Thursday, April 17, 2008

What the World Needs Now


On Mother’s Day, a children’s book called "My Beautiful Mommy" will be released. It explains to kids that they should be happy about Mommy's plastic surgery because she'll look more beautiful and feel better about herself.

Michael Salzhauer, MD, a Florida plastic surgeon, got the idea for his book when he noticed that women were coming to his office with kids in tow. He posits that mysterious doctor's visits can be frightening for children, especially when they see Mommy with bandages.

"With the tummy tucks, [the mothers] can't lift anything. They're in bed. The kids have questions," he says.

"My Beautiful Mommy" is aimed at kids aged four to seven and features a plastic surgeon named Dr. Michael (a musclebound superhero type) and a girl whose mother gets a tummy tuck, a nose job and breast implants.

Before her surgery the mother explains that she is getting a smaller tummy: "You see, as I got older, my body stretched and I couldn't fit into my clothes anymore. Dr. Michael is going to help fix that and make me feel better."

Um, yeah, okay. Children get new clothing regularly as they outgrow their old ones. Aren't they going to be just a tad suspicious that Mommy is pulling a fast one?

She comes home looking like a slightly bruised Barbie doll with demure bandages on her nose and around her waist.

The text doesn't mention the breast augmentation, but the illustrations intentionally show Mommy's breasts to be fuller and higher.

"I tried to skirt that issue in the text itself," says Salzhauer. "The breasts might be a stretch for a six-year-old."

Gee, you think?

The book doesn't explain why the mother is redoing her nose post-pregnancy. Nonetheless, she reassures her little girl that the new nose won't just look "different, my dear—prettier!"

The younger the child, the more mysterious and scary the mother's absence, being out of commission, or looking like she's been beaten up will be. Small children think you go to a doctor because you're hurt or sick. Future pediatric visits could meet with some resistance when Mommy comes home resembling Mike Tyson's punching bag.

Despite the marketing nickname "mommy makeover" which sounds like a trip to a day spa, tummy-tuck-and-breast-implant combos are serious surgeries with potential complications that often require additional procedures.

With breast augmentation, the initial operation is unlikely to be the last. Implants may last 10 or more years, but according to the FDA they do not last a lifetime. About a quarter of all implant patients require another operation within five years due to problems like leaking, breast asymmetry and encapsulation of the implants.

Cosmetic surgery raises body image issues -- especially for daughters. Children may think their own body parts must need "fixing" too, especially if they look like their mothers. You have to wonder if they can grow up with any degree of self-confidence when they are given the insidious message that they are imperfect before they are even fully formed.

I am not against plastic surgery if it makes someone feel better about herself. I just wonder why our society so values physical perfection that the effects of giving birth to a child need to be erased. Our bodies are meant to be used and should be celebrated, not shamed, for enabling us to bring new life into the world.

Lest I be misunderstood, I also fully support anyone's right not to have children. But if we choose to do so, we need to accept that it may change our bodies because everything in life is a trade-off and expecting to look like Barbie forever is not only unrealistic, it can make us miserable. Which is frankly, stupid.

The good doctor should also make a t-shirt which says, "My Mommy got a shitload of plastic surgery and all I got was this lousy t-shirt."

59 comments:

thailandchani said...

And the congregation responded with a hearty "AMEN!"

I have an opinion as to why this society values physical perfection - insists on it, in fact - but it would require me to write a book.

You can probably predict it anyway. :)

I'll be interested to read what others have to say.

~*

katrice said...

That is a perfect t-shirt idea!

When my kids were toddlers, I cut all my hair off Jada Pinkett-Smith-style and bleached the color out of it until it was brown-blond. Everyone loved it except my kids. They were very disturbed at the sudden change.

I'm all for self-improvement, but I do wonder how all this will play out in our children's minds as time goes on. They certainly have enough to be anxious about these days.


afryandaprayer.wordpress.com

RED MOJO said...

Love the t-shirt idea! Young women, HA! old too, have a uphill battle fighting negative body image issues. Hollywood has set extremely unrealistic standards for women.

jameil1922 said...

uhhhh... that is a crazy book. i always wonder what teens think when their parents get some body part they inherited whacked beyond recognition. i would be more than a bit miffed if my parents got rid of their noses & lips and that's what we share feature-wise.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Chani,

So write the book already. I'll buy a copy.

Katrice,

I bet your Jada Pinkett-Smith hair looked fabulous!

Young children could be disturbed by such a drastic change, though, because Mommy is their comfort zone. They are reassured by her constancy which in their view is expressed by her appearance as well as her presence.

