• Thu, Jul 28 2011

Sex and the Sixties Girl: Better Living Through Cosmetic Surgery

For a woman who was espousing on the best ways to live in the sixties, Helen Gurley Brown was amazingly ahead of her time.

Consider her stance on plastic surgery. “I had my nose revised last spring and couldn’t be more delighted,” she wrote in Sex and the Single Girl, displaying not a bit of Ashlee Simpson-esque denials. She raves about the “lovely cataclysmic results” you, too, can get from plastic surgery. Of course, she also advises wearing color contact lenses and wigs made out of human hair so I didn’t take all of her suggestions to heart.

Still, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me, I’ve never actually gone under the knife or even gotten Botox.

I’m certainly the right age for it. I’ve had plenty of friends who do it. It’s not like I haven’t received recommendations for the best practitioners, or been informed of the places on my face that could most benefit from it.

One theory about my own reticence in this area is that I’m loath to add something else to the list of tasks I need to accomplish. There’s already exercise, meditation, facials, manicures, haircuts, the Goddamn dentist. Do I really need one more appointment, one more thing I’m beholden to, one more item to add to my never-completed to-do lists? And it seems entirely clear to me that this is one train you buy a ticket for and then don’t get off until the train stops running.

My other theory as to why I seem to be Heidi Montag’s polar opposite in this one area—and Dear God, I hope many others—is that I come from a family of plastic surgery enthusiasts. My late grandmother considered plastic surgery a necessity but gossiped about a distant relative who “indulged” in open-heart surgery. I remember my dad “getting his eyes done” when I was a little kid. And my brother is the one who’s constantly remarking on which spots on my face could most benefit from Restylane. I have to assume that, like people who, as kids, were allowed to watch as much TV as possible and thus grow up to not ever watch anything because it never seemed like a treat but just a part of life, part of my rebellion is to advance in years without doing anything to combat the signs of it.

Believe me, I’m certainly not one of those people who gazes at an older woman’s face and raves about how beautiful her wrinkles are and enthuses about how it shows how she’s “really lived.” I’m as vain as you can get and am certainly not deeply devoted to going au naturel. I exercise regularly in order to change the direction my body would otherwise go in. I once wore hair extensions until I got so annoyed by them that I started cutting them out of my hair, unfortunately also cutting large swaths of my own hair in the process.

Honestly, I’ve never really understood all the hoopla around plastic surgery. If people want to alter something on their body and are able to handle the annoyance, pain, expense and risks of that, who are the rest of us to tell them they can’t?

The only real danger of going under the knife as far as I see it—aside from the dangers that take place during any surgery—is the delusion I’m sure I would cling to about what this sort of change would do for me. Like most women, I’ve woken up one day to first think I hate my life only to then conclude that what I really hate is my hair. We’re all capable of becoming convinced that one external change will alter the way we feel. We’ve endured bobs, shags, layers and new colors only to realize that we’re in the exact same emotional state we were in pre visit to the salon but now have an ugly haircut to boot.

I just seem to like to cling to the belief that if only I had one particular thing, I would be happy forever only to get that one thing and discover that I then believe it’s some other particular thing that will provide eternal contentment. Even though I’ve been through it time and time again, I seem to have permanent amnesia in this area so despite writing these words, I have no doubt I’ll buy into the philosophy again. The fact is, if I had a surgeon on speed dial, I may well take that bad habit to a place only Jocelyn Wildenstein could understand.

Alas, I’ve learned over time that my emotional state can’t really be dictated by any external change. Sometimes I think it can—I believe that a new book deal or boyfriend or haircut will fill all the empty holes in me—but I inevitably find that I’ve given whatever it is too much power or that I don’t actually like it or that whatever joy it provided was temporary and thus more a Band-Aid than an actual new appendage.

Suffice it to say that if you run into me and notice that when I smile, my forehead doesn’t seem to move, I probably forgot again.

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  • Anthony Mark

    this was a very powerful column
    I appreciate your view point
    I would try to remind you that you look beautiful and you always will

    Your fan
    Anthony