13 November 2007

In Praise of Plastic Surgery

Sadly, Kanye West's mother died in surgery - cosmetic surgery. It's easy to criticize the woman for taking such a risk for the sake of appearances, but each year, millions do.

I'm not much into appearances. I've never quite cracked the code on dressing well or looking good. But looks matter - more to some than others. I have no problem with that. All of us are genetically wired to notice attractive people and to give them a little more attention. A female who looks like Natalia Estrada has more opportunities than one with a cleft palate.

During medieval times, you were born poor or rich. Serfs were serfs and until the Great Plague killed about 30 to 50% of Europeans, disrupting the social order, your level of affluence was pretty much defined by birth. There was nothing you could do about it. It is still difficult for anyone to change class - few poor become middle class and even fewer middle class become rich - but it is possible and, more importantly, most people approach life with the expectation that they can change their finances. For me, that's a wonderful thing.

Looks in the 20th century went through the same change as money in the Renaissance. Suddenly, the sperm lottery wasn't the sole determinant of whether you could be attractive. Along with diet, exercise, and fashion, the individual suddenly had a new tool - cosmetic surgery. No longer did genes randomly inherited determine the size of your nose or breasts or even your body's strategy about where to place excess fat.

There is a great bumper sticker that says, "Don't change how you look. Change how you see." It's a wonderful sentiment, but until everyone agrees not to notice or respond to beauty, we can hardly blame people who fight against fate in the form of their genes.


cce said...

Yes, there is something like a cosmetic surgery arms race beginning. As the procedures become less expensive and more ubiquitous, people begin to feel like they NEED to get their eyes lifted or their boobs augmented b/c everyone else is doing so.
Just the other day a friend of mine declared that she was going to go ahead and get the work she wants done done because, in her estimation, by the year 2017 everyone will have had cosmetic surgery. She said, "So why not start now?" She is 34 years old.

Ron Davison said...

when the nanotechnology kicks in, we might have constant repair processes going - cosmetic surgery through face cream. I hadn't thought about the arms race aspect, but you're probably right. As more and more people are beauty enhanced, average looks fall to below average.

exskindiver said...

steve always says:
"i'm, not a breast man"
i say:
"thank god for that."

Ron Davison said...

It's good that there are so many options in the world - raises the odds that we'll find a fit for these oddly constructed hearts of ours - the one thing they still haven't quite learned how to reconstruct.