Blepharoplasty comes from the Greek words “blepharo,” which means “eyelid,” and “plasty,” which means “shaping.”

So nice to have a mother who can help out with the troop for an afternoon, the Brownie leaders say. And what an interesting activity. Origami. The girls don’t have many opportunities to make crafts from other cultures.

Origami is funny, though. It can get confusing if you’re not careful: you fold and unfold, turn the paper sideways, over, upside down. It’s so easy to get all jumbled up. Disoriented.

“No, honey,” my teacher would say, interrupting me in the middle of drawing my hair, taking the yellow crayon out of my hand and using it to make an oval for my face. “You’re supposed to draw you.”

Blepharoplasty comes from the Greek words “blepharo,” which means “eyelid,” and “plasty,” which means “shaping,” or “intense, searing pain in the service of beauty.” But pride must suffer pain. It’s also called “Asian eyelid surgery.” Much simpler. It says exactly what the problem is and how to fix it. Like “wart removal.”

What I didn’t know then was that, according to Japanese legend, if you fold a thousand paper cranes, your heart’s desire will come true.

“It’s too expensive,” my dad says.

“When you become a doctor,” my mom says, smiling, “you’ll know lots of other doctors, and one of them will be able to do it for you for free.”

The important thing is to start with the crease. That’s where you’ll put the dark eyeshadow, when your face heals. Once they’ve made the crease, they cut off some fat—they call it subcutaneous, which means “under the skin”—and some muscle. This tissue is the epicanthic fold, meaning, “extra skin that makes your eyes slanted.” Removing it involves an incision just above the lashes, so they won’t be hanging under that skin any more. More teeny, tiny stitches close the wound. It takes about an hour. There’s another way, where they sort of sew the eyelid into place without any cutting. Then there are some people—women, mostly—who just use special glue and this little fork to mold their eyelids into place every morning. What a pain.

There are pictures. A red, angry line runs below the eye socket bone. Then, glistening—what is it? Fat? Muscle? Subcutaneum? Is that even a word?—above the lashes, where the doctor tightens up the eyelid.

The naked, glistening tissue where the fat and muscle have been removed isn’t gross at all. Have you ever seen a picture of a cocoon, right before it opens, the way it’s all wet and glossy and shot through with veins? That’s what the photos remind me of. Or of a baby being born. Kind of goopy, sure, but shiny and brave with new life.

Then the stitches. From the picture, you’d think someone hit the girl in each eye with a bottle. Well, pride must suffer pain.

There are slightly differently styles of origami cranes, but in general, a crane has its wings extended, as if it were flying. Other than that, though, it looks kind of like a swan. Of course, the most famous swan might be The Ugly Duckling. He had big feet, his head was too big, his eyes were shaped funny, but then he grew up to be a beautiful swan. All he had to do was give it time. That story is supposed to make girls like me feel better.

My friends and I start wearing makeup on a regular basis in sixth grade. The magazines tell us to put the darkest shade of eyeshadow “in the crease of the eyelid.” They have creases; all I have is a shallow dip.

“Huh,” my friends ask each other. “What’s she supposed to do now?” But they don’t have any answers. They let me stand at the mirror and let me try to figure it out, giving me just a tiny bit more room than they did before, watching as I try to “contour” my eyes by wiping a dark smear across my flat eyelid. They’ve never seen anything like it before, not up close like that.

How will they insult me properly, if they can no longer pull their eyes into slants? I’ll still look different enough. There was the girl, in fifth grade when I was in fourth, who called me a nigger. Kids are creative that way.

They’ve never seen anything like it before, not up close like that.