Renee Zellweger was in the news last week because, after a lengthy absence from public view, she suddenly reappeared and didn’t look anything like the cute girl from the Jerry McGuire movie. Although she looks her age of 45, she has morphed into a traditional beauty instead of the off-beat, quirky one that made her a star. So the issue du jour is whether plastic surgery, even successful ones like this one, reflects a growing female psychological problem with aging.
But this isn’t a just a female issue. I have a male 65-year-old friend who just had a $6,000 facelift because he wanted to look younger.
The New York Times fleshed-out/broke-down the issue by doing a Room for Debate discussion with six opinionated guests. My favorite was by novelist Jennifer Weiner, who humorously suggested the following to women:
- Your body is an object, available for public consumption. To paraphrase one of the gentlemen of 4Chan who hunted down and released private nude shots of famous actresses, “You’d never let an ugly guy like me see you naked. Well, ha ha, not your choice!” You don’t get to decide who sees you naked; some random angry stranger does.
- Your body must meet certain standards. You have to be young, fit, free of sag, flab, flop, chub, droop, stretch marks, tan lines, grey hairs and wrinkles. Your body must be, essentially, an anatomical impossibility. Think Anna Nicole Smith’s front, Nicki Minaj’s back and Gisele Bundchen in between. Any variation and you’re either fat or anorexic. This is true for every moment of your life, except during the final two weeks of pregnancy, when you’re allowed to look as if you ate a slightly larger-than-normal lunch, or the three days after giving birth, during which you are permitted a tiny paunch, but only if you promise to lose every ounce of weight within the following two weeks.
- None of this can look like work. You must appear young, you must be fit, you must maintain a silhouette best emblemized by cartoon character Jessica Rabbit, but you cannot betray that this came at a cost, that it took work, or that – God forbid – you had work done. Show up visibly altered and you’re a punchline. Show up looking older and you’re pathetic. Maybe you should consider just not showing up anywhere at all!
A female surgeon thought that a strong fight against aging makes sense:
- I am 39 years old, and since the age of 32, I have been using Botox and fillers. I have had cosmetic surgery myself, and having had two children, I will have more cosmetic surgery to keep myself fit, attractive and youthful. To age gracefully does not mean that one should do nothing. The products available on the market today, if utilized appropriately, truly help to keep us looking younger, healthier and, most important, more confident.
An old married guy thought all anti-aging efforts were stupid:
- But too many people are not accepting this normal aging process. This fuels the rampant, exploitative marketing of plastic surgery, Botox and over-the-counter “cosmeceuticals,” the latter combining the terms cosmetic and pharmaceutical, advertised as though they were drugs curing a disease…. As for us, we would rather chalk up these exterior changes to experience and work to retain our joyful inner life, without plastic surgery or other anti-aging products.
And finally, an old model argued for women of the world to unite:
- Women are judged on their looks and then told their “looks” fade over time, which leads them to believe they will be less valued as they age. No wonder women spend billions of dollars every year on Botox, wrinkle creams and cosmetic surgery to stave off the signs of life as time moves on. The truth is that there is a unique beauty to a woman at every stage of her life, from new-born to adolescent, through pubescence, adulthood and beyond. When women stop committing ageism against each other and themselves, others will follow suit and our great granddaughters can grow up in a pro-age society.
Where do I stand? Currently, I am against plastic surgery for me. Why? I have settled into retirement, and so my life has become mostly uncompetitive. I don’t need to look better so that I can better compete with others. But I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to stay in the fast lane.