I was the only girl on my cul de sac who left for college with the face she was born with.
The summer before freshman year I took a chunk of change — my bat mitzvah money and the bucks I’d earned working at a local grocery store and I headed to Israel. I had a fantastic summer and came home a changed girl. None of that change was visible on the outside.
All the other girls in my neighborhood had their senior nose jobs. The summer before college offered the perfect opportunity for that makeover. A fresh start for fall. I have to admit, I was a little jealous. Oh to be one nose lump away from perfection! … Or at the very least, self confidence.
I wouldn’t even know where to begin if I was trying to perfect myself. My thighs? My upper arms? I was sure I couldn’t chose just one thing to fix and stake my happiness on. I was neither thrilled nor miserable about the whole package. Best to leave well enough alone.
All through college I watched friends get tattoos and belly button piercings. It was a feminist act, these alterations, a way to own their body and their appearance. I tried to join in the fun. I got my nose pierced. But it was itchy and annoying and the minute I caught a cold, I was done. Fortunately the hole closed.
I am fickle. I change my mind. It’s why I could never get a tattoo. The act of choosing a new nose would probably paralyze me. I can barely choose shampoo and conditioner without having a panic attack. I’m also very allergic and neurotic about surgeries. I never thought I would opt for any kind of plastic surgery.
In my early 30’s and, as a young mom, I realized it had been a decade since I’d willingly posed in a photo. My kids would never have pictures of me. My issue was this. I had developed a “turkey neck.” It was far worse in photos than in person but my lack of jawline definition resulted in photo after photo of me looking like I either had a goiter, a series of six chins, a tree stump for a neck, or the worst: a neck like my elderly uncle’s. It wasn’t really weight-related, though my pregnancy weight fluctuations had not helped. It was genetic, and unlike my ass and baby belly that I’ve learned to love and consider a part of “me,” the wattle was an alien beast.
I bit the bullet and faced my fear of surgery (note: outpatient procedure, and I was still terrified) and had a procedure done to firm the flesh around my jawline and chin. Was I perfect? Nope. I still have a little neck chub, but I looked like me again after I had that surgery done. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. This was my “nose lump”.
Recently my 15-year-old daughter has begged me for a nose job when she graduates college. I am appalled at the thought of it. She is beautiful with the bump on her nose. I listen to my peers state arguments against plastic surgery and I want to cheer with them. Hells yeah! Her beauty is natural and innate. Outside and in, there is nothing that needs “fixing”. There is no reason to alter a single hair on her already perfect head.
But … what if is this her one lump away from happiness, and confidence? Both my mother and my mother-in-law would advise me to fork over the cash for the fix. Which would piss me off. I’d question their motivation. Could they not see she was perfect?
It’s one thing for me and another entirely for my child. I don’t want her to alter the plentiful beauty she was born with. I don’t want her to slip headlong down the slippery slope that starts with highlights and and earrings and ends with her getting kicked off the set by Anderson Cooper.
The pro/con argument isn’t a simple one. It’s about so much more than surgery. We want to own our bodies and love and respect them, but part of that is the right to decorate and display them as we wish. Our daily decisions include alterations like haircuts, manicures, make up, piercings, hair dye, and bikini wax. I don’t know many women, including those most vocally opposed to plastic surgery, who don’t wear lipstick on occasion or paint their nails or shave or have pierced ears. Honestly, why groom yourself? Why wear pink or blue or red?
As women, we are pressured to look a certain, often ridiculous way, and it’s easy for that to coax those of us who know better into battle stance. But the fact remains: we have the right to please our own aesthetic sense of selfhood. I’d hate for it to be any other way.
My daughter says she wants a nose job because she gets made fun of all the time for her “big Jewish nose”. I think that’s part of my problem with her request. It comes from outside, not within. It comes from a place that I find offensive and just wrong. I’m opposed. I’ll have to continue to think about it.
Meanwhile, would I do something else? It would have to bug me an awful lot, for me to consider it. But I consider it my right if I want to. I’d do it solely for myself if I did. I won’t rule it out entirely.
Here’s what the fabulous Ali Wentworth had to say about plastic surgery
I also really enjoyed Catherine Connors’s thoughts about plastic surgery
And here’s a video I made in response to radio ads suggesting Boob jobs for Valentines Day
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