[It’s taken me about a week to pull this post together. In that time, these amazing posts were written – this one, by Sinéad O’Hart and this by Foz Meadows. Their focus is slightly different but go read them. It’s okay – I’ll wait.]
Flipping through a ‘celebrity’ magazine in a waiting room, I read about a person who had plastic surgery to her nose. She stated in the interview that she broke her nose in her teens and the surgery corrected not only the resulting medical issues, but also her ‘footballer’s nose’. She said her injury made her nose obviously crooked and up until the accident, she’d felt fine about her nose. She also mentioned a few individuals commented about her ‘big nose’ on social media.
I found her comments mixed and confused.
She emphasised the corrective surgery and understated the cosmetic changes, calling those ‘an opportunity’ that arose from the corrective procedure. Although she felt happier with the new look of her nose she still ‘didn’t want people to think I was having plastic surgery purely for cosmetic reasons’ – not that she had a problem with people who chose to do that, she stated ‘I’m just not that person’. She was neither pro or anti plastic surgery, but said ‘you can go too far’. ‘Family and friends said my nose was fine, but random people would comment’ and also stated the negative social media comments ‘didn’t bother me that much’.
Believe it or not, this post isn’t about plastic surgery – though perhaps that’s the corollary. It’s the cause behind it that distresses me. That these ‘celebrity’ magazines promote and depict women as flawless, pore-less, photo-shopped and unrealistic. They’re loaded with ads showing us the ‘beauty’ we should aspire to with the implication that anything different is unattractive and should be fixed. They applaud those who’ve managed to match these unrealistic expectations of ‘beauty’ and maintain them. They bombard us with the notion it’s okay to insult ‘celebs’ who haven’t bothered with make-up that morning, or look less svelte in their bathers, or haven’t pinged back to skinny after having a baby or are, heaven forbid, looking their age. And after these judgements, if someone decides to have plastic surgery to match these ideals – they are mocked.
It hurts everyone. We are beginning to consider natural variations in the human form as faults.
I know this isn’t new. We’ve manipulated our idea of ‘beauty’ since we could depict it and our notions have altered over the centuries – but this modern world is increasingly visual. We grow up with skinny dolls and size 6 store manikins (size 4 US) and we find an unrealistic concentration of this idealised beauty in television and film. We touch-up and Photoshop. We contend with advertising designed to create and reinforce insecurities in order to sell more products. There is no escaping it.
At what point do we see truth in this? At what point do we believe our features could be ‘better’. At what point do we think this of others? At what point do we think it’s okay to say it aloud? Then you realise you can read those questions in an endless loop.
We remember these moments quite vividly. Like when my grandmother greeted my teenage self with the words ‘you’re awfully spotty today’. My dear grandmother lacked tact and simply spoke every unfiltered thought. I suddenly wondered who else was thinking it and not saying it. On another occasion in sixth grade when my nose distinctly grew in size, a teacher commented on it and asked in jest if I’d been telling lies – that was the first time I ever gave my appearance any thought.
I generally don’t read celebrity magazines, but I picked up this one because of the ‘before’ photograph on the cover. The photograph showing (what she described as) her crooked ‘footballer’s nose’. It looked exactly like my nose. Mine. For a moment I didn’t know what to think. Should I be sad she felt the need for cosmetic surgery? Should I be happy she feels better because she changed it? Should I be upset that she indirectly insulted my appearance? Perhaps all of the above.
But I also felt defiant against conformity.
Embrace your natural variations, they are perfect because they are yours and they look like you.