Mojo,

Even the Hollywood stars don't look like themselves without all the cosmetic enhancements. I love those articles that show them sans makeup.

Some of them are pretty muttley chicks.

Jameil,

I'd be upset, too, if my mother "improved" a feature I had inherited and left me holding the bag, feeling unattractive.

Why can't we just be comfortable with ourselves the way we're made?

the walking man said...

AMEN! I have been through so much medical trauma that the very thought of voluntarily going through any procedure is repugnant to me. Yet let them do as they will, them who choose, may they choose wisely.

"Why can't we just be comfortable with ourselves the way we're made?"

Because most people care what others think of their look. As a former fat kid I guess I had those issues until I worked (worked not exercised) up to a bulked up state, then nothing seemed that important about what others thought. Later *shrug* now as long as I wake up breathing, it's all good.

Peace

TWM

Nick said...

I think it's a really creepy book. Call me old-fashioned, but I think most plastic surgery is totally unnecessary and only strengthens the idea that women have to have perfect, unblemished bodies rather than whatever nature gave them. It's even worse that kids are being encouraged to welcome it as something quite routine.

Yes, there's a very small minority of women (or men) whose self-esteem may genuinely benefit from surgery, but for the others surely the question is why they feel so bad about their body in the first place? Isn't it therapy and cultural change that's necessary, not surgical dicing and slicing?

And the major medical risks involved are always trivialised. But plenty of women have been seriously harmed or even died after surgery. Many of the deaths are hushed up by embarrassed families.

Plastic surgery is now a very lucrative industry and those involved have few scruples about taking advantage of image-conscious women.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Kids need to be reassured about their self worth. This "children's book" is just so wrong.

Christy said...

I am just appauled.

witnessing am i said...

This is not really suprising -- and oh how the cover illustration seems to fit content -- but it is still sickening, disappointing, disheartening.

If children need to be told something regarding this -- and I don't deny it -- then let them be told the truth. It is as if plastic surgery has been performed on the truth.

furiousBall said...

I've come to accept my horrible visage and girl-away body. It's charming in a hermit kind of way.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Mark,

The thought of voluntary surgery makes me cringe, too, although I haven't had nearly as much bodily trauma as you.

I think most people are just fine working with what they have.

Nick,

I suspect that the book is intended to begin brainwashing the next generation of insecure people.

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty. That is all ye know on Earth, and all ye need to know." Keats was not a man of our time.

To clarify a bit further, of course deformities should be corrected. But not being a dead ringer for the latest supermodel is NOT a deformity, nor is gaining a few inches after childbirth.

It's sad that so much energy can't be spent on more creative or humane endeavors. And really, people are far more interesting when they are uniquely themselves.

Calvin,

You have just expressed in one perfect sentence what I wrote a whole post trying to say.

Christy,

I also fail to see how explaining to kids that Mommy is going to be prettier reassures them.

David,

Right on. Plastic surgery has been performed on the truth.

How about, "Mommy so desperately needs to conform to cultural stereotypes that she is putting herself at risk and you may be an orphan soon?"

I'm sure they'll understand.

Furious,

Hermits are my weakness.

Craze said...

That is just crazy!? I can think of a 100 book topics that would provide decent, useful information for our children. Society has gone off the deep in in regards to perfection and I believe today's youth is suffering because of it.

On a limb with Claudia said...

So you know that lady that gave birth to me has been completely redone. I think I've told you this. She had osteo (from 10 years of tomoxifen) so she's about 3 inches shorter. (Hurray for her she thought she was "too tall"). New nose, new chin, bounce a quarter off her skin, breasts bigger than balloons, taut stomach with new belly button, shall I continue?

I never thought of her as my "Mommy". Do think that might change if I get the book? ;)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Craze,

Maybe I'll write a book called "You're Perfect Just As You Are" for kids. The Anti-BM book.

Claudia,

I did know that you were Barbie's daughter, although I'm not sure how she managed to give birth since she lacks the appropriate parts.

So she'll still look 25 when she dies, and then what? With so much plastic, she won't decompose so burial is out. Cremation would send noxious gases into the air.

Sorry. But now that I've mentioned it, I wonder what they DO with Women Who Love Surgery Too Much.

Mommy is as Mommy does. I doubt the book will help.

jalishouse said...

How about another book, "My Mommy Died From a Staph Infection Following Her Plastic Surgery" or "My Mommy Couldn't Breastfeed Me Because She Wanted Bigger Boobs". Or "Mommy's Face is Frozen".

