Thursday, May 1, 2014

Are you who we think you are?

Two weeks ago I paid a visit to a plastic surgeon for the first time.  No, it wasn’t a vain (so to speak) attempt to improve my looks, but rather to have a cancerous growth cut from my ear by someone who, hopefully, would prevent me having one ear looking normal and one reminiscent of Mr. Spock.

The visit was very educational.

It was clear from the very beginning that the practice focuses on looks.  When I walked into the operating room, the surgeon offered to remove two moles that I have on my face.  For free.  The subject had never surfaced during the initial consultation, but he obviously thought they were blemishes whose removal would improve my looks.  Then onto the surgery - I am happy to report that neither of my ears is pointed nor grossly disfigured.  The surgeon did an excellent job.

But what really caught my attention was what I saw while sitting in the reception area:  any number of women passed through whose faces belied their age, but whose hands, necks, or bodies provided a more accurate picture.  I have to admit that none of these women looked as though their faces were encased in plastic or cling wrap as I sometimes see.  All parts appeared to move reasonably normally.  But nevertheless, that they had had something done to them was very obvious.  And a fair number of them were accompanied by an older male companion.

The whole episode got me thinking about the growing number of people around the world who resort to surgery or other means to enhance their self image, or at least the image they want the rest of us to see.

The numbers are eye-opening.

In the USA in 2013 alone, there were just shy of 1,800,000 surgical procedures and 13,500,000 non-surgical procedures, such as botox treatment and laser hair removal. (Source: American Society of Plastic Surgeons).  Of the surgical procedures, the five most common ones were breast augmentation (290,000), nose reshaping (221,000), eyelid surgery (215,000), liposuction (200,000), and facelifts (133,000).  Of the non-surgical procedures, botox or equivalents were most common by far (6,300,00), followed by various soft-tissue fillers (2,200,000), chemical peel (1,200,00) and laser hair removal (1,100,000).

Looking at the global scene, I was not surprised to find the USA at the top of the class in numbers of procedures.  The countries that followed did surprise me: Brazil, China, Japan, and Mexico.

Another report provided the following breakdown: The five top female cosmetic plastic surgery procedures were:

Breast augmentation
Nose reshaping
Eyelid surgery
Tummy tuck

Top male cosmetic plastic surgery procedures were:

Nose reshaping
Eyelid surgery
Breast reduction

It is easy to to see the reason why some women undergo breast augmentation.  They feel more attractive and probably are more confident.

But it doesn't always work out.

The natural look
I’ve always thought I could tell if someone had had cosmetic surgery, and always wondered what the point is if others could see you’ve had it.  But with these numbers, I wouldn’t be surprised if I am wrong.  Maybe a lot of people, male and female, whom  
I know have been improved, and I can’t see it.

Of course cosmetic surgery is not always successful - and I have to admit we tend to focus on the failures rather than the successes.  But it is easy to see why.

Can you imagine the lipstick budget?
Michael Jackson 1987 - pre-surgery
Michal Jackson 2007
Michael Jackson a few days before he died

My first exposure to the practice of changing how one looks was in a musical review, called Wait a Minim, that ran in South Africa in the mid-1960s.  One of the stars, Jeremy Taylor, wrote and sang a song entitled Black-White Calypso.  (You can listen to it here.)

Here are the words:

The other day reading Drum magazine
I'll tell you some of the things I seen
Advertisements for special cream in every section,
Give you a soft and pale complexion
Make your black skin lighter, creamier, and whiter.
But when I look in the Star, what do I find
But advertisements of a different kind
Because it seems that the white people have a notion
To make them selves black with the Sun Tan Lotion

CHORUS - Tell me, tell me, tell me why.
I want to know the fact
Why all the black people want to go white
and the white people want to go black.

Now the other day the native girl she say to me,
Au! Master, your madam she is very skinny
She say she also is much too thin
She must have some fattening vitamin
She say that it's a fact that
All the men like her bottom to be fat
But in the northern suburbs the women are used
To living on lettuce and orange juice
To be slim is their preoccupation
My god, what a crazy nation - this is so

Tell me, tell me...CHORUS –

Turning the pages of Zonk I see
A special tonic, which guarantee
To make your curly hair straight
And bring you success on every date.
Misfortune in love is attributed there
To having such coal black curly hair.
But when I pass by the Rosebank Beauty Parlour
I see the women sitting there hour after hour
With a great big thing on their head
trying to make their straight hair curly instead
Ain't it ridiculous!

