Apr 30, 2010

Plastic’s not Perfect

Keeping up with the Joneses, just another “THEY” we feel compelled to follow. So, maybe that is why our society is so apt to embrace change. Why we rush to obtain the new and cutting edge. Maybe we’re all just trying to keep up. My question then is have we taken this too far?

Newest trend in the past 2 decades—tattoos. (Yes I know people in the military, motorcycle organizations, etc… have been getting inked for a long time, but only recently has it become universal) To the younger generations (we 20somethings), tattoos are not only acceptable but have grown to be somewhat of a norm. I think this is largely in part because we are striving to individualize or make ourselves unique and independent from “everyone else.” But, for some this new fad, the obsession with ink, is just another way to keep up with those damn Joneses.

Either way, if you’re getting your ink in a clean reputable establishment, and you’re willing to tolerate the extended stare (sometimes snarl) of the older portion of our culture... then tattoos are unique and seemingly harmless.

But what about the other things we do to our bodies to stay up with the times. Things that people do to stay cutting edge—things that actually involve actual cutting… What about plastic surgery?

This, too, leaves something permanent on our body—massive scars. “Going under the knife” in recent years has definitely become something that is socially acceptable. We see people on TV and people that we know getting plastic surgery more and more often.

Sadly, if someone is aging gracefully we assume, “ Oh he/she must have had work done.” We disregard that maybe they wore sunscreen, took care of their skin, never smoked, stayed active and lived healthy. All of those are attributes that just cannot be true; we do not ever consider that. Probably because we are a quick fix society and when someone looks “great for their age,” they MUST have had SOMETHING done.

This automatic assumption is what scares me. This assumption is what leads me to believe that plastic surgery has crept into the “norm” category as well.

This week the oh-so-dramatic and compelling new series of “The Hills” came out. If you’re not familiar with this show, it’s probably because you prefer to watch television with talented actors and actresses. But if you’re like me, and you just can’t look away from the shallow, dramatic, “ reality” shows”… you’ve probably watched this MTV hit.

I am not too proud to say that I DVR the show and faithfully watch every episode. (No judgment my dear readers…if anyone went thru your list of DVR shows you probably have something listed you would rather not admit too!) Hey, we all need a mindless escape. It’s called de-stressing.

Anyhow, one of the main character’s, Heidi, debuts her made-over body. She underwent 10 plastic surgeries and is quoted in People magazine as “being obsessed and definitely going to have more!” Side note, in the “before” picture she already had her boobs done, but was still unsatisfied, which is why she opted for 10 more. I, in no way intend to defame Heidi’s already tarnished reputation, but I think this girl is out of her mind! She was actually a pretty girl before any of the surgery. Sad, isn’t it?

Maybe if you have a bump in your nose that you’ve always wanted fixed or a deviated septum. Maybe if you have boobs so big that they are causing back problems or vision problems, which require an eyelift… These are SOME situations I think that plastic surgery- IN MODERATION is a positive thing.

But thinking you have small boobs and risking silicone leaking throughout your insides is not a decision we should take lightly. Having drains attached to your body, draining out fluid (EWW… I don’t even want to think about, I’m cringing as I’m writing) is not an “easy recovery”. Undergoing anesthesia and risking your life, so that you feel more confident… there is big a problem here.

Feeling confident is exactly that… a feeling. Having some quick fix will not change your perception of self and may not change how you think people perceive you. Think about it like this, holding a diploma in your hands does not make you educated, having a certain job title printed on your business card does not make you experienced and having a quick fix plastic surgery will not make you feel better. These are all surface things. How we feel is not.

Feelings are complicated and how we feel about ourselves is probably the most complicated of all. What is difficult is that we juggle our perception of self, right alongside of how others view us. How our colleagues and peers perceive us weighs heavily on how we view our selves. There are tons of emotions and feelings that depend on outlying reactions …

  • Shame is something that generally only surfaces when someone else reacts to our behavior. Without this outside viewpoint, we may only experience guilt. Others induce shame.  
  • Satisfaction is something that generally only surfaces when someone praises us. Without this praise we may never recognize a job well done.
  • Love is something that generally only surfaces when someone else reacts to our feelings. For love to be real, (relationships, family, friendships,) are all dependent on someone else’s reciprocation of our feelings.

All of these emotions depend on others and how they view us. They are all feelings that are all induced by other’s reactions of us.

Truth is, that no matter what the time frame, genre, story line, subject… in the end, life is about people and relationships. We value family, friendship and romantic love.

People on the planes in 9/11 called their loved ones before it went down. People in the military call and write letters to their loved one before they go into combat. People fighting disease and cancer want to be surrounded by their loved ones for strength. When someone passes away, we turn to and lean on our loved ones that are left behind.

It can be depressing to think about, but it’s a fact of life. It all boils down that we need one another despite our yearning to individualize and stand out.

So, it’s not our fault then that even the most confident of the bunch, care and react to how people perceive us. We are social beings. We need each other.

I think the problem comes in when we allow too many views or reactions to influence our decisions. When opting for surgery as a solution to fit EVERYONE’s standard of pretty or developing an eating disorder as a solution to fit EVERYONE’s standard of skinny. People do it, because they want to be perceived positively by others and besides, that’s what THEY, (the Joneses) say is attractive.

Well I say, screw the Joneses! Marilyn Monroe, one of the biggest sex symbols of all time and was arguably a size 12. She was eating … its okay. Cindy Crawford, one of the world’s top models has a mole on her face that she refused to remove. She was different … it’s okay.

Some people believe Marilyn was too big or Cindy’s mole was too distracting/ugly, but some people didn’t. Some people agreed that their attributes made these women individual NOT generic. The secret is that not everyone is going to agree on what is pretty, smart, successful. Standards are all different, so we shouldn’t waste our time, money and effort on trying to please everyone and fit into a universal standard.

So, maybe our society, our generation, needs to stop thinking that we can fix the way we feel by changing the surface. Feelings come from within. Any body art or reconstruction probably won’t “FIX” whatever is it that ails you.  Instead, maybe we need to re-evaluate whose opinions and reactions we take to heart, whose we value and whose we should just say “ screw you ” to.  Actually, who am I? This is all just my opinion - so take it or leave it.....

Everyone has an opinion; it doesn’t mean they all have to matter to you. We need to evaluate how we let others influence us. We need to remember that being our own person is the most attractive attribute. That dancing to the beat of our own drummer is the best way to stay unique and individual. Being a cookie-cutter replication of someone else will NEVER get you noticed.

So be proud to do your own damn thing … whatever it may be and do it well, as only you can do!


“Be who you are and be that perfectly well” – St Francis de Sales

“Be a first rate version of yourself, instead of a second rate version of someone else” – Judy Garland