What does that mean? Since Potter Aston, a doyenne of the New York social circuit, is also married to Sherrell Aston, one of the leading plastic surgeons in the country, naturally my thoughts turn in one direction. Is she getting sculpted abs? The new pert breasts of a year-old? Sherrell will be a very happy man. What's it like to be the wife of a prominent plastic surgeon?
I've written about this medical specialty for years, attended dozens of conferences, and every time I'm at a gathering of these guys and they're overwhelmingly guys , I'm reminded of lines from T. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Look at the wife and you see the aesthetic of the husband. I could never say that about any other medical specialty. Generally, doctors in other areas don't operate on family members, let alone their mates. There is not a woman I've talked to who wouldn't go to her spouse for rejuvenation and modification.
Recently Potter Aston, a fiftysomething whose cool Hitchcock-blonde looks belie a warm and witty demeanor, had a face-lift courtesy of her husband. When I mention the somewhat disturbing thought of a husband peeling off his beloved's face and sewing it back on, she waves it off. I've seen him at work. I know he's a perfectionist. Why would I go elsewhere? Lisa Hochstein is the newest and at 30, the youngest, she's quick to tell me of the Real Housewives of Miami; her husband is plastic surgeon Lenny Hochstein, known around town as the Boob God.
Lisa has had her husband do her breast implants. Her nose is courtesy of another surgeon she'd gone to before dating Lenny. She says she hasn't had any other work but is pretty sure there will be more in her future: Everyone on the show has someone or something they are promoting, and by looking like this, I promote my husband's business.
As Potter Aston puts it, "There's something about being married to a man who can affect one's beauty and turn back the hands of time. Consider being in bed with a plastic surgeon. Is that not terrifying? They spend all their time looking at women as fixer-uppers. How the hell do they turn that off at the end of the day? Can their clinical selves, whose response to jiggling thighs in their office involves a suction machine and a cannula, walk into their houses and see imperfections as endearing and not problems that demand an SOS?
Advertisement Apparently, insist their wives, they do. He looks at me the same way as he did when he met me," says Melissa Matarasso, 56, who 27 years ago met husband Alan Matarasso, the Upper East Side plastic surgeon rumored to be the man behind the faces of everyone from Diane Sawyer to Kathleen Turner. They met when Gayle was his patient about 20 years ago and 10 years later, when both were single, started to date.
By the nature of that situation, she thought she might be his lifelong project. Maybe when I get older he'll be telling me, 'You need tightening. I hoped he approved of my breasts, but I got over that quickly. Lisa Hochstein had undergone a bad breast job prior to dating Lenny. I had to have him redo them. I didn't want to walk around and have people think this was my husband's work. Laura Tisch Broumand wears a J. Crew top, her own pants, a Rolex watch and Christian Louboutin shoes. Hair and makeup for Gayle Sobel: Being observant isn't the same as being critical, the women explain.
Potter Aston recalls going on a date with Sherrell more than 20 years ago. When he told her she was pretty and she demurred with "Oh, you don't even know what color my eyes are," Aston replied, "They're bright blue, and your left eye is slightly smaller than your right eye. As someone who has always counted bad eyesight as a huge bonus in a mate, I found this story deeply alarming. Potter Aston, whose own father was a surgeon, was impressed.
I didn't feel he was looking at my flaws. I actually don't feel he's looking at anyone's flaws. He always feels he's looking to enhance what's there. A Medscape physician lifestyle report surveyed almost 30, doctors in 25 different specialties, asking them to rate their lives on a scale of one to seven. Plastic surgeons, it turns out, are less happy than the average physician seventh from the bottom on the specialty list and have a higher divorce rate than most other specialties.
Psychiatrists have an even higher rate. This makes sense; after all, these men have a lot of opportunity to screw up their marriages. Consider the amount of admiration-bordering-on-worship plastic surgeons get. Now consider how demanding the specialty is—how many of them were too busy studying to get laid. Now, their geekiness has evolved into that most useful of social skills: Draw your own conclusions.
While the wives dismiss my theorizing, they do cop to feeling more pressure to be just so. They are no strangers to dieting, exercising and all manner of personal grooming. Though one could argue that this is not so much the result of being married to plastic surgeons as being the kind of women these men are drawn to in the first place. Who's a plastic surgeon going to fall in love with? They have a lifetime of free injectables and—particularly for those with husbands involved in clinical trials with various companies, as many of these men are—access to every new laser and filler.
Sometimes they worry that people will think they've had more work than they actually have had. She notes that her very favorite treatment from her husband isn't exactly for beauty. I recall going to one plastic-surgery conference a few years in a row and playing a guessing game with myself about how much larger one surgeon would make his wife's breasts; after a few years he got a new wife, and her cup size began its upward trajectory.
Another adds, "There are the serial liposuctioners: They get it done, gain a few, then go back to get it taken out again. It seems the number-one credo of the plastic surgeon's wife is full disclosure.
You aren't allowed to get some work and tell your friends, "Oh, I just had a relaxing vacation. Whole families on Long Island had nose jobs so the girls would look the same. My breasts are mine; my face is his," says Potter Aston. We get our hair colored, our nails done—this is all on a continuum. And look, if you have a great hair colorist or dressmaker, you want to share. It's the same for this. I weigh pounds, I'm muscular, I keep fit, I swim, I eat healthy…to me this is one more thing.
It would be silly if I pretended I look great and did nothing. Today, in her mid-fifties, Matarasso has not had a face-lift or much besides Botox and fillers and lasers. She doesn't say she won't, but she is pleased her daughters like her lines and says of Alan, "The less I do, the happier he is.
But I would never suggest you have something done. Plastic surgery is such a personal decision—and it should be.