Getting Work Done in Beverly Hills

Monique High's picture

 A year ago I ran into Karla, a good friend’s twin sister at the hair salon.  “You look fantastic!” I said to her.  “Is it the new haircut?”

      “Well,” she admitted, “I’ve had some work done.”

      I was nonplussed.  What did getting her patio fixed or her roof repaired have to do with how radiant and youthful-looking she suddenly looked?  “No, silly,” another friend chided.  “Getting work done means having your face worked on.  Not your house.  They used to call it a facelift.”

      I’m European.  When I was a girl, we called getting our period “being unwell.” “Getting work done,” is the new euphemism in my present stomping ground of Beverly Hills, California.  But I’ve caught on.  Recently, I’ve been ill and haven’t been out much.  When I told my husband that I’d become a virtual recluse, he was extremely sympathetic.  “It’s because of your bad hip,” he said.  “You haven’t been able to drive anywhere.” In Los Angeles, you can’t really get about without a car.

      I disabused him.  “That’s only half the reason.  Because of my hip, I haven’t been able to drive to see Dr. T.  And so I can’t face any of my friends.” He scrunched his brow to make a moue.  He’s a guy and doesn’t get Dr. T. at all.

      Unlike Karla, my friend’s twin sister, I haven’t had work done.  That’s way too major.  But I do go to Dr. T., who, every four months, gives me Botox shots between my brows, and every year or so, injections of Restylane to plump up the “puppet lines” that mark my face between my nose and the sides of my lips.  Armed with these defenses, and a good haircut, I feel that I look like myself again.  “You need to gain weight!” my mother cried when she saw me the other day for dinner.  “What’s wrong with you?” It’s pretty funny when my own mother thinks I look most like myself when foreign substances inhabit my face.  In fact, the only reason I’ve caved in to Dr. T. at all is that I’m very skinny and my face is bony; another woman’s gently etched line seems carved into my fat-free countenance with an impasto knife.  Dr. T. merely redresses this imbalance and makes me seem not younger, but healthier.

      My friend Mindy got married six months ago.  Her husband doesn’t know about her “little cosmetic appointments.”  Mindy and Stan have a second home in Santa Barbara, and she goes to see her doctor whenever Stan’s away overnight.  She’s panicked if he decides to drive in a day early.  “I can always tell him I broke a couple of nails and went to the manicurist,” she says, “but what if my face swells from an injection?  He’ll take me to the ER, thinking it’s a spider bite or something worse!”

      Beverly Hills has its own ethos, its own parameters for what’s acceptable in a woman.  We cannot disappoint.  Young, middle-aged, old-middle-aged, or old, we need to keep up our appearance.  We must look glamorous at all times.  For me, who was reared that aging is natural and that a good woman earns her wrinkles, becoming accustomed to this new ethos was, at first, reason for hilarity and irony.  I learned to recognize the work of many of the plastic surgeons who set up shop here.  A friend in the diplomatic corps visiting from Greece still tells the tale of our sitting in a café when I named every passing nose job: “Dr. Weinberg”; “Dr. Mott”; “Dr. Radeh”; “Dr. Tillman.” Her mouth fell open.  These days, the surgeons are much more skillful and therefore difficult to pick out.

      Another friend, an actress, used to get work done between romantic relationships.  Then she met the love of her life and got married.  “When will I get my face worked on?” she wailed.  She figured it out.  She asked her wonderful new actor husband if they could each keep their pre-wedding homes, and spend a couple of days living separately every week.  She told him she needed her space to work on her many creative projects.  Besotted, he agreed.  That gives her time to visit Dr. B., her special guru, without having to admit to her husband that such a man as Dr. B. exists.  Her husband is far less of a micromanager than Stan, Mindy’s spouse.

      My friend Janet takes a different approach.  Her significant other started out as her best Platonic friend.  He moved in with her after each of them suffered horrendous heartbreaks.  When Dr. T.—she referred him to me—gave her her facelift, her man took care of her, saving her the cost of an after-care clinic.  “He’s seen me go through much worse than this,” she said, laughing, “and we’ve already shared all our secrets.”

      So yesterday, I was hiding from all humanity, with my puppet lines and my frown lines and, good God, my roots showing, when my friend Deirdre showed up at the door.  I had no choice but to let her in.  She looked fantastic.  She’d just finished a client lunch and was in the neighborhood, was worried about my hip, and had brought me a “get well” gift.  Her face was totally smooth, displaying not a single wrinkle. 

      “Oh,” she cried, “I feel so bad.  I should’ve called you!  We had a Girl Day last week.”

      “Where did you go?” I asked, half-miffed to have been left out, half-relieved she hadn’t called.  Someone might have said “anyways” or talked about “laying down,” and I would’ve frowned.  My new motto is:  Expose yourself to bad grammar only after visiting Dr. T.

      “My guy was having a sale day!” she said.  “Eight of us went down and he gave us all Botox, one after the other, for only $500 a pop!  And Juvéderm, too.”  Juvéderm is another injectable filler, one I dislike, which doesn’t last as long as Restylane.

      Go figure.  And here I thought spending the day with the girls and enjoying the sales meant going to the Barneys Warehouse, our favorite thrift shop, or Loehmann’s.  But Deirdre has given the experience a whole new perspective, Beverly Hills style. It means going to get your face plumped up.

      Only in B.H., where you can play it as it lays. 


Monique Raphel High has published six novels, notably “The Four Winds of Heaven” and “Encore,” and co-authored “Red Gold,” a nonfiction book on psychology in the Soviet Union, with her late husband, Soviet psychiatrist Dr. Grigorii Raiport.  She has completed a new novel, “Yearbook,” which is represented by Mel Berger of William Morris-Endeavor, LLC.  Monique is French, holds a degree from Barnard College, and speaks five languages.  She lives in Beverly Hills with her attorney husband, Ben Pesta, and their Purrsian cat, Sebastian.  She has not had a facelift… yet.  Her husband thinks she never will. You can learn more about her at

Original Artwork by Sean Stockton © 2010