The Patch

January 22, 2007

Monday 22nd January – Plastic Society

Filed under: Miscellany — Amie @ 5:02 am

Alice could not join us this week, so I am filling in for her. I hope I can uphold the standard.

Note: I have a lot of sources for my statistics and rather than making a separate citation sheet, I’ve linked to the sites where I obtained the information. I apologize for the copious amounts of links.

A few days ago as I was sitting in the lunch room at work peacefully enjoying a slice of leftover pizza and a book, I happened to overhear a conversation concerning plastic surgery. A woman from accounting was talking about how plastic surgeons “just take a hammer to your nose! It‘s awful!” One of the men she was talking to quickly piped up in a thick Texan drawl, “Well, yer under when they do it, so ya don’t feel anything.” The other man shared a quick anecdote about someone he knew who had gotten a nose job and how it was a few days before she was back at work. He said she had two big black eyes and it took two weeks to fully recover.
“I couldn’t even imagine…” said the woman.
“Well,” said the first man, “Look at it this way: would ya rather suffer through two weeks of pain or complain about yer nose for the rest of yer lahfe.”
Well! That sure puts it into perspective for me. The only thing the gentlemen failed to consider, I think, was the point.

Plastic surgery is a rapidly growing tumor on the pancreas of modern culture. Last year in the UK, it’s popularity increased 40% over 2005. British citizens spent £539 million on their favorite procedures, such as blepharoplasty (cosmetic eyelid surgery) and the always popular rhinoplasty (the common nose job). In 2005 Americans spent almost $12.4 billion (approximately £6.3 billion) on “cosmetic procedures,” favoring liposuction and breast augmentation. And it’s not just rich old ladies getting it done these days; the middle class, the young, and the male are all getting in on the game in increasingly alarming numbers.

Yup, you heard it here folks; now you too can afford plastic surgery! Gone are the days of having to cut out your daily venti mocha latte and skipping that second helping. Says Dr. Walter Gerhardt, chairman of the American Society of Plastic Surgery’s Public Education Committee,

“’People are making some decisions… For instance, they might keep a car a few more years to work the cost of plastic surgery into their budgets.’”

“But I don’t have a car!” you cry. “Surely I could find no way to balance the expense of a few alterations to my yet imperfect physique!” Don’t worry, friend; you can always finance your plastic surgery! Why not take out a loan? These days it’s easy for anyone to afford this look. In a survey conducted in 2005 of Americans considering plastic surgery within two years almost 30% of the 644 people polled had incomes lower than $30,000 (approx. £15,000) a year. Hmm… one eyelid surgery is going to run you about $2,800 (approx. £1,400) and keep you out of work for up to ten days. Those must be some desperately ugly eyelids.

“But I’m only 19!” you yell. “No doctor would consider allowing me to have such drastic surgery at such a young and precarious age!” Ah, but don’t give up hope yet. In 2005, 174,851 Americans eighteen years old and younger, and 2.7 million between the ages of 19 and 34, went under the knife (statistics unavailable for the UK). So never fear; if you’ve got the funds it should be easy to find a doctor willing to implant new life into your chin.

“But… but… but I’m a man!” you weep. “Plastic surgery is a woman thing, like tampons and the Pill!” Wrong again, amigo. Nearly one million American men underwent cosmetic procedures in 2005, raising the percentage from 3% of all American surgeries in 2004 to 11% in 2005. Likewise in England, the number of men who had cosmetic procedures jumped from 1,348 to 2,440; that’s up three percent to 11%. Those troublesome moobs and that unsightly schnoz can be a thing of the past without having to make up any excuses, and without having to spend any time at the gym. Plus, as of late, you can even get your belly-button fixed! I recently read in D magazine about a plastic surgeon who has done almost 100 surgeries on belly buttons in less than a year. The blurb reads:

“Of course a navel sculpting cosmetic surgeon lives here [Dallas]. This town offers Botox injections at the mall… [W]ho wants to pay for a tummy tuck only to emerge, post-op, with that same innie or, worse, that ugly, distended outie? Not the brave women of Dallas.”

