In today’s world, “She’s had work” is one of the most common phrases when referring to attractive females over the age of 40. What’s less common is attaching the phrase to men over 40, an ironic omission when you consider that, in today’s gay world, “work” can be almost as common as a gym membership or going gluten-free.
Statistics on how many gay men, and, specifically, gay dads have cosmetic procedures are tricky, as, for the most part, guys aren’t writing about it and doctors don’t report on it. However, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reports that in 2014 more than $12 billion was spent on procedures in the United States; for men, there was a 43% rise over a five-year period.
Like the rest of the population, gay dads are increasingly undergoing cosmetic procedures, whether surgical (a facelift, where skin is tightened) or non-invasive treatments such as fillers (injections of soft tissues that can be derived from human or man-made cells) and fat-reducing techniques, as well as the ever-popular Botox (a procedure in which a neurotoxin muscle relaxer is injected into a specific body part, generally to erase wrinkles). Rhinoplasty (that’s a “nose job” in layman’s terms) is so popular these days even Grindr advertises the reconstruction surgery on its app. There’s a good chance that the hot gay dad you spotted at the gym today didn’t get that chiseled look just from lifting dumbbells.
“Women have ‘mommy makeovers’ because of pregnancy,” says Joe Eviatar, director of surgical and aesthetic medicine at Chelsea Eye & Cosmetic Surgery Associates in New York. “I find that, with men, they have injections for their muscles and things like that.”
Eviatar has attributed the rise of gay dads as clients for a couple of reasons: “You’re going to have love handles and a certain amount of fat distribution at around 40. The new devices are not expensive, they are not invasive, and they don’t involve a lot of downtime.”
“Dads tend to be more reliant [on cosmetic procedures] because they don’t have the time or the energy to go to the gym or eat well,” Eviatar continues. “It doesn’t involve liposuction or buying a girdle.” (Temporary girdles are often required after liposuction surgery, an invasive procedure that involves the withdrawal of fat from a vacuum-suction device.)
For the uninitiated, popular procedures include collagen injections in the buttocks and the biceps (collagen is the body’s most abundant protein), in addition to the face, and, increasingly popular, something called “cool sculpting” in which body fat is melted, with permanent results.
“It’s not necessarily to look young, but to look good,” says Eviatar. “We’ve gone away from filling lines. I shape men’s faces to look better. It’s okay for men to have wrinkles in their forehead.”
Ben, a 40-year-old father of two and high-ranking executive in New York, told me that his decision to go the cosmetic route was simple: “I was getting a little fat. It would be better to go work out, sure, but there’s a lot of stress with having kids. There’s always something that gets in the way. A dance recital, science project. It’s hard to tell your kids that you need to go to the gym instead.”
Ben had the cool sculpting procedure done, one for his love handles, one for his stomach, and has, in the past, used Botox. At the time of our interview, he was still waiting for results. (He says it takes about four to six weeks to see improvement.)
Standing 5’ 11”, and weighing 175 pounds, Ben wears 33-inch-waist pants, which, to this reporter, didn’t sound particularly heavy.
“I want to be comfortable in a swimsuit again,” says Ben. While he is single and dating, Ben says he didn’t have work done to make himself more attractive to other men (“I’m comfortable dating”), but to feel better about himself and for motivation.
“I’m hoping it’s a jump-start to getting back to the gym and get running again and slim up a bit. I’d like a six-pack again before I’m 60.”
Ron and Bill are 38 and 39, respectively, with two adopted girls, ages 4 and 6. Professional men who live in Los Angeles, their motivation for cosmetic enhancements is, by their own admission, vanity.
“I just want to look better,” says Bill, who says that he, along with his husband, are not into the sculpted physique look. “When you have full-time jobs and two children, going to a gym is just not an option.”
Bill says that he and Ron see “work” as a reward for leading such stressful lives. He does add that, in their circles, pretty much everyone has undergone some sort of cosmetic procedure. “If we go to a party or out with friends, everyone talks about what’s been altered. The new normal is not normal. So, yes, I guess a part of the appeal is keeping up with the Joneses.”
“We’ve both had Botox, and some filler,” adds Bill, “ and we both want to get our stomachs smaller. We’re both lucky in that, even if we don’t exercise, we don’t get fat; we just want to get rid of the flab.”
They also argue about what’s too much. “Ron wants more Botox; I keep telling him no,” says Bill. “And I want to get my eyes done. Ron says no. It’s not about pleasing each other. It’s personal.”
Since cosmetic procedures are common in major cities (no one who contacted me about this piece was from a small city), it’s worth evaluating if we are doing more harm than good in our quest for physical perfection.
“At a certain age [gay men] feel like they shouldn’t be seen anymore,” says Michael Liberatore, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles. “It’s a fear of aging. I have a lot of clients who think all of their problems are based on their physicality. They think ‘I have to be as handsome as the guy next door or I am worthless.’”
Liberatore says that he has nothing against reasonable cosmetic surgery, but that more thought needs to be put into the reasons why gay men choose to alter their appearance.
“If the only way you are getting your validation is by people looking at your body, it’s not going to last. What’s really going to change if you Botox yourself into a stupor?”
In that regard, some men have regrets. Ralph, a 56-year-old real estate agent in Philadelphia, and single father of a 15-year-old girl (from a previous marriage to a woman), started getting work done 10 years ago, beginning with two nose jobs (“I hated my big Jewish nose”), an eye lift (an invasive procedure that involves removing excess skin around the eye), and Botox about once a year. Five years ago, he had liposuction, and regrets it “every day of my life.”
Ralph says he went to an inexperienced doctor and ended up with what he describes as “a big slash in the middle of my stomach, like someone cut me in half. I look great in clothing [he has a 30-inch waist], but I will never sit on a beach or take my shirt off in public. When I meet men to date, I tell them pretty quickly. I’m that insecure about it.”
Cosmetic procedures vary in cost, depending on the treatments, the doctor, and where you live. You can pay anywhere from $1,000 for simple treatments, like filler, and up to $5,000 for extensive facial work. The important thing, according to Eviatar, is to do it right, and not to have false hopes.
Adds Liberatore: “We have to change our point of view about the aging process. If it’s all about who’s going to look at you in a crowd, sooner or later it’s going to come crushing down.”
Eviatar concludes with some wise words: “We are all getting older, so why are we fighting the fact? If you try to look exactly the same as when you were younger, you’re going to look weird. You’re going to look like Melanie Griffith. If you do it right, you’ll look like Jane Fonda. The best version of yourself.”
The patients interviewed for this article requested that that real names not be used.