Asians eye Western looks

In Communities /

By Lisa An

I have small, slanted, squinty, almond-shaped eyes.  They’re Asian eyes and I like them.  Most non-Asian have double eyelids but many Asians like me don’t.  I have a single eyelid so I don’t wear eye make-up because there’s almost nowhere to put it.

My Korean friend Ji-Young Moon has big, round eyes, with a double eyelid.  She wears eyeliner and eye shadow but that wasn’t always so.  I shudder to think of what she went through to make her eyes look like that.  Ji-Young Moon had her eyelids enhanced when she was 13 years old and still lived in Korea.  She was encouraged by her mother to get double-eyelid surgery and her mom pestered until she finally agreed.  According to JI-Young, the procedure was the most painful thing she has ever experienced.  Back then, local anesthetic wasn’t commonly used.

“They made me sit in a chair while the doctor stitched my eye to make the crease.  I was crying the whole time because the doctor didn’t give me anything to stop the pain.  My mother was beside me the whole time and kept telling me, ‘It’s oaky, it’s almost over.’  The nurse had to keep dapping ant my eyes to remove the tears and blood so the doctor could continue the operation.”

Although Ji-Young likes the results of her operation she wouldn’t undergo the surgery again.  “Once was enough for me.  It hurt too much for me to do it again.”

Another friend of mine, Julia Lee, also had her eyes enhanced.  Like Ji-Young, she had her eyes done in Korea.  Fortunately, she had local anesthetic given to her when she had the operation but injecting the anesthetic hurt almost as much as the surgery itself.  The doctor froze the eyelid with one needled in each eyelid and one in each eyeball.  When her cousin — waiting in another room to undergo the surgery herself — heard the screams she decided not to undergo the surgery after all.  “My mother didn’t like the look of small eyes so my cousin recommended me to a doctor.  But after she heard me, she decided not to do the surgery.”

While surgery is the most painful part of the process, recovery isn’t easy either.  The new crease needs months to settle so patients must take care of their eyes to prevent swelling.  One eye looked fine but the other eye had a scar above the eyelid. So Julia chose to undergo surgery again to correct the mistake.

The procedure has benefited form medical advancements.  According to Dr. Joseph Wong, president of the Canadian Academy of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, double eyelid surgery — medically known as blepharoplasty — is now always performed with local anesthetic.  He says the operation itself causes no pain and only takes 45 minutes to perform.  “There are basically two ways of doing a double eyelid surgery.  One is called the stitch technique.  You use permanent nylon sutures inserted inside and outside the eyelid.  This procedure leaves no scars.  That is suitable for certain candidates, like thinner eyelids and those who don’t have a lot of thick skin or muscle.  This is the ideal procedure.  The second procedure is probably more common.  It’s to form an incision on the eyelid over the proposed crease so that when the incision is made the crease is hidden so you can’t see the scar.  This procedure is done with a laser or a scalpel.  With the external approach one is able to remove excessive skin, fat and muscle.  It allows one to have more leeway to get better results.”

Dr. Wong admits the procedure is favoured by Asian females but surprisingly more Asian males are undergoing the operation.  “In the past, the ratio of females to males getting the operation was 10 to one.  Now, the ratio is more like three to one.”

I was about 16 years old when I first heard about the surgical procedure.  I can relate to the desire to have bigger eyes but I’m against the surgery.  To me, getting double eyelid is an attempt to assimilate.  It’s a way to look more like on-Asians.  I like the exotic look of Asian eyes; it makes us look unique.  We have small eyes.  So what?  We should be proud of our differences and not so concerned with having the big doe-eyes.

Dr. Wong disputes my theory that Asians undergo the surgery to look more “Westernized.”  The main reason Asians get procedure done is to make their eyes more appealing by creating the illusion of bigger eyes and to create a platform for eye make-up, he says.  But even his web site promotes a procedure he calls the “Westernization operation,” which creates the double eyelid and makes the eyes more round.

I admit there are benefits to having the operation.  Looking at before and after pictures of people who had the surgery, I can sometimes see a definite improvement in their appearances.  I’m often frustrated with my limited choices of make-up.  But any surgery is risky, especially if the canvas is my face.  Just ask my friend Julia about the possibilities of the procedure getting screwed up.  And it’s expensive.  The price ranges between $1,200 and $2,000 and OHIP doesn’t cover one cent of it.

I think I’ll keep my small, slanted, squinty, almond-shaped, beautiful, Asian eyes.

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