The case of the double eyelid

Eyelid Crease Comparison Between 2008 and 2011UPDATED September 18, 2011: This post has been updated to correct my own confusion over the epicanthal fold versus the crease in eyelids. Namely, the epicanthal fold refers to the skin of the upper eyelid that covers the inner corner of the eye. Many people– mostly of Asian descent, but also from other ethnic and racial backgrounds– have an epicanthal fold. Independent of that, many people from all ethnic and racial backgrounds do not have an eyelid crease, described sometimes as a “monolid”. Therefore, when we talk about double eyelid surgery– or Asian blepharoplasty, as it is often called because of its popularity among people of Asian descent– we are talking about adding a crease to the eyelid and perhaps even reducing the prominence of the epicanthal fold, but not actually removing or eliminating it (which is actually referred to as an epicanthoplasty). I have included a photo here showing how in 2008, I did not have a crease in my eyelids, although there is a very faint one that could be considered a precursor to the image on the right from 2011 where a (deeper) crease naturally developed and is now clearly visible. The epicanthal fold is circled in both images.

In my weeks of illness and lack of sleep lately, I’ve noticed that my eyes have been doing some weird things– specifically, one or sometimes both of them will develop a “double eyelid.” It’s not really consistent and it will stay sometimes for a few hours or a few days and it will switch between eyes, but it’s definitely weird.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m talking about the reduced prominence of the Epicanthal fold, the fold of skin that covers the inner corner of the eye, as well as development of an eyelid crease, both of which make Asian people (among others) have “slanted” eyes (although the palpebral slant– the angle of the eye itself– is yet another separate factor or trait). I’ve had this on and off thing as far as I can remember, but it’s never stayed around as long as it has lately. I’ve kind of grown to expect it considering my dad actually only has the fold in one eye and it’s always been like that. Strange, no?

When I was younger, I, like many Asian women and probably men too, wished that I had a double eyelid to make my eyes bigger– that is, look more “American.” You know, basically more “white.” I remember my first little boyfriend in eigth grade (who was as white as they came) pointed out once how he was fascinated by my almond shaped eyes. Can you imagine? You just moved to a new school and you’re one of the handful of Asian students in the whole school and this is what your first boyfriend says to you? And for the longest time, half jokingly, half serious , everytime my brother and I would pose for a picture, we would say, “open your eyes as wide you can!” to avoid looking chinky in photographs. If you ever take a look at our family photographs, you’ll see we’ve taken a lot of photos with our sunglasses on.

It’s a huge complex that Asian people have. And that’s why so many Asian people, mostly women, have gotten Asian blepharoplasty— plastic surgery to create the crease in the eyelid. Isn’t that horrible? How desperately we’re trying to look more “American?” I suppose its the same as someone getting a nose job or liposuction to fit into some idealized American standard of beauty. But unnecessary plastic surgery (as in anything other than reconstructive surgery) has always made me a little uneasy and certainly so when it’s part of some weird cultural and racial inferiority complex. People will pay something between $3000 and $5000 dollars for the surgery and frankly, a bad one will make you look like a fish. Do they think everyone won’t notice when it’s done? With liposuction, it’s plausible that you actually lost the weight.

And somewhere in the time that blepharoplasty became increasingly popular is when I finally accepted, even among some Asian teens I knew that were way too young to be getting any type of plastic surgery, that this is the way my eyes look and this is the way I look. I’m Korean, I’m Asian, and nothing I will do will change that, so why obsess? And of course, years later now when I least expect it, I’ve started to develop some phantom double eyelid that passes unexpected in and out of my life. Well, at least I saved myself a few thousand dollars and maybe putting on eye makeup will get a lot easier.