Cosmetic surgery is common these days, but there’s a fine line between improving your appearance and wanting to look like someone else entirely.
Ready for your close-up? In a world where 21 is considered over the hill, many of us are trudging down the dark side of Mount McKinley trying to turn 50 into the new 30. Care Credit sends offers for deferred-interest loans for “elective procedures” making it seem all too easy to invest $20,000 in a new neckline. Do I loathe plastic surgeons? Under the right conditions they can be a life saver. What I loathe is going under that knife like those millionaire Housewives to achieve “inner peace” via external surprised blowfish mummification. When it comes to doctor delivered surgery to change our appearance, as with most things in life, restraint rules.
THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
Dear Marnie: I’m a 35-year-old divorced gal with a career in film production. I’ve always been fairly content with my looks, but lately I’ve noticed some sagging and I admit, I’ve considered “having some work done.” When I told my mother, who watches those Mega Make-Over Reality and Plastic Gone Wrong shows, she threw a fit. In your opinion, when is the art and science of cosmetic procedures life affirming or lunacy? — Lady with Lines in L.A.
MARNIE SAYS: Aw, you sweet thing you. When do we cross the line between loving ourselves and buying into the trendy idiocrasy of “love me, love my implants?” I’ll make it simple: reality rules with a chaser of sane. Not sure? Ask yourself the following to find out if it’s the healthy part of you nudging you on … or dark demons. If it’s the latter, no matter how much you lop off, they still won’t be exorcised.
Getting It! Cosmetic Makeover vs. Madness:
* Do I want to look my personal best – or somebody else’s? (If you aren’t fine with you, how can you be “fine” being someone else?)
Non-Affirming: “I want to look like Heidi Klum.”
Affirming: “I’m OK with me, but would feel more like “me” with a little nip or tuck.”
* Do my expectations match what my doctor is telling me?
Non-Affirming: “If I don’t look 25-years-younger, or my eyes don’t resemble Matilda the Alien-Eyed Cat, I’ll need an anti-depressive drip.”
Whether your “ideal” comes from air-brushed models in magazines or you see Cruella de Ville in the mirror (body dysmorphic disorder), you could change every strand of your physical DNA and you’d still see Cruella when you look in the mirror.
Affirming: “I’m hearing what to expect and I’m good with a fair result. I’m looking for a little clean-up to feel I’ve still got that competitive edge, not a completely new décor.”
* Is the issue real or demon-driven?
Non-Affirming: “I’m noticing every minor flaw. Any imperfection stabs at my soul and sucks my esteem.”
If this is you, your self-esteem is the problem, not your minor flaws. Before you start fooling with knives, know what’s stabbing through your precious self-image. That demon is deeper than a frown line.
Affirming: “I see that flaw and I know it gets in the way of others seeing me for the terrific person I am.”
A personal example: I developed too many skin tags. Even I knew they subtly aged me. So, I had a very fast procedure. Do I look like Bar Rafael? No. But I feel better not having those little thingies hanging off of me!
* Is the need medical and critical?
The initial foray into plastic surgery was to help those who were tragically impaired as a result of war, accident, fire or birth defects. These victims needed and wanted to re-integrate in the world. Defects or other tragedies can devastate self-esteem and should be corrected when possible. Like most things in life, the difference between affirmative “makeovers” and make-over madness is balance, harmony and sometimes the ability to face heavy-duty reality.
MARNIE: I just want your opinion, even though I know there’s nothing I can do. My niece was born with a severe facial disfigurement. It causes other kids and strangers to stare. She’s 13-years-old now. My sister (her mother) is very defensive about it. Only once did I open up the subject. When I mentioned surgery, she said, very strongly, “I want ‘Donna’ to know that appearance doesn’t matter. My sister is the free spirit type and says Donna should be loved “for who she is, not what she looks like!” Now that her daughter is getting older, I’m sure this must be causing her embarrassment. Am I being superficial about this? – Worried Aunt
MARNIE SAYS: No. Now before all my readers get on me for being shallower than an omelet pan, of course, children should be loved whether they’re sporting tiaras (OY) or resemble Cyrano. But, I’m ticked. Since you asked, I’ll let fly. Buckle up. Or maybe I should.
Getting It: My Personal Plastic Surgery Strategy:
* The whole “we love her for what’s inside” to build character is commendable – unless the impairment is so severe the costs are:
— Soul scars from feeling unwanted, shunned, bullied, teased, or tormented by others in the universe.
— Way fewer life opportunities. Yet another value is giving our child a fair shot at options: careers, relationships and life.
— Missing other medical issues that may accompany her appearance.
* If “normal” (in dress, hair, and the like) were the goal, I’d be so bored I’d hot-wire my curls. This isn’t about a mama who wore love beads and tie-died the word “peace” on her bell-bottoms. It’s about a child who is being stared at, and perhaps bullied or shunned. How does “Donna” feel and deal with her difference?
* Assuming she cares, mommy should get off her flower pot and get with the experts so her daughter doesn’t include “scary” in her self-description. My friend, we’re not talking about a 16-year-old who wants a large chest. And yes, it can be a long process and painful. Yes, there are risks and these need to weighed. But when a child is hurting as a result of a severe, but possibly correctable problem, I say … evaluate, then FIX IT. EARLY.
While living with disfigurement may foster strength, in this daunting journey called life, aren’t there enough challenges without adding the potential for evoking negative first impressions and possible long-term loneliness?
Copyright © Marnie Macauley / 2016 Singular Communications, LLC
Advice guru Marnie Winston-Macauley — therapist, author, speaker — has been a radio, TV, and syndicated advice columnist and counselor for over 20 years. Witty, wise and totally irreverent with a self-professed loathing for psychobabble, she’s written over 20 books and calendars, along with hundreds of relationship columns and features for prominent publications. She has her MS degree from the Columbia University School of Social Work. In media, her work has garnered her Emmy and Writer’s Guild Best Writing nominations. She is widowed and now living single. For personal advice, you can also find Marnie Macauley on Liveperson.com or on Presto Experts. She invites you to join her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.