“I’ve had so much plastic surgery, when I die they will donate my body to Tupperware.” — Joan Rivers
Behold, the mirror! Let’s re-phrase that! Behold yourself in the mirror! Because that’s whom you’re really looking at, isn’t it? You! Like Narcissus, you now can become enamored with your own image. Or you can react like the wicked queen in Snow White, who fumes in rage when she discovers that she’s “not the fairest in the land.”
In either case, you’re a good potential candidate for plastic surgery. If you’re like Narcissus, you’ll want to have a nip here, a tuck there, and a few oh so subtle touch-ups to please yourself and others. If you’re like the wicked queen, you won’t want a daughter, or anyone else in the land, looking better and younger. So you’ll enlist the help of a plastic surgeon with a keen eye and nimble fingers, to perform a complete overhaul on your face.
We can agree that plastic surgery makes sense when performed on someone who’s disfigured as a result of genetics or an accident. But what about the newly divorced 45-year-old woman looking to date energetic younger men? Or the 60-year-old senior executive who fears losing ground to Young Turks in the workplace? Is plastic surgery a wise option in these instances? Or does it represent foolish tampering with nature’s plan?
Society learned much about plastic surgery from the same source it learned about divorce and courting customs — Hollywood.
Society at large has received much of its signals about plastic surgery from the same source it learned about divorce and liberal courting customs — Hollywood. At first, women in mainstream America jumped into the game. That was back in the 1950s. For a long time, the most common procedure for elective plastic surgery was a “nose job” (rhinoplasty).
With an increasingly affluent middle class, other elective procedures became widespread. If a new face was good enough for Zsa Zsa Gabor or Marlene Dietrich, it was good enough for Ms. Main Street America. In the 1960s, procedures like the blepherectomy (the removal of puffy fat deposits from the eyelids) and cervicoplasty (necklift) became more common.
As time went by, and medical treatments progressed, procedures like Botox injections and laser skin treatments took hold. In the early 21st Century, we’re presented with a virtual boutique of procedures for acquiring a new and younger look. Men have jumped into the game too. Hollywood stars not only admit, but openly discuss the work they’ve had.
There are some good reasons for wanting plastic surgery. An energetic executive in her sixties might want to look as young as she feels, rather than sport the tired look of an aging businesswoman, particularly if she’s encountering discrimination in the work place. And yes, a man with a homely look wants to become as handsome as possible.
But changes like these should be subtle changes. If one goes by photographs in celebrity press releases, it’s become clear that the plastic surgery craze has gone too far. Stars like Joan Rivers, Mickey Rourke and Kirk Douglas, with their excessively altered faces, have come to resemble pathetic imitations of their younger selves.
If you’re considering plastic surgery, don’t jump into it. Ask around. Most plastic surgeons will offer a free consultation — take advantage of it. Ask questions like “how many times have you performed this procedure?” and “what are your qualifications?” Also, always ask to see a lot of the surgeon’s before-and-after photos of his patients. A really fine surgeon will be glad to share these with you.
Insurance doesn’t cover the fee for elective surgery, so consider the cost. Believe it or not, some of the world’s finest plastic surgeons practice in Mexico and Brazil, places where you can have a face lift or nose job done for the fraction of the price you’d pay in Manhattan or Los Angeles. In fact, if you throw in the cost of round trip airfare and luxury hotel accommodations while you recover, you could still come away with a bargain.
It’s one thing to want to look 5-10 years younger, or like a subtle version of “another you.” It’s quite another thing to expect a plastic surgeon to make you look like a young Elizabeth Taylor or Cary Grant. Remember too George Orwell’s admonition: “at 50, a person has the face he deserves.”