Most of us seek perfection, and all of us crave to meet it wherever we can. We can find it in a technicolored sunset, a Beatles tune, or even in a tight spiral that ends up winning the game. The truth is we can find perfection in anything, so long as we have the right kind of eyes. Unfortunately, if there’s any truth in that statement, most of us need a pair of inch-thick glasses.
More than ever before, we—as a culture, as human beings—pursue perfection from within. But we’ve grown lazy in our quest, stopping unashamedly at the skin. Beauty is what it’s all about these days. We’ve all heard that beauty can be vain and indefinitely superficial, but we still don’t seem to care.
For those of us who look in the mirror and don’t like who’s looking back can improve upon their reflection by simply taking better care of ourselves. We can exercise regularly, eat right, wear sunscreen, etc. But that kind of upkeep is painstaking work, and all we want to do is play. So we go for the shortcut, the easy fix. We take out our wallets, go under the knife, and continue attempting to have everything we want and nothing we don’t.
Plastic surgery (or, if you’ve had it, “cosmetic” surgery) has been snowballing as an industry for years now. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), cosmetic procedures have increased by 170% since 1997, with surgical procedures increasing by 50% and non-surgical procedures—like Botox injections and laser hair removal— soaring up to 231%. And with statistics like that, it’s not difficult to fathom how plastic surgery has become a goliath multi-billion dollar industry, earning $10.5 billion in 2009 alone.
And who exactly is undergoing these surgeries? Well, it’s no surprise that Americans were more likely than anyone else in the world to receive some sort of cosmetic procedure, according to figures published the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery last month. Furthermore, the ASAPS stated in their annual 2009 survey that 90% of all plastic surgery patients were women. And looking at age groups, individuals between the ages of 35-50 were the most likely candidates to go under the knife last year (44% to be precise).
But is it really necessary? Of course, there are some cases where plastic surgery is the appropriate choice. After all, who could possibly not opt for surgery to fix a baby’s cleft palate or even reconstructive surgery after a traumatic accident or major surgery? Certainly, that would be nonsensical.
But those circumstances are far less prevalent on a plastic surgeon’s operating table. For cosmetic non-surgical procedures (also known as the biggest moneymaker for a plastic surgeon), Botox is at the top of the list, and with actual plastic surgery, it’s breast augmentation. Barring the rarer possibility that patients are receiving cosmetic surgery after a mastectomy, these surgeries are completely unnecessary. And, as with any unnecessary surgery, it’s too risky not to be considered foolish. As Dr. Richard D’Amico, the president-elect of the American Society for Plastic Surgery (ASPS), warned, “The difference with elective cosmetic surgeries is that patients generally start out being healthy.”
Then again, it isn’t correct to point fingers at any of these cut up, silicon-injected people. They are not the culprits, but in reality they are the victims. Because even though the majority of both men women are okay with the idea of cosmetic surgery (again, according to the ASAPS), we have to understand why anyone would subject themselves to something as needless as cosmetic surgery. The answer is simple and obvious: self-esteem and social acceptance. According to an article posted by plasticsurgery.org, a poll conducted by the ASPS discovered, “… that 91 percent of today’s patients and 90 percent of patients from the mid-eighties both said it was to improve the way they feel about themselves.”
In retrospect, the blame for the continuing spike in plastic surgery can’t possibly be shouldered by a select group, like the surgeons or patients. It would be too easy to pick on them. No, who’s really responsible is society as a whole. It seems as if our culture is traumatized by the prospect of aging. And if we can’t live forever, then we’ll at least try and trick those among us that the ink on our birth certificate is a little fresher than it really is. Everyone is at fault, and the proof is all around us, in just about everything (and everyone) we admire.
And speaking of culture, could there be some parallel between the rising number of plastic surgeries and our ever-increasing amount of celebrity worship? Bet on it. Keep in mind why we shine the spotlight on celebrities (and why we ultimately take them away). Is it their IQ’s, raw talent or charitable contributions that make us love them, or is it more often based on their pouty lips, perfect noses and slender figures? We admire them for what they give us (or more conclusively, what they show us), and as is the case with anyone we admire, we want to be just like them. Then again, judging by how many celebrities/gods have had some form of plastic surgery, they want to be them, too.
Like it or not, there’s sadly little that could be even attempted to prevent more fine, average people from undergoing cosmetic surgery. Like it or not, we’re all just going to have to accept the fact that we’re all unfortunately products of our culture, just like we’ve always been. But more importantly, we somehow need to accept ourselves, if we can. Of course we’ll always be chasing after some form of perfection, but there’s still hope that we can find it in our hearts where true beauty never has to age.