The principal had the operation during the school holiday, telling no one. But, everybody knew. When school began again with the usual fresh start feeling, a new year of students timid in the hallways, the floors smelling lemony and polished, she looked like new too. A little too fresh-faced. Everyone acted like nothing had changed. It was obvious though; the principal’s nose had undergone a dramatic change over the summer, changing her facial characteristics right along with it. What had once had a slightly bulbous nostriled end, now had smooth lines and two petite openings for breath to pass. A copy of the pandemic of nose alterations I had seen all around the city. Her transformation was the first I had witnessed up close with before and after comparison. It amazed me how much it changed the way she looked, maybe even the way she behaved. And left me wondering to myself why. Her nose hadn’t been a monstrous appendage before. It now had a look of sameness, no unique character to it at all.
Not just noses are easy to spot. My friends and I have sometimes played a game, perhaps not the friendliest one, of fake or not. To be clear, I am talking about the superficial changes, not the kind that follows a catastrophic event or defect. Double-bubble breast implants with a plastic sheen across the cleavage, almost always shown to advantage. Wrinkle-free faces voided of laugh lines around the eyes and thought crinkles on the brow under the slice and pull of a face lift or a few injections. Toothpaste tube lips pinned on to the face, like a Mrs. Potato Head doll. There is even more than what is immediately visible, like implants of plastic shoved into the ass. All this, so many people, and I am still wondering why. Why go under a knife? Why put synthetics into your flesh? Maybe it’s a combination of things.
So much of the world has become commodified under the direction of capitalism. Everything packaged neat and tidy. This drive has triggered a subconscious desire to create ourselves into the perfect product for someone else’s consumption–friends, rivals, partner, society, an overseeing big brother to pat us on the head and say don’t worry you are beautiful. It’s quite possible, because we have an unrealistic expectation of what this product should look like. Many videos of photograph editing ‘magic’ have gone viral in recent years. The photographers start with a human looking model, then the original image passes through a gauntlet of electronic surgery changes. Skin is washed of any mark, eyes enlarged, neck elongated, lips adjusted in hue, even makeup added in as an after thought. The finished image no longer human, an imagined look of the ideal human product.
Or, as an alternative source, has fear of death driven us to this course. Has the fear of this ultimate unknown driven us to hide behind plastic masks of youth in hopes that we can trick death out of coming for us in the end. In modern society, a wrinkled and aged face no longer garners respect, but ignites a feeling of discomfort and possibly as much as disgust. Beyond that face we see an image of the grave and the gaping pit of the inevitable end of our own lives. Thus, society has become crazy for longevity promoting fads of food habits or herbs to stay young, cleanses, guru advice.
Someone told me that only four percent of women think they are beautiful. Even if this is not accurate, it is hardly surprising and not because women are such humble beings. No, we are the most hateful judges of ourselves. But why? Who hasn’t seen pictures of themselves at high school or university and thought “hey, I was pretty damn hot”? And at that time, many women suffer from extreme low self-esteem. Especially those who don’t fit into the mold of the acceptable teen look. Now so many of us obsess over big breasts, a rounded ass, tight skin and everything else in the prescribed shape. This obsession has even spread to male vanity, as men attempt to maintain perfect skin and muscled physiques.
I’ve learned to accept my acne scars from years dealing with difficult skin, breasts a size that are often difficult to find adult bras for, early onset forehead wrinkles due to my 20s when I just worried and was sad too much, and a pear-shaped body. I hope I can accept my aging process as it happens.
It is inevitable. The wrinkles will continue to multiply and deepen as my skin becomes slacker and softly translucent. My nose and ears will grow while my face remains the same size. I will go gray, maybe shrink a little. One day my face will look so different to me in the mirror, but it will still be mine. And this is not all that I am, and everything I have. It is not the measure of my life at the end.