body was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

I was embarrassed about my body because I had willingly given birth to monster babies: my first child weighed almost ten pounds at birth, and the second was eleven pounds. I didn't have any more children after that. During pregnancy, my fifty-inch belly was so big that buttons popped off my maternity blouses. Never one to miss dinner, I had to wedge my dinner plate on top of my belly and beneath my gigantic boobs that had morphed into two bulging bags of the baby's instant meals.

My legs remained normal, so I looked like a gigantic blob wobbling about on two spindle. I couldn't turn sideways while going through a doorway, and I forgot what my feet looked like. It was a minor miracle that I could sit down without popping. By the ninth month, getting out of a chair required a hoist and a greased pulley system. Strangers would touch my belly with the same shock and fascination used to examine a beached whale. I remember some of the more interesting comments:

"Looky here, Wendy. Aren't you glad you never got THAT big?"

"Good Lord! You got triplets in there? You're the biggest woman I've ever seen!"

"Your belly's going to drag on the floor after that one comes out! My cousin was huge like you, and she never walked right again. Then her husband left her. She died soon after."

As a result of my pregnancies, I had two marvelous children but a damaged body. My waist refused to go back where it came from, and, after two years of nursing, my breasts were like swaying punching bags. In a strong wind, I was in danger of toppling over, never to get upright again. I could store books and snacks in my cleavage, and I haven't worn a button-up blouse in thirty years. My bra was a size 42-Long.

I signed up for a free consultation with a leading plastic surgeons to obtain information about how to tighten up my sagging belly and maybe raise my breasts up off the floor. At the doctor's office, I was greeted by a gorgeous young woman with a perfect body. I knew instantly that she was a walking billboard for the plastic surgeon, mainly because she looked plastic. Her face was so tight she couldn't change her expression even if she sat her skinny butt on burning coals.

And her flat stomach would show a bump if she swallowed an olive. My granddaughters have paper dolls that are thicker. I immediately hated her--and she looked at me and returned the same opinion. She told me to put on a pair of teeny panties that were sized for a stripper and wait for the doctor. I don't usually undress for strangers unless plied with expensive liquor, but I did as I was told.

The doctor entered with a dashing flair of haughty perfection; he had a chiseled jaw, tight skin, and not an ounce of body fat. He looked at me and caught his breath. I was the perfect candidate for his advertisements that revealed the "before" photograph...the one that shows just how grotesque the human body can become. And his imagined "after" photo would reveal his amazing skills that could save all of humanity from the offensive sight of me!

As if to magnify my humiliation, he turned on a spotlight and brought out a Sharpie pen. Then with the flair of a great artist he drew circles all over my matronly body, humming to himself with each new design until my body looked like the distorted hide of a spotted giraffe. Then he added arrows--as if plotting a map of hidden treasure buried somewhere within the undulating folds of fat. During this time, I was imagining how I could vanish and then reappear in a wine bar.

He finished his artwork and took photos, assuring me that my face wouldn't be in the photographs. I objected because at that point, my face was by far cuter than my body. Then he told me to turn around so he could get shots of my backside. I assumed he had a wide-angle lens. Finally the doctor left the torture room, so I dressed quickly and was ushered into his elaborate office. It reeked of excess, and so did my body. I felt like crap.

The doctor explained the various procedures I needed and offered a special deal if I had more than one. That special deal cost enough money to buy a car. I sat up straight, sucked in my offensive belly, and marched my imperfect, Sharpie-stained body out of his office. And I cancelled any further appointments. Then I left to visit my favorite car dealer.