By Cathy Lam Dang, NAPAWF-Los Angeles member
“I only want what’s the best for you. I’m willing to spend thousands on you. You need this, don’t you want to be beautiful? Imagine what you’ll look like,” she says. “Once you’re done, lose fifteen pounds and you’ll be perfect.”
As I am lying on the bed in the stuffy surgery room located in the midst of the congested streets of Saigon, I hear the chatter of other women outside. I can’t believe they are all waiting to make drastic changes to themselves.
Open, close, open, close the doctor says as I feel the stitch go across my eye. My left one, then my right, back to my left and again right. I held the tears back, not the tears of physical pain, but the tears of mental pain for I never thought I would do such a thing.
“Was I not pretty before?”
He finished and I got off the surgery bed with this in mind, “I promise myself I will never force my child to do something he or she doesn’t want to do.” I looked in the mirror and saw the black stitches and dried blood above my eyes. It was horrid looking let me tell you that.
Two hours after I returned to my aunt’s house, my right eye suddenly started bleeding. It bled for hours before I convinced the doctor on the phone that this was not a usual situation as he said it was. I am fucking bleeding in the eye for goodness’ sakes. Frightened, I panicked and kept thinking about how I’m going to miss school for the entire semester because my right eye is bleeding like there’s no tomorrow.
“I’m going to be ugly. I hope she feels bad for making me do this. Out of all people to mess up on, the doctor fucks up on the girl that traveled twelve thousand miles for this shit that her mother forced her to do. I hope my mom feels bad, I hope she feels horrible for this.
“Was I not pretty before?” I said relentlessly.
Finally, it’s fixed… fortunately, my eye stopped bleeding. Days after, I removed the stitches and weeks later, I recovered. My mom kept saying, “You look like the White girl on the magazine, aren’t you happy? All you need now is a nose job and a fifteen pound weight loss.”
I hate how she makes it seem like she did me a favor by making me “Europeanize” my eyes.
Of course, all my aunts, uncles, cousins, and even my father were staring at me, encouraging me to get a nose job too. And all I could do was cry internally… cry without shedding any tears, asking myself, “Was I not pretty before?”