In the 1950 classic All About Eve, an ambitious ingénue (Eve) starts out by helping an aging actress, Margo Channing, played by Bette Davis, as her personal assistant. Soon, Eve has also helped herself to Channing’s career, friends, theatre connections and husband. Playing the ‘aging’ actress, Davis looks pretty ragged. There are bags under her eyes, her face is puffy, body’s a bit saggy. Yup, totally believable as an over-the-hill actress. According to the script, her character is forty.
Davis worked at a time when plastic surgery clinics were not, as they are now, packed cheek-to-jowl with neighbourhood bodegas, nail bars and Starbucks cafés. Places where you can get your lips shot up with whatever lips get shot up with these days. Back fat? Silicone? Gore-Tex? She wore her mileage on her face and it riveted us with its fierce beauty.
Today, it’s a rare bird whose shadow hasn’t darkened the stoop of a plastic surgeon’s office. The pressure to look ‘new and improved’—even for us non-celebs—is too great. When everyone else is doing it, it’s no fun hanging out with your contemporaries and looking like their mother.
Insecure boomers are not the only customers. The tinkering starts young with people changing noses, eye and chin shapes, sizes and shapes of breasts and butts.
The plastic surgery industry is all too happy to provide its services to all comers. In cahoots with the fashion and beauty media, plastic surgeons position their offerings as ‘maintenance’ or ‘preventive care’ something that sounds both benign and morally virtuous, like daily flossing or regular exercise. A current advertising print campaign for a new brand of injectible shows a woman with flawless skin caressing her face with a feather.
I just don’t buy that getting your face shot up with chemicals and muscle paralyzing toxins is going to feel just like being stroked with a nightingale’s feather, do you?
But a lot of people do because, according to the Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, over 3.3 million procedures were done in 2010. Chin implants alone rose 71% over the prior year, thus giving the saying, “keep your chin up” a renewed muscularity.
In the U.K., a “voice of reason” – in the somewhat surprising form of the president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons - is saying we’ve all gone too far and need to acknowledge that butt implants and chin augmentations and eye and boob jobs are medical procedures after all, not mani-pedis. They come with serious health risks, not just esthetic ones. That should be obvious. Yet millions of people who eagerly go under the knife for a tit job, would dread the prospect of a gall bladder operation.
Speaking of esthetic risks, does anyone look better after plastic surgery? Different, yes. But, actually better? I’ve never met anyone who did. And by now I’ve seen enough doctored faces to qualify as a decent sample size.
In a best case scenario, a haggard person with droopy skin looks a bit less haggard and a bit less droopy. But only for a little while. Then gravity does, what gravity does. And it’s back to the doc’s for more tinkering. And a little more. Eventually it’s one big patch job. (If you don’t believe me, check out some daytime TV.)
There’s the saying, “If you go to Midas, you’ll get a muffler.” Same goes for plastic surgeons. Unless you need a new chin/eyes/butt/cheeks/lips/breasts, don’t visit the chin/eye/butt/cheek/lip/breast guy.