Now wait a second. Is it just me or there something wrong with this picture? I thought surgeries were to be avoided, and now I’m finding out that people are, in droves, taking out personal loans for operations they don‘t even need? If someone has been, say, badly burned and has reconstructive surgery to cover the injuries, I’m all for that. However I don’t for one second believe that eleven and a half million Americans and twenty-two thousand Brits needed nose jobs and face lifts. As far as the whole belly-button surgery goes, that’s just over the top. The magazine states that a navel surgery can cost up to $3,900 (very nearly £2,000). What a ridiculous waste of money! First of all, what is so bad about outies? Second, who even sees your belly-button often enough to make it worth the time, money, and effort of changing it? I think the “brave women of Dallas” and the world are really not all that brave; in fact I think they might be a little insecure.

What has gone so horribly wrong in our society that has created this huge surge toward and acceptance of permanent body alteration? Since when is it okay that millions of people are so disgusted with their perfectly normal, average selves that they take such a radical step toward self-satisfaction? Of course it’s easy to simply dump the problem on “The Media,” which has become the scapegoat for all of today’s problems, but lets face it. We control the media; we are the media! What we see on TV is exactly what we are asking, no, what we are begging for. Shows like Extreme Makeover and The Biggest Loser wouldn’t air if people weren’t tuning in eagerly. We eat up reality television hungrily when everyone knows that “reality TV” is a misnomer; there’s nothing realistic about it at all. The people whose faces are splattered all over our TV sets might not be celebrities (yet) but they don’t necessarily represent the average population. Networks pick the most attractive people they can find out of the auditioning crowd, set them in the most exotic places they can think of, and slap it on the air. The mentality it creates is that beautiful people have beautiful lives. We regular Joe Schmoes to wonder why we can’t look, and therefore live, like they do, as we mark our calendars for next season’s premier. Suddenly the idea of plastic surgery looks pretty appealing.

Once Survivor is over, we flick on our computers and head straight to YouTube where everyone is on display for everyone else to see. Sure, a lot of the popular videos have attractive people in them, but what about this? Not so sexy, but 751,510 hits is pretty good for fifteen minutes of fame. With the omnipresence of YouTube and cell phones, you could very well end up as tomorrow‘s next big thing. And you want to look your best don’t you? No one wants to be the guy on American Idol (or Pop Idol if you prefer) who gets laughed out of the auditioning room for looking funky. Maybe it’s not so mysterious that a face lift seems like the perfect quick fix to one’s inner insecurities. And a quick boob job, and a quick tummy tuck, and…

I find it really disheartening, putting it mildly, that what people are really worried about is not global warming, not human rights, and certainly not saving the whales; it’s about the way we look. What can we do to reverse this trend? For a start, we can stop being so hard on ourselves and others about how we look. If we started to worry more about what we can do in the world than what we can see in each other’s hairstyle and chin shape, our culture would be filled with productive, and certainly much more self-confident, members of society.



  1. Oooh, I like, Amie! Well done 🙂

    Though I’m not having you as my understudy too often, you write too well…grr!


    Comment by Alice DOWHYJ — January 22, 2007 @ 12:42 pm | Reply

  2. That’s really well written. I taught her everything she knows =) Glad to see you managed to come up with a nice closing paragraph, write another one soon.

    Comment by Marton — January 22, 2007 @ 1:49 pm | Reply

  3. Nice job, Amie, I like 🙂

    Comment by amyfeldman — January 22, 2007 @ 2:49 pm | Reply

  4. Amie, this article is fantastic! Well done!

    Comment by denesha — January 22, 2007 @ 8:42 pm | Reply

  5. Smashing job!

    Comment by Claire — January 22, 2007 @ 11:06 pm | Reply

  6. […] successful. I volunteered to write articles as a fill in from time to time; I only ended up writing one article (which, in retrospect, could use a re-write) which was on a topic which makes me very VERY angry, […]

    Pingback by If punching people in the face made them less stupid, I would be a strong advocate for violence. « Oh, thank God… — May 15, 2008 @ 12:10 am | Reply

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