"Just a bit off the sides" - we used to hear this in barber shops. Now we hear it in plastic surgeons' offices. What has the world come to?

My dad's SO is a nurse in a plastic surgeon's office. Actually, the best plastic surgeon in Israel. It is unbelievable who goes there. Everybody who is anybody in Israel, it seems, has had something done to their body. Be it rhinoplasty, liposuction, whatever. This brings about several important questions:

  1. Is everybody dissatisfied with how they look? I personally am. I can't extrapolate from myself to everyone else, but it seems no one I know is happy with their looks. I'm even talking about models. You've heard of anorexic models. And you've probably thought it strange. Well, it is. Even people with "perfect" bodies are unsatisfied. But then again, it's so easy to be dissatisfied. Everyone has a chubby belly or narrow shoulders, or an aquiline nose, or protruding ears, or small breasts, or big breasts, or a hairy chest, or skinny legs.... With just that limited list, I've probably hit a nerve with you. I've hit quite a few with myself. Well, can't we just be happy with who we are?

  2. There is now an easy solution. I am not completely happy with my exterior. So I've embarked upon a fitness plan, and am trying to build my body. It's difficult to stick to. I've seen people try to diet. It's damn hard. Isn't it easier just to get some fat sucked out?

  3. If it's okay, why is everyone ashamed of it? I know 3 people who have had nose jobs. They all said that they had a problem with their nose (specifically, a deviated septum), and while they were at it, they had some cosmetic surgery. Yeah, right! If it's okay, why not admit it? If it's not, why do it?

  4. Isn't it better to learn to accept ourselves? It's quite difficult to accept oneself in this society. So what is the solution? As far as I've been able to gather, plastic surgery doesn't make anybody completely happy with themselves, because usually the object of surgery is a symptom and not the cause. What I mean is, there are people, for example, with a very big nose (like Cyrano de Bergerac), which, when remedied restores their self confidence. But those are not the majority. Most people who have cosmetic surgery performed on them come back for more. (I DO know this for a fact, I am not just tossing my beliefs around). So this makes you think, what should we fix? The nose, or the neurosis?

  5. Money makes most plastic surgeons blind. In a recent article in an Israeli newspaper, a woman whose nose was "perfect" (surgically speaking, it was flawless - decided upon by several surgeons), went to several plastic surgeons, asking for a nose job. All but one agreed to operate her, and only one of those who agreed said that in his opinion she didn't need surgery. Basically this means that anyone (with enough money) can choose to alter any part of his body alterable by science.

  6. Is it morally wrong? Should anyone be able to change his looks at a whim? Should we just learn to be satisfied with what we have? Then again, why not? If you can look better, and can afford it, why not improve your looks with a quick flick of the wrist?

On a technical level, I class cosmetic surgery as another form of body modification, no different from tattooing, piercing and branding. The difference, in my experience, lies in a person's psychological view of their own body. Body modification is all too often used as a "quick fix," avoiding confrontation of the underlying dissatisfaction that initially provoked the "need" for physical change. In the past, society has fleetingly chastised itself for causing people to focus only on others' appearances - his hair, her tits, his muscles. It can be depressing to see people rejected on the basis of their hair colour; to see people inflict this same facile hatred on themselves is dangerous. Eating disorders and compulsive requests for plastic surgery have gone so far as to ruin people's lives.

Conversely, once a person has come to terms with their body, the freedom to modify it in any ways that are available should not be problematic for them. To some people, their skin is a canvas, and attempting to keep it as flawless as the day they were born is a waste of effort. (Do you want to die without any scars?)

I don't think cosmetic surgery is the true problem here. Certainly, it manifests itself as a major scapegoat for many people's image-related problems, but it plays the same role as navel piercings did for teenage females in the late 90s; they are the latest image modifiers that must be fulfilled. The true issue here is people's self images. Once people can learn to combat their own insecurities, cosmetic surgery will generally be treated as a tool to be respected and explored, but definitely not abused.

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