I hate this.

seventh sister said...

Sounds like that dr. is working on job security. Convince them when they are small that they will need his services to be beautiful when they grow up.

Molly said...

This kind of thing makes my brain explode! Especially when every day in the newspaper you see some mother, in this country or on the other side of the world, cradling an injured or dead child, due to suicide bombers or drive by shootings, or lord knows what. Those women have real problems. These empty-headed Barbies [apt comparison!] have too much money, a shortage of grey matter and need a good shaking!
And what's with those doctors---first do no harm??

urban-urchin said...

uh. WTF? Really? I'm uh. Speechless. Wow.

Kapuananiokalaniakea said...

You've got to be kidding!!!
That book really bothers me. I am appalled that the doctor is super hero-ish, that the new nose will not be different, it will be prettier, that a body that is stretched is a body that needs to be fixed. So as a child stretches and outgrows her clothes, will she need to be fixed as well?! Does a woman need a handsome man to fix everything, even her body?! Is different a bad thing and pretty a good thing?!
It's not that I have a problem with people who choose to get plastic surgery. My problem is with the culture that says that if you do not fit the standard definition of beauty, then you need fixing. My problem is with a publishing company that feels that this is a valuable and important message to convey to our children.

Rachel Schell said...

I think plastic surgery started when women who's husbands made too much money got bored sitting at home...

seriously, let's give these women something else to do.

Jocelyn said...

I can't tell you how many times I've started reading a post here and, about a sentence in, I've had to stop and mutter, "You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me."

This was no exception. And this book is #14,560 on my list of "What's Wrong with America."

Nick said...

"Mommy so desperately needs to conform to cultural stereotypes that she is putting herself at risk and you may be an orphan soon?" Heart, your alternative title is spot on. And I'm sure the kids will be SO supportive of mommy.

Odat said...

OMG!

Ian Lidster said...

Stop the world, I wsnt to get off!

"All is vanity; nothing is fair."

What a remarkably self-involved society we have become, and so, so banal.

My ex wife (who was and is quite beautiful) obsessed about her stretch marks and wanted to get them erased. I told her, in all sincerity, she should wear them like a badge of honor and because she carried a beautiful child there I actually found them sexy and attractive.

Good post, but all of yours are my lovely friend.

thailandchani said...

This is a comment. :) (Please delete it - LOL)

The CEO said...

Please do write the book you're perfect as you are. I'll buy a copy. My mother never believed it of me, but my wife, who has been with me longer, does. And I think the same of her. Please, do write the book.

Monty

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Jali,

"My Mommy Died and Left a Beautiful Corpse."

Sister,

"Today's young innocent faces
Will be tomorrow's clientele."

Molly,

The world seems to be growing more unbalanced when some mommies have elective cosmetic procedures while other mommies are unable to afford life-saving surgeries.

Urchin,

WTF indeed.

Puanani,

My problem is not with plastic surgery either, but with teaching children that there is a beauty standard to which everyone must conform unless they want to be considered inferior.

How utterly boring, and dangerous.

Rachel,

Like maybe using some of that spare money to help those who don't have any...

Jocelyn,

Only 14,560? You're hardly trying.

Nick,

They could even get the idea that they were responsible for "ruining" her good looks because children tend to feel guilty if allowed to.

Odat,

!!!

Ian,

We all want to look good for as long as possible, but we also need to revise our idea of what looking good is.

I wonder if there's a Plastic Surgery Barbie yet.

Chani,

"Out, out, damn spot! What's done cannot be undone."

Jay said...

I worry about what kind of message that sends to the kids - it does seem to imply that if mommy needed it done, the kid will too.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Jay,

Exactly. I don't see a lot of self-confidence happening under those circumstances. It also places the emphasis on physical appearance instead of other qualities which, it could be argued, are more important in the long run or at least more lasting.

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

It’s amazing what our society feels it needs to teach our children.

Fate's Granddaughter said...

I have to agree with the idea that this book is drumming up future business.

Unfortunately, I have a feeling that children with parents who can't cope with "losing their looks" are going to grow up dysmorphic with or without this book.

citizen of the world said...

Gad. I am appalled by vanity surgery. Especially reast augmentation. I think we've been duped intot thinking our bodies are not good enough just as they are. Breast reconstruction after a mastectomy? Absolutely if you want that. Breast reduciton to ease back pain? Of course. Any plastic surgery to fix a defect or repair after an accident. Yes, yes, no question. But justto be a raie doll in the absurd idea that that is what it takes to be okay? Shameful.

