Kate, sign me up! Can I join even if I’m an ugly American?
Kate Winslet has recently launched a new movement called the “British Anit-Cosmetic Surgery League.” Her fellow British luminaries Emma Thompson and Rachel Weisz, also high profile actors, have joined the cause. In a nutshell, they are espousing the virtues of “just saying no” to cosmetic surgery. “I will never give in,” proclaims Winslet.
First, let’s immediately address the elephant in the room. I can hear your indignation now: “Of course it’s easy for these three stunningly beautiful women to dismiss plastic surgery; THEY DON’T NEED IT! They’re GORGEOUS!”
And at first glance, that’s true; by any standard, all three of these women are arguably beautiful, so the idea of them seeking plastic surgery seems superfluous, or absurd, or wildy self-indulgent, or even ridiculously risky (I’m recalling Barbra Striesand’s adamant refusal to get a nose job because of the potential risk to her singing voice). You might characterize Winslet’s stance as haughty arrogance or superiority, an attitude of “I’m so beautiful, I don’t need fixin’; I’m perfect the way I am.” Or, what if it’s more of a serious, genuine defiance? What if it’s more like, “I won’t play your petty, shallow little games. I won’t allow your judgment of me to affect how I feel about myself. I won’t subject myself to surgery that fucks with the way I am. I won’t strive for ridiculous perfection that doesn’t exist anyway. I won’t pretend that the human body doesn’t age. I embrace who I am and what I am, come what may. Deal with it!”
Look, these women actually have more skin in this game than the average person, because of the fact that their physical appearance is a critical aspect of their careers. As public figures, they are fodder for public opinion. So for them to renounce plastic surgery is akin to an NFL player refusing Gatorade on a hot afternoon. It’s akin to Britney Spears renouncing lipsynching as an affront to live performance. It’s akin to Jon Stewart proclaiming that irony and satire are no longer appropriate vehicles for news analysis. What Winslet and Co. are doing is rebellious and ballsy and I applaud them for publicly going against the grain of Hollywood culture. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dig a bit deeper. Yes, beyond skin deep.
Why do people choose to have plastic surgery? Personally, I don’t know, because the idea has never crossed my mind (even though I’m now 43 and adorned with crow’s feet and laugh lines, as well as cellulite). I’m skittish about going under the knife, and doing so willingly seems masochistic to me. But it’s a huge industry; I can remember Goldie Hawn’s character in the movie “The First Wive’s Club” proclaim that “getting work done” was merely “good hygiene.” Really? Good Hygiene? As a mother of a 12-year old girl (who’s standing precipitously on the edge of adolescence), I am concerned about the preponderance of all sorts of plastic surgery, and that younger and younger people are choosing this route; and I am even more concerned about what this preponderance says about our cultural values.
As a woman, I can only speak to this issue in terms of how it pertains to women. I think for women, as we grow up and become socialized, we learn the inherent power of beauty (and conversely the inherent powerlessness of being homely), and we learn to use it to navigate the world. “Beauty” will get us the guy. “Beauty” will help us to convince the teacher to change the B+ to an A. “Beauty” will help us kill the job interview. “Beauty” will land us the audition. “Beauty” will make us popular. “Beauty” will get us the promotion. “Beauty” will even make our mother-in-law like us more. “Beauty” is an invaluable tool for navigating the otherwise harsh realities of a cold world. And without “beauty,” how can we ever feel good about ourselves?
P-L-A-S-T-I-C S-U-R-G-E-R-Y to the rescue!!!
Perhaps that sounds rather cynical. But do we really need another research study that documents how much more successful attractive people are? I’m not making this up; it’s a real phenomenon. So to a certain extent, we can’t be surprised that so many women are obsessed with increasing their “beauty quotient.” But my question is, when does it end? When is enough, enough? Why does a woman who is 60 years old want to look like she’s 25? Does a woman ever reach a point of saying, “oh, ok, now that I’ve had a nose job, I’m beautiful. I don’t need any more work done.” And actually, let’s be candid; does plastic surgery ever achieve the ideal of enabling a woman to feel better about herself? Or is it a constant, relentless stream of “if only”?
I’m afraid that the world actually is shallow and judgmental and will judge you. And it’s even more ferociously judgmental in the Hollywood subculture. But here’s a rather audacious statement:
whatever a person thinks of you (however he or she might judge you as “beautiful” or “homely” or any other assessment) is a projection of his or her own reality. Period. It has nothing to do with you.
Recall the cliché that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Also, our feelings about a person can greatly enhance or diminish our perception of his or her “beauty.” (This alludes to the clichés that “love is blind” and “a face only a mother could love.”) So, at the end of the day, reclaim the love you innately have for yourself. Do not relinquish your love of self for the sake of external pressures to project an image. Do not obscure your beauty with dark thoughts about what “they” may think or how “they” may judge you.
P.S. You’re BEAUTIFUL.