I read a magazine article recently that cited a growing phenomenon among 20-something girls. Increasing numbers of young women are forking out thousands and thousands of dollars (or rands or pounds, depending on where you are) to keep their faces youthful. Skin wraps, laser treatments, Botox injections. Plastic surgery as required to keep lips fuller, eyebrows higher, noses straighter.
Now, my kneejerk reaction to this kind of thing is to shake my head at this sad, limited idea of beauty. Are arched eyebrows and airbrushed golden skin really the cornerstone of physical beauty? And if your opinion of yourself is so low that you believe you need to stitch yourself into the shape of beauty, are you really going to feel any more beautiful by the time the scabs heal? But I was reading this article in one of those magazines in which every 100 grams of “Thou shalt cultivate thy inner beauty” is offset by 15 tonnes of “Thou shalt hate thyself for not resembling Kate Moss”. Where every ad is based on the unquestioned premise that happiness and fulfilment lie in the magical promised land of Looking Better, and no matter where you are, you aren’t there yet.
So I can hardly squish these young creatures for buying into the idea that they might Look Better. And if prevention is better than cure, and they have the disposable income for unadulterated prevention… well, good for them. But the article went on to point out that the women in question were usually offsetting their treatments with a heavy-duty lifestyle: all-night partying, bingeing on alcohol, coke and other party drugs.
OK, so we have a generation girls that are worshipping at the altar of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. Nihilistic hedonism is where it’s at. They’re well-heeled enough to know that the lifestyle will make them look haggard and withered well before their time. So they pay someone to patch up the damage, smooth it over, for a while anyway. The cosmetic surgeon knows that Little Miss Make-Me-Beautiful is wasting her money. But he isn’t about to tell her that. He has big mortgages to pay. And she’s not the kind of girl you’d want to get into a fight with. She might think it cool to scratch your eyes out.
So no one tells her. No one tells her that it’s temporary. No one tells her that what you do leaves an imprint on your body. No one tells her that she’s wrecking herself from the inside and no amount of fixing from the outside can fix that. No one tells her that she could head off to a meditation retreat for ten days, breathe some fresh air, feed and stretch her body, and she’d do more to get rid of those circles under her eyes and to refresh the prematurely slack, sagging skin on her young face than any nipping and tucking could ever do.
Why doesn’t anyone tell her? Because the people that are in the business of doing the telling are the people that have something to sell. Selling cosmetics. Selling treatments. Selling accessories and appliances and clothing. And selling magazines. So it wouldn’t really pay to let her know that this is an endless and pointless cycle. There is no beautiful end to it. So they take her money, and the convince her that she should tell the laser guy to remodel her gleaming youth into Younger and Better. And the people the wrote the magazines that idolised the brainless celebrities write articles like the one I read, shaking their heads. Wondering why she does it.