Los Angelista said...

What in the world? See, no wonder things are going to hell in a handbasket in this country. I'll keep my stretch marks and wrinkles, thank you very much. If I don't think I could figure out how to logically talk with my kids about it, guess what, I don't need to do it.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Monty,

It's quite chilling that anyone expects to get through life without any visible changes to their body.

St. Nick,

Heaven forbid they grow up healthy and well-adjusted when it's so easy to make them as neurotic as their parents.

Fate,

I'm sure you're right. I have often wondered why there are no qualifying exams for parenthood because it's a very serious trust.

Thank you for your visit!

Citizen,

Plastic surgery is a godsend to those with so-called birth defects and breast cancer survivors, all the instances you mention. But to undo the effects of childbirth indicates that the wrong things are being valued. If one is that vain, she shouldn't have children because they will feel her resentment.

Liz,

Yes, I can't imagine how that conversation would go: "You ruined Mommy's good looks and now she has to go under the knife" or maybe "Mommy's tummy is poochy and it's all your fault."

How lovely.

Judith said...

This is just wrong on so many levels have they thought perhaps of bringing out a book called 'So youre upsetting your kids with your vanity'?

Nick said...

Judith, that's exactly the book we should have.

Say It said...

say it sister! I wear my stretch marks and sagging skin like the badge of honor that it is. I see my wrinkles around my eyes as proof that I've laughed and cried and of course those two stubborn lines between the eyebrows, I hate them, but they remind me not to be so stern.

While I do understand the need for certain "touch ups" I don't understand why our country embraces it like we do.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Judith,

I'll write it if you illustrate it. I know you could do some really dark E.A. Poe/Edward Gorey/Charles Addams pictures of Post-Procedural Mommy.

Nick,

Help me write it. Judith is doing the illustrations, and they're pips.

Say it,

I have a vertical C-Section scar which has never prevented me from wearing bikinis.

It's both silly and futile to try to pretend that life doesn't change us so the only healthy thing to do is embrace the changes.

seventh sister said...

There is an old Twilight Zone episode in which at a certain age, everyone went into a machine and came out looking like one of three or four prototypes. I think they got to choose which one. The episode revolves around a young woman who wants too continue to look like herself. No one can understand why she does not want to be beautiful like all the other women. I think that in the end, she capitulates and goes into the machine.

Quiet Rage said...

I thought you were kidding about the book at first! What a warped society we live in. What a sad message that's being sent to kids...

bleeding espresso said...

Whenever I see those plastic surgery shows I feel bad for the kids who have, say, the nose Mom can't wait to get rid of....

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Sister,

I remember that episode! I wondered why anyone would want to look exactly like everyone else, and realized that without ugliness there could be no beauty. Which kind of makes ugliness beautiful, too.

Rage,

I wish I were kidding. If the values get any sillier, America will sink, giggling, into the sea.

Thank you for your visit!

Espresso,

Yes! Especially if they have inherited it.

"Mommy, I need a bigger allowance so I can get a smaller nose, too." Pathetic.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

*GASP*

OH MY GOD.

Are you serious? It took a full 5 minutes for me scrape my jaw up off of my desk.

A book for kids to explain mommy's plastic surgery. What the hell is our society coming to? Or going to... in a hand basket.

This goes hand in hand with Bratz dolls looking like hookers and being marketed to 4-9 year olds. It goes hand in hand with Abercrombie selling thong panties to 10 year olds that are imprinted with sayings like 'eye candy' and 'you can't touch this', and their T-shirts for teen girls that are emblazoned across the chest with 'who needs brains when you have these'...

I am completely incensed. It's all geared towards making women (and young girls) sexually attractive for men.

All hail the almighty penis.

The priceless value of a woman, of her true worth, of her potential and of her life is swiftly being lost to a society numbed with glamour and glitz.

I am physically sickened and deeply angry.

When do we start teaching our daughters that '...their worth is far above diamonds'.
That statement is from the Bible. And it's 100% true.


Scarlett & Viaggiatore

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

True beauty lies deep within.

It cannot be bought
or made.

It is the result of
grace
patience
strength
honesty
dedication

and most important...

Love.


Scarlett & Viaggiatore

Pawlie Kokonuts said...

Shite. Wot's worse: the plastic surgery? Or the fact this moron writes a moronic children's book about it? Mercy!

Josie said...

