I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life, but one thing I’ve always been sure of was my decision to undergo plastic surgery at 18. My mother has a petite nose with an adorable but prominent bump to it. My father has a large nose that has given him a distinguished, aquiline profile and complements his conventionally attractive good looks. Together they made two children with oversized, bumpy noses. This is fine for my brother, because he is a man. It’s his most prominent feature, but his masculinity makes his features look dignified. For me, it meant an unbalanced face and profile and the inability to drink from narrow glasses (this sounds cute and insignificant until you’re standing at a wedding reception explaining that you cannot take a glass of sparkling cider to toast with because your nose is in the way).
A month after my 18th birthday, I underwent plastic surgery to correct this. The surgeon shaved down the bone to eliminate the bump, brought my nose closer to my face, turned up the end, and inserted a chin implant to give the impression that my nose is smaller. I chose my surgeon very well, and he refused to make my nose any smaller than he did, hence the chin implant. He would not do anything exaggerated and would not perform a surgery that could have disrupted the balance of my face.
My nose is still my most prominent facial feature. It always will be. But it now fits my face, and I can drink from every kind of glass. And that brings me to the subject of “natural” beauty and the disdain many women have for anyone like me, who has made the private and personal decision to gently alter her body. As noted in today’s Opinion piece in the NYT on the subject, the women of Instagram who are self-righteously condemning any alteration have themselves been genetically blessed with “perfect” faces and bodies. Good for them that they were not born with features that were overlarge or out of proportion. That is a lovely stroke of luck. But in criticizing women who choose these things for themselves, they are only perpetuating personal attacks and the pressure women feel to conform. The last thing I or any other woman needs is a woman born with celebrated features to tell me it’s immoral to change my own to be better accepted. The intention behind the “natural” beauty movement is commendable. But don’t tell me what I can or cannot do with my own body.
I’ll quote from the column today:
“I don’t think that the women who are staunchly against plastic surgery are worried about women’s health or self-esteem; I think they are motivated by fear that their pretty privilege - the benefits they get to enjoy for meeting those standards without the help of a doctor - is at risk. If beauty becomes democratized by more people simply paying surgeons for it, the proverbial finish line gets pushed further away…While some of us choose a path of radical self-acceptance and reject the beauty ideals that we’ve been told we haven’t reached, many of us have instead found ways to leverage those standards for our own survival and success. We adopt certain beauty practices, from fake lashes to cheek fillers, in order to pass, to survive and to thrive.”
And my sole objection to that comment is the lack of the Oxford comma. We cannot live in awareness of outrageous modern beauty standards and simultaneously reject anyone who conforms. That is not the way forward.