Between a Scalpel and a Hard Place

People post a lot of stupid things on Facebook (Why yes, I will accept this award for understatement of the decade, thank you very much).

Usually I respond by either hiding offenders’ updates from my newsfeed or just severing my tenuous facebook friendship with them completely.

Once in a while though, I get sucked in.

The most recent incidence of this was after a former small-town journalism colleague posted a link to a daily mail “article” beyond ludicrously entitled: “Anjelica Huston, 61, becomes Hollywood’s latest pillow face victim as she displays her suspiciously plump cheeks.”

Whatever the everloving hell that means.

The mean-spirited article pile of nonsense features a couple of unflattering photos of the actress, who looks like she has probably had some cosmetic surgery and comments on how her newly smooth face makes her neck look “crepey.”

Great. Excuse me while I pack my bags for an extrasolar planet, please.

My facebook pal’s comment on the piece was somehow not: “Can you believe how needlessly cruel and weirdly invested in other people’s physical appearances this writer/publication is?” but rather, he took a look at it and the unfortunate photos alongside it and asked instead, “Why do people do this to themselves?”

Now, it’s not a totally unreasonable thing to ask if he was genuinely somehow unaware of any possible reason someone would choose to have cosmetic surgery. But I had a hunch, what he was really doing was just gleefully feeding into the freakshow frenzy.

The follow-up comments from his friends, all women, confirmed my suspicion:

“That is frightening.”

“she looks like jabba the hut”

“She looks like a Jim Henson creation now. Time for her to only be allowed on the radio.”

“joan rivers doesn’t look so strange anymore.”

Yes, I could have just ignored the whole thing and gone on with my day, but it had been a long one and I was in no mood!

No. Mood.

Normally, I try to approach these kind of conversations in a really gentle, non-accusatory manner because I really like to try and get people to look at things from a new perspective without feeling like they’re being attacked. But um, this time I said this:

“Yeah, I can’t imagine why an aging actress or woman would ever feel pressured into taking desperate measures to try and turn back the clock. It’s not like North Americans or Hollywood place an absurd amount of value on youth and beauty. It’s not like we ever make fun of women who don’t fit the mould of young, thin and pretty, right? Give me a break.”

Haha. Did I mention I was in no mood?

I just get so sick of people thoughtlessly buying into the lose-lose situation set up for women in the media and by extension, the rest of us. If Ms. Huston had some cosmetic procedure that other than magically making her look perpetually 35, there were no tell-tale signs of, she would be celebrated. It is beyond unfair that women are expected to meet an impossible standard, and then decried and laughed at if they are seen to be making any visible effort to do so.    

I get what people mean when they ask, “Why would someone do this to themselves?” It can seem baffling at first glance that someone would be so obsessed with the idea of appearing younger that they would be willing to let someone cut them or inject them with poison or what have you, often with some strange results, but I don’t think you have to dig too deep to find an answer.

 Yes, if I ran the zoo, everyone would just go through life without dying their hair, and cosmetic surgery would be used only for, I don’t know, fixing severe burn scars or wounds that reminded people of traumatic events or something. We’d all happily get old and grey and be content with our own and each-other’s different shapes and sizes. We’d prize deeds over looks.

But for now, since some other crazy zookeeper appears to be in charge, I’m just going to try hard not to judge when someone gets swept up in that near irresistable urge to conform to expectations. In short, I’m going to try to be kind.

Unless, of course, I am in no mood.

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