I have no problem with a little cosmetic help here and there for women over forty, as long as it looks natural. In fact, when I turn fifty, I have every intention of getting a boob job. But the plastic surgery obsession in this country, especially in places such as LA, is unrestrained. What I am seeing are naturally attractive, in some cases, even stunningly beautiful women desecrating their faces at the site of a wrinkle, and turning themselves into something that resembles a fish. And I’m not talking about women such as Joan Rivers, who are well into their seventies. I’m talking about women in their early forties, what many consider the age at when a woman is most beautiful. I even see it with women as young as twenty, which is not only a shame, but a sin.
When I was a teenager, an obsession of mine was to watch reruns of old Twilight Zone episodes. I find it interesting how these characterizations of American culture that date back half a century ago have eerily become a pretty accurate cultural commentary on today’s society. One episode in particular has always stood out for me: Number Twelve Looks Just Like You. It was set in the distant future, although, now, it doesn’t seem so distant. On their eighteenth birthday, each citizen was required to go through “the transformation.” They were to choose from a select few models and have their faces and bodies altered in order to create a beautiful, youthful society. In other words, they were to change their appearance drastically in order to comply with what society considered superficially attractive. The hell with what was on the inside, that just didn’t matter. While this may be an exaggeration of sorts, it’s not so far from non fiction.
In West Los Angeles, there seems to be a blonde and a brunette version of the same mold. They look like they all go to the same hairdresser, same dermatologist, same lash extensionist, same plastic surgeon and same gym. It’s creepy actually, especially when it causes one to wonder what lies beneath, and why these women are so desperately trying to hide it. But most of all, why they would want to look exactly like their friends and neighbors? Why would they want to look like Number Twelve?
As with most issues in life, I have no doubt how a woman perceives herself begins in childhood. We can blame the media and magazines all we want, but in my case, I’ve never been affected by a heroine chic woman in a bikini. I’ve never wanted to be “just like her.” I did want to be like Pat Benetar at one point in my life, but that’s another story. Just as an anorexic woman looks at her image in the mirror and thinks it’s okay, I have to assume these women do the same. They see themselves through a different set of eyes; the eyes of their soul, and they see an image we possibly can’t since we haven’t lived their lives. Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t let anyone take my picture. I always hated the image that was captured forever on film. It wasn’t because I was unattractive, it was because I hated myself, and saw myself as ugly even though no one else did. In a way, I understand what these women are going through. No, I never had plastic surgery, but instead, I went to a therapist. It took many years, and many types of therapeutic methods to help me love myself again, but today, I not only allow my picture to be taken, I actually indulge in the occasional selfie.
A few years ago, I let my nine year old daughter watch the movie, Little Miss Sunshine. I was chastised for letting her see this R rated film, but the effects of this experience have stayed with her even today. I decided to show her the film after she had started asking me if she was fat. Like me, my daughter has a healthy, toned, athletic body, and like me, she will never be skinny. We have Polish farm blood racing through our veins, so it’s just not going to happen. She had heard all the stereotypical answers from me: beauty comes from within, what matters more than a beautiful body is a beautiful heart, etc… but this was just more of my motherly advice, advice she was starting to question. What I love about Little Miss Sunshine is that yes, at the beginning of the film, we don’t see Olive, the main character as beautiful. She is a little chubby, she has mousy brown hair and wears glasses. As the movie progresses, so does Olive’s beauty. We see how brilliant and confident and unique she is, but most of all, she believes so strongly in herself, we end up believing in her too. By the time she arrives at the beauty pageant, Olive is by far the most beautiful of the contestants in all her awkwardness, and the shallow beauty of the other participants is no longer satisfying.
I think we all need to be more like Olive instead of being like “Number Twelve.” In recent studies, it has been proven that the way we see ourselves is different from the way others see us. When my daughter looks in the mirror, I don’t want her to see that she has to hide each and every imperfection, which will inevitably cause her to look reptilian. I want her to realize that every scar, every wrinkle and stretch mark is a badge commemorating each and every one of her life experiences. And if she doesn’t have a perky, perfect nose or D cup breasts, it only gives her more character. If she wants to have a little nip here or a tuck there when she’s nearing fifty, that’s perfectly fine with me, as long as she doesn’t alter the original mold she has been beautifully blessed with. Otherwise, she better watch out for those flying lacrosse balls.