Tell me, tell me...CHORUS -

I have a simple remedy
For all this frustrated energy
If you blacks have too much of this pigment stuff
And the white people say you've not got enough
Don't waste your time buying creams and jellies
Trying to change the colour of your bellies
but follow the example of my brother
He married a black girl, they love each other
And she gives him a little bit of black in the night
And he gives her a little bit of white
That's the solution!

Now I, now I, I know why
I can tell you the fact
Why all the black people want to go white
and the white people want to go black.

Just the other day, I read that there are now health warnings about ‘Brazilian’ treatments for straightening hair that contain dangerously high levels of the carcinogen formaldehyde (eNCA report or the state of New York).  Perhaps those who have curly hair should let it be.

Being straightened

Then, of course, there are those men who think their penises are too small and resort to an amazing variety of remedies: penis pills, creams, brutal stretching exercises, horrific-looking devices, such as penis extenders and vacuum pumps, and penis surgery. You can visit some of the device sites here and here - not for the faint of heart.


Almost none of it works. According to WebMD, the few approaches that can work often have modest benefits and serious side effects. How serious? In some cases, erectile dysfunction - just the opposite of the desired effect. 

It is interesting to read that most men who opt for an enlargement treatment have average-sized penises.  It is just their perception of their own equipment that leads them to try to do something.  Most doctors advocate weight loss as the best remedy.  It doesn’t enlarge the penis, but it looks as though it does as the fat recedes at the penis’s base.

But, then again, I just read in Times Live that an oversized penis is often the cause of infidelity in women – apparently it causes such discomfort that they seek solace elsewhere.  I guess we’ll soon see a rush on penis reduction potions.

Well, I’m off to have liposuction and a tummy tuck, followed by a buttock lift, hair transplantation, and a little botox for facial definition.  If you don’t recognize the hairy man with a Michael Stanley nametag at Crimefest or Bouchercon, please ask if it is me.  I may need a sympathetic friend or two.

I think the boy in the reception area, who was waiting for his younger looking mummy to come out of the surgeon's rooms, put it into perspective.  He sang this cute song:

Old MacDonald had a farm, E I E I O
And on that farm he had some chicks, E I E I O
With a tuck tuck here, and a tuck tuck there,
Here a tuck,
There a tuck, Everywhere a tuck, tuck.
Old MacDonald had a farm, E I E I O

Okay, okay.  It IS pretty bad.  But it was funny.

I'm late for my appointment.

Stan - Thursday


  1. Tee hee, thanks for that Stan. Indeed penis enlargement leads to fainting fits as blood drains from the brain... to go elsewhere. So what is the point???

    1. Ah, so that's the real reason women whose partners are over-endowed are straying - making love to a dead fish is no fun, I would imagine.

  2. Is it possible that our world purposely makes us feel inadequate because it wants to sell us things?

  3. Okay, first things first. Glad to hear your ear surgery was a success, Stan!

    Second point. Caro, are those "fainting fits as blood drains from the brain" on the part of the pitcher or the catcher? :)

    And Annamaria your point reminds me of a true life story that came from one in the know whom I will not identify. But you'll love it. In the film, "The First Wives' Club"--based on Hollywood moguls' wives--the Goldie Hawn character had her "lips done." Made them as wild as the "lipstick budget" photo above. It was meant to be joke, a parody on the cosmetic surgery craze in Hollywood. But what happened was a priceless, or rather not so priceless, phenomenon: The film led to a run on plastic surgeons for "First Wives' Club lips." The plastic surgeons couldn't believe it, some even tried pointing out it was a joke, but the clients insisted and the surgeons ran with it, still do. Laughing, no doubt, all the way to the bank.

    By the way, Caro, I'm sure happy it is you and not I who has to follow this post.:)

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