If it’s controversial, I’m going to write about it sooner or later- y’all should know that by now. And what could be more controversial than plastic surgery? Well, a lot actually. Nonetheless it’s definitely a topic that’s sure to raise a few eyebrows & has a lot of grey areas. There are a couple of reasons why this subject has been on my mind recently. First, I’ve seen an increase in the number of patients coming in for surgical clearance for plastic surgery at my job over the past few years. Second, I’ve seen an increasing number of my own acquaintances undergoing plastic surgery. Third, Rammstein, the infamous German metal band, recently released a new song called Zick Zack which is a critique of our society’s obsession with plastic surgery (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBTNyJ33LWI). And yes, it’s exactly as humorous & grotesque & profound as you would expect it to be, coming from Rammstein. Last, over the past few months I’ve been trying to FINALLY finish watching the TV series New Girl (yes, I know it’s been off the air for years now), & I’m currently on season five which guest stars Megan Fox who has become something of a poster child for plastic surgery (https://mostcommonplasticsurgery.com/megan-fox-plastic-surgery-before-and-after/). There’s no denying that she’s gorgeous, but I just can’t look at her without feeling like her face screams “fake!” And when I look back at old pictures of her, she was ALWAYS gorgeous anyway. It seems a symptom of a greater disease that someone like her would feel so compelled to surgically alter her face over & over again . . .
Anyway, before I go any further, let me remind you that, as always, I speak for no one other than myself here. I make no claims to be perfect or to have special wisdom on any subject. I don’t expect, or even want, everyone to agree with me. I write these kinds of posts simply to clear my own mind & to encourage discussion & critical thinking. That’s it. Furthermore, when speaking of plastic surgery in this post I am NOT referring to the following things: plastic surgery done because of scars, burns, or other traumatic injuries; mole removals (even if done purely for cosmetic reasons); breast reductions; breast implants done in the context of breast cancer (or even in the context of an elective mastectomy to prevent breast cancer). Nor am I referring to rhinoplasty done in the context of surgery to fix other nasal problems (e.g. deviated septum). If you have to go under the knife anyway, why not get a little more out of it? I think most of us can understand that.
What I AM talking about are breast augmentation, liposuction, Brazilian butt lifts, rhinoplasty, blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery), face lifts, etc that are performed PURELY for cosmetic reasons. Now, far be it from me to deem any of these procedures right or wrong, good or evil, or to say they should be illegal. If you’re reading this & you’ve chosen to undergo one of these procedures yourself, far be it from me to judge you for it. One of my core beliefs as a libertarian is that we all own our own bodies & can & should be able to do with them as we please. If that means surgically changing them, well, that’s our right.
HOWEVER, I also think that we as a society need to think about the greater implications of these things. What kind of message are we sending our children, especially girls, when we reinforce the idea that a “perfect” body is necessary for happiness? What does it say about our society when so many adults hate their own bodies so much or feel so unhappy with them that they are willing to take on all the risks of surgery to “fix” them? And how many people undergoing these procedures actually understand all the risks they’re taking? For example, in recent years I’ve seen an increase in the number of stories about women having breast implants removed due to a myriad of health problems associated with them. Former racecar driver Danica Patrick just shared her own story about this a few days ago (https://www.si.com/extra-mustard/2022/05/04/danica-patrick-former-racer-opens-up-breast-implant-illness-instagram-post). In fact, there have been so many issues related to breast implants that they now come with a black box warning from the FDA. Does that mean I think they should be illegal? Absolutely not. But it DOES mean that women need to have a much greater understanding of the risks they’re taking. As one doctor pointed out in an article I read about this yesterday, if you’re going to have the surgery, you better make sure you have the money not just for the implantation but also to have them removed in case that becomes necessary in the future. Having them removed can be even more expensive than the initial surgery, which is something most women don’t realize.
I know a lot of people say “What’s the harm in doing something that makes you love yourself more?” No doubt that argument is very tempting. But where does it end? It’s a slippery slope if you ask me. Sure, there are things about me I’d have changed if I’d been able to construct my own face/body. But that’s not how life works. I think one of our biggest life lessons is learning to love ourselves as we are, even if the reflection in the mirror isn’t exactly what we want to see all the time. Does this mean we should never take action to lose weight or gain muscle or generally get ourselves healthier or in better shape? Absolutely not. But it does mean that we need to value ourselves for more than our physical appearance. After all, physical beauty is NOT paramount.
If you’re lived longer than about 25 years, you should know by now that external beauty is not the “be all end all” of existence. When life gets hard, you are not going to care one bit if your partner has six pack abs or DD perfectly perky breasts. That’s not to say that physical attraction isn’t important in relationships. We are animals after all- so of course it is. But we are also capable of a lot more than just animal lust. You can’t sustain a relationship long term if the only attraction is physical. (It’s entirely possible that a great example of that is playing out in the courtrooms right now with Johnny Depp & Amber Heard.) In the end, a person’s sense of humor, their goals & ambition, their compassion & empathy- these are the things that, when combined with physical attraction, will keep a relationship going for years & years. And yes, I am speaking from experience but you certainly don’t have to trust me. I think most adults will admit this. And it’s not even just about romantic relationships. Self-love that is actually sustaining & mature must necessarily be based on a lot more than just physical appearance as well. After all, the most important relationship any of us will ever have, the one that shapes & informs all of our other relationships, is the one we have with ourselves.
If I’m being perfectly honest, do I wish my stomach were as flat as it was before Rachel? (Who am I kidding- it was never perfectly flat- but it was flatter than it is now.) Yes, the truth is I do wish that. But am I going to surgically alter my body to change it? No way! Did I use a topical cream to aid in “erasing” my pregnancy stretch marks? I sure did. But that has no potential for long-term consequences. There is no inherent risk with that like there is with surgery. Do I wish my ribcage & hips would go back to their “original” dimensions (what they were pre-baby)? Yes, sometimes I do. But my husband certainly doesn’t care. And if it doesn’t affect his attraction to me, why should it affect MY attraction to me, if you know what I mean? I never want to have to tell my daughter that I surgically altered my body because I didn’t like the way it looked after it carried her. What an incredibly damaging message that would send to her! I never want her to think she ruined my body because she didn’t. And I never want her to think that she isn’t good enough exactly as she is. So if that means living with my own “less than perfect” body, so be it.
Again, this isn’t meant to demean or judge anyone who has had plastic surgery or is considering it. But I do wish people would stop & think about the long-term consequences, both physical & emotional, of these things, & the messages we’re sending to each other when these kinds of procedures are normalized. I would ask you to ask yourself- “Is this REALLY going to make me happy or am I just covering up for some greater internal self-hate that I don’t want to face? And I am willing to face the consequences if I have to have this reversed or experience complications related to the procedure?” I’m all about people making informed choices, even if they choose very differently than I would/do.
Feel free to share your thoughts on the matter. I sincerely hope this came across as nonjudgmental because that’s how I meant it. I just want to spark conversations & critical thinking about a subject that I think has become far too normalized & even celebrated as somehow being an empowering thing to do.