Twelve years ago I wrote the story of my lifetime.

And it was all about me. Of course.

Actually, it was about my face lift - a 7 1/2-hour procedure that changed my life. Or at least my appearance.

I still get calls and e-mails. Questions like "Are you happy with the results? Would you spend the money again? Did it make a difference in your life?"

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Why? Because how you look doesn't just get you a seat at the conference table, it also impacts your attitude about yourself. It has a lot to do with self-confidence.

But most of you must know that.

Back then, plastic surgery was seeping down from the upper to the middle class. Today, procedures to keep up appearances are simply considered an economic investment.

I went into surgery looking like a sleepy walrus - baggy eyes inherited from the German ancestry and saggy chins from the Irish side.

I came out "just right." Not to tight, not too loose.

Oh, I still carry too much weight. But I feel comfortable with myself.

Most women understand that "looking good translates into feeling good," says Dr. Malcolm Paul, Newport Beach, Calif., plastic surgeon and past president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

"Men also are finding these procedures more acceptable, particularly if they are retired and looking to re-enter the job market or if they feel a lot of competition," Paul said.

Paul and other plastic surgeons acknowledge there was a drop in face lifts and other expensive plastic procedures when the recession hit.

"People postponed the surgery. They saw 40 percent of their pension savings disappear. Their real estate went upside down," he said.

The depth of the recession also put the fear in personal budgets a little longer than usual, Paul said.

His research shows most patients - and, yes, they are mostly women - usually start looking for ways to look better and feel better about themselves less than two months after a major disaster.

This time "took a little longer," he said. But the ladies are coming back.

"I've gone back 100 years and studied what happens," he said. "In 1929, for instance, women's makeup sales started increasing six months after the crash."

Yesterday it was makeup. Today, it's Botox and fillers.

Paul equates these minimally invasive procedures to "getting your hair colored or getting hair extensions. Admittedly, it is maintenance more women buy into than men, but men are finding appearance counts a lot in the job market."

A little Botox here or there can cost about $1,000, on average, Paul says.

However, unlike my face lift, which cost around $7,000 12 years ago, the results don't last.

"I would estimate three to four months for Botox and six months to two years for fillers," Paul says.

I suggest to him that an average of $4,000 to $5,000 for "hair extensions" exceeds my discretionary income. Seems obvious someone would plump up to get a job and then let it all hang out later.

"Not true," Paul says. "They come back in and have a full face lift."