If you could change your face or your body and become perfectly beautiful, and you were young enough for it to affect your whole life, would you do it?
I’ve already asked myself this question, of course.
Plastic surgery has become so normal these days, we’re kind of wondering who to look to anymore. Ten years ago, it was simple. You hid it, and whether you were famous or not, as long as the surgery was subtle enough for people to wonder if you’d done it or not, they forgot about it. We all pretended we didn’t notice anything, and your reputation was safe and sound.
What is it that bothers us so much about modifying our physical appearance? The idea that beauty has to be natural? That some people were blessed and other people weren’t and we have to accept whatever was given to us? But it’s perfectly fine to pluck out all our hairs to have smooth skin? And to change the color of our hair as soon as it starts to show signs of age? And to wear Spanx to make people think we have a perky butt? Where do we draw the line?
When surgery went too far, though, you get totally lynched by the media (or by the non-media, like your coworkers) and it can last for years, and maybe even cost you your career.
But women, especially women in the public sphere, have been getting plastic surgery forever.
Everybody knows it. Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, and many others.
What’s changed today, though, is that plastic surgery has become so apparent that there’s no use trying to hide it. It’s become the norm.
So you end up with girls like Bella Hadid on the cover of Porter magazine, looking gorgeous, with the title MODERN GODDESS in huge letters, and you say to yourself, maybe I can be a modern goddess too, if I want to be. So you ask yourself again:
If I could change one thing…
And the crazy thing is, this is all happening at a time when women are waking up. Women are mobilizing. Trying to fight against inequality, unite and rebel. But in my Instagram Explore tab, I see images of bodies that are so modified they seem like they’ve come straight out of planet Barbie, right next to feminist slogans on pink backgrounds like, “I am a feminist, what’s your superpower?” and honestly, I have to say, it makes my brain explode. I don’t get it.
No, wait, this is the actual total brain explosion: naked women in super suggestive poses with the caption: “My body is free, I’m a feminist, so I’m naked with my finger in my mouth.”
The truth is, women are so oppressed today, and it’s so insidious, there are no guidelines anymore, there’s nothing to understand.
And when I say oppressed, I don’t necessarily mean by men. Women are oppressed by society, by ideals, and often by themselves.
Because today, to be a “real” woman, you have to be skinny (and if you’re not skinny, you’re a “revolutionary,” a “rule breaker”) you have to be beautiful, but it has to look natural, you have to be a #girlboss, you have to be a completely self-fulfilled-and-never-overwhelmed mother of two, you have to have a happy marriage, and you ALSO have to be a feminist, be cool and have a sense of humor (and be good at photography) so you can show it all off on Instagram.
[Excerpt from a conversation with two friends the other day:
“I just met this guy, he’s great but his Instagram is as manicured as Kylie Jenner’s nails.”
“Ugh, no, guys shouldn’t even have an Instagram, or if they do, it shouldn’t be very good, like there should be four photos with a couple friends fighting, max!”
= Guys don’t have the same pressure!]
So to get back to my question of the day, would you do it?
If it would guarantee you a destiny like Carla Bruni’s, as a top model in a time when top models were stars, a talented singer, and first lady of France, who admitted a few years ago that she had work done on her nose because she thought it was too round and not photogenic, would you do it?
Other women who are very intelligent, brilliant, and talented, have said yes. Women I respect, women with special talent. Nicole Kidman, for example.
And I don’t judge them, not for the changes they made (even though sometimes, like anyone, I’m a little shocked and have to Google it) or for their choice to keep it secret. It’s their choice. It’s their life as a woman. Some of them say it made them happier, some say they regret it. That’s their story. Let’s leave them alone about it.
Obviously, I’ll always prefer the women who accept themselves as they are, who expand the realm of possibilities and change the way we think about beauty, instead of forcing it to mean having a little nose and big lips. Charlotte Gainsbourg, Meryl Streep, and more recently, the “revolutionary” (!!!) Ashley Graham.
Their public personas make them models for us. And we love them because they make us feel free to be ourselves – unique and beautiful as we are, not as society wants us to be.
Because the truth is, getting your nose redone doesn’t guarantee anything. Having more pouty lips doesn’t change your life. Sure, sometimes it might make it a little better. And in that case, why not?
As long as you know that beauty doesn’t guarantee happiness, or love.
Life, and happiness, is about learning to love yourself, for yourself, regardless of other people’s opinions. Typically, that can take years and years, but when you finally get there, you don’t want to change anything anymore. You’re good as you are.
But it kind of gives me chills to think about the future, a time when it won’t be acceptable to choose to live with and love whatever we were born with. When young girls will feel so much pressure to be beautiful, they’ll resort to plastic surgery before they’ve even had time to develop a self-image that goes beyond the mirror society is holding out to them.
But I hope before that time comes, thanks to what’s happening in the world today, women will have learned to make peace with themselves and will understand that what counts isn’t anyone else’s approval but your own. What counts is the journey to yourself.
Translated by Andrea Perdue