The brunette in question paused, her eyes roaming up from her magazine and meeting the expectant gaze of a pretty young woman. Marjorie frowned—the woman was not just pretty, she was gorgeous. Tall; high-cheekboned; glossy-haired; ridiculously, impossibly thin. Really, how on earth could she be so thin? How was it possible? Marjorie’s frown deepened as she inspected the woman’s waist, which was almost non-existent and Barbie-like, as if in a perpetual corset. I bet she got that rib-removal surgery, Marjorie thought. I should really look into that . . .

Reluctantly, Marjorie rose to her feet, now feeling more inferior than ever. She approached the woman with timid, intimidated little steps. “That would be me,” she said. “I’m Marjorie.”

“Come this way,” the beautiful girl replied. She spun on her heel with the grace of a ballerina and started walking down a long, all-white corridor. Marjorie followed a few steps behind, silently resenting the woman for being so attractive. I bet she’s a total bitch, she thought. Probably a slut, too. It just wasn’t fair, how some women could look like that. All her life, Marjorie had tried to achieve that sort of beauty, but while she had managed to slim down to a willowy wisp of a woman, she still wasn’t quite beautiful. Her hips, despite her low weight, remained wide. Her hair was dull and thin and terribly boring, no matter what color she dyed it. She was short and rather mousy, and, despite all the plastic surgery she had invested in over the years, her face still wasn’t quite striking.

Really, the problems began when she was given that name: Marjorie. She recoiled a little every time she heard the word. It was so dour and dowdy, an old-lady name. Marjorie was the sort of name that best suited a frumpy grandmother, not a beautiful young lady. And, admittedly, Marjorie frequently wondered if that’s exactly what she looked like: a frumpy grandmother. The terrifying prospect made her stomach churn.

Don’t think that way, she told herself. You can change. You can be pretty. Maybe this surgery will finally be the one that turns things around.

It was a stupid hope, but it was all she had.

The beautiful woman stopped at the end of the hall and led Marjorie through a doorway, into an ultra-sterile room full of chrome and medical instruments. As Marjorie walked past the gorgeous girl, she got another painful look at the woman’s body. She had gravity-defying, gigantic breasts that jutted out from her white blouse and clashed in an almost comical way with her otherwise skinny, stick-like physique. Clearly fake, Marjorie thought—not that it mattered. Perfect tits were perfect tits.

“The doctor will be with you shortly,” the woman said. For good measure, she flashed a smile—a perfect, toothpaste-commercial smile, with bright teeth as white as her blouse. Then she turned and left the room, leaving the distinct smell of her perfume as a lingering reminder of Marjorie’s inferiority.

As she waited for the doctor to arrive, Marjorie fantasized about what it would be like to look like that woman, and wondered if this next surgery would be worth it. It was the current beauty craze, that all-the-rage trend being touted as the hottest new look, the thing that all men wanted. Marjorie—who seemed to stuck in a state of spinsterhood, of lonely nights spent eating measured portions of grapes and nuts with no one to talk to—was desperate to make herself more attractive, at any means necessary. So she’d have to get the surgery. It was as simple as that, wasn’t it? She couldn’t back out now. If she wanted a husband, this would just have to be done.

The doctor came in then. He was large, bearish and imposing, with thick-frame glasses and a messy beard. “Hello, Marjorie,” he said with a smile. “Back so soon?”

“Yes.” Her voice was small and high-pitched—the former a result of her nerves and odd sense of shame, and the latter a result of her effort to make herself sound more feminine and youthful. “I heard about this surgery and just knew I wanted to do it.”

“Oh, really? Wonderful.” He came around and began inspecting the operational area, telling her how it would work and other things that she wasn’t paying attention to. He ended the spiel with a resounding, “If you ask me, you’ll look fantastic once this is done. So much more attractive.”

“I would?” Her heart fluttered at the idea. That hope came back to her again, perking her up with a newfound confidence and excitement.

“You definitely would. Trust me.” He smirked. “I know what men like. I know what the word on the street is. And this is just a huge turn-off for us, what you have here. Getting this surgery will make you far, far more appealing.”

“That’s what I heard.” She swallowed. The word “surgery” always made it sound so real and frightening. “I saw online all these guys talking about it, and they said that this surgery is a godsend. I never knew that this body part was so disgusting.”

“Oh, yeah. Men definitely find it disgusting. I mean, we try not to make you feel bad about it, but you want me to be honest here? That’s the truth.”

She nodded. Her fingers threaded together, the nerves stirring up again. “So, um . . . it’s a good idea, then.”

“It’s a great idea.” He gave her a big, wolfish smile. “I’ll tell you, Marjorie, you won’t be able to keep the boys away from you after this. You’ll be so beautiful.”

“I’d like to be,” she whispered. She had a faraway look on her face. “I’d really like to be beautiful.”


When Marjorie next returned to the doctor’s, it was the day of her surgery. The beautiful woman was there again, but this time, she was bandaged. Ah, Marjorie thought, the realization dawning. She had the surgery, too. Marjorie smiled slightly, knowing then that she’d made the right choice.

She was whisked away, down corridors, into cold rooms full of pretty nurses. They put Marjorie into a deep, peaceful sleep—a “beauty rest,” as they called it. The last thing she heard before her eyes closed was the doctor’s voice as he leered over her, full of gently-spoken reassurance: “Don’t worry, Marjorie—after this, you’ll truly be beautiful.”

She wanted so badly to believe him.


Marjorie’s eyes opened with a slow, uncertain flutter. First everything was blurry, but then it came into focus. She batted her lashes to wipe away the sleepiness. Her mouth felt dry, and there was a bitter taste on her tongue.

Her doctor hovered over her with a smile and a promise in his eyes. She smiled back, weakly, hoping his pleased expression meant that he approved.


“Here we go,” the doctor said. He was carefully taking off the gauze, undoing the bandages for the first time. Marjorie felt bubbly, overjoyed and ecstatic at the prospect of her whole new look.

As the last of the bandages were removed, she could hardly contain herself and started reaching for the handheld mirror at her side, frantic to see. The doctor just laughed.

She held up the mirror and stared at herself. There she was, Marjorie. At first, she—disappointingly—looked much the same, but when she turned her head to the side, she could fully appreciate the change.

Her ear was completely gone. Not a trace of it remained.

“Isn’t it wonderful?” the doctor asked. He was grinning with the same amount of triumph as a first-grader who just won a spelling bee. “Some of my best work, I’d say.”

She beamed up at him. The side of her head where the ear had been was so smooth and perfect now—she couldn’t stop touching it, despite the sensitivity.

“Of course you really should get the other one removed, too,” the doctor said. “Once you can get enough cash together, anyway. I mean, removing one ear is nice, but the other one will still gross men out. You don’t want that, do you?”

She shook her head. He was absolutely right: the other one had to go. Already, she was wondering how long it would take to scrape up the money . . .

“Big improvement, though, even with just the one.” He patted her shoulder. “You’re far more attractive.”

She couldn’t stop smiling—even if, in the back of her mind, a part of her was consumed by the knowledge that one ear just wasn’t enough.

She tried to mumble out an awestruck “thank you,” but he stopped her before she could, holding a finger to her lips.

“You don’t need to say it—I already know.” He kept his finger there, planted on her mouth, and she smiled from underneath it. “In fact, Marjorie, you really shouldn’t say anything at all. It’s not very attractive. It’s hard not to speak, though, isn’t it?” When she nodded guiltily, he gave a great, big belly laugh. “Of course it is—and it’s almost impossible to permanently stop talking! But don’t worry,” he added, a glint in his eye. “There’s a surgery for that, too.”