I saw the author of that book being interviewed on TV yesterday morning, as I was having my morning coffee. I actually felt my skin crawl.

My little Marigold is only nine, but in the past year she has already been toying with anorexia because of the emphasis on body imagine that she and all her little friends get.

It's completely and utterly disgusting.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Scarlett,

Sorry about your jaw.

I am appalled by mothers who think it's cute to dress their little girls like mini-hookers. Why not pin a sign on them that says, "Pedophiles - LOOK?!!"

The "who needs brains" t-shirt is particularly offensive.

Very nice thoughts in your poem. I don't think you left anything out.

Pawlie,

The whole thing is pretty revolting. I hate to see women behaving like sheep.

Josie,

I haven't had the pleasure of seeing him interviewed. So far, I've been lucky.

Your granddaughter is showing signs of anorexia at NINE? That's really scary. I hope she gets help before the attitudes and behaviors are fully entrenched. Please. Make her some cookies NOW.

Arpeggio Andy said...

What next? A childrens book about why grandpa takes viagra?

BTW - Nice blog. There's some good reading here.

Angela said...

I was so irritated at the thumbnail of the article that I couldn't even read it. Honestly. I think it's a sad commentary on where we are going as a society, where we already are in many respects. Thanks for talking about it.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Andy,

I'm sure that's the next one planned for the bedtime story set.

Thanks for coming by.

Angela,

Yes, we are truly and deeply screwed.

eastcoastdweller said...

You raise some valid points, Susan. I wonder how much good all those kid-issue books really do.

As for plastic surgery itself, I think at least some of the people who get it have serious self-esteem issues that no knife-blade can touch. So they'll get the surgeries again and again, like an anorexic losing "five more pounds," until they look like Joan Rivers or Michael Jackson -- and no happier.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Eastcoaster,

Reputable plastic surgeons try to operate only on people who don't have unrealistic expectations.

Doctors who continue to work on Rivers and Jackson, who resemble astonished aliens, have forgotten to "first, do no harm."

Say It said...

I think the most painful thing about this book is watching talk show hosts, who've obviously had tons of work done, act like this book is a bad thing.

Yah, its crap, but to hear these ladies say so is weird. Made my head spin watching it.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Say it,

That's pretty funny.

Can you say "hypocrite," children? I knew you could.

Rebecca said...

I read this post a week or so ago while on the phone with my husband's sister, and was just amazed that such a book was published. I read your post to my sister in law who, as an educator, saw why it would be written. We both lamented that there are mommies out there that necessitate such a book.

I understand perfectionism, I really do. Damned hard habit to break. But I gotta tell you, every time I am even remotely tempted to lift these 42 year old breasts, or remove the pouch that is my formerly overweight belly, I am reminded that a: I can't afford it and b: it would hurt like hell. Paying someone a lot of money to cause me pain is such a deal breaker.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Rebecca,

Perfectionism has its place, but you could also say that Nature is perfect and shouldn't be messed with.

At least the changes are intellectually interesting, if not exactly welcome.

I have fantasies of looking the way I used to, which I took for granted then, but they remain fantasies.

I'm not sure what I would do if I had the option to rejuvenate myself surgically, but I probably wouldn't do so. I object to the cost of dentistry on the very principle you've raised. Paying someone to hurt me seems like too much bang for my buck.

Anonymous said...

Of course, we wouldn't be bloggers if we didn't talk about issues, but, judgement is judgement.

I don't care at all about what others choose to do with their bodies.

It can be a slippery slope, deciding exactly what is proper behavior for someone else.

I just had my hair cut and colored. Didn't have to.

Was that wrong? That stylist might have blinded me, or I may get cancer from the chemicals.

Unless you dress in a sackcloth, no makeup......

Until society changes and makes these women feel comfortable in their bodies, it seems mean to condemn them.

I know there are degrees of everything. But who is the judge? Where is the line? Attitudes can change, in a free society and I hope they do with regard to women's bodies.

I feel pity, not derision for these women.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Anonymous,

Your points are well taken. Very well taken.

But my derision was not intended toward the women who choose to have plastic surgery. In fact, I stated that I do not condemn anyone for that decision. I thought that a book explaining the benefits of such surgery to little children was bizarre and unwarranted, however.

And I agree that our society needs to change its attitudes toward women and our expectations that they be "perfect," however that is defined at any given moment.

You never need to call yourself "Anonymous" when commenting to my blog. I welcome and appreciate comments, especially those that cause me to think about my own views and even to change them on occasion.

Thank you for your visit.