(from a letter to a friend)
I’m reading a Time article about how EVERYONE (female) has plastic surgery now. It’s so depressing that a woman’s value is still based primarily on how she looks — or rather, that most of us still buy into that — and that women are willing to look like nobody in particular to continue to look vaguely youngish. I’ve certainly been tempted; people think my 91-year-old mother and I are not just sisters, but twins! In a way it’s a compliment, to her AND to me — she’s prettier and always has been.
But the difference in our body language doesn’t even register; it’s one of those snap judgments — gray hair, wrinkled, click, they’re in a bag called “old (bag).”
This isn’t all cultural, it’s very biologically primal — I got a tremendous jolt of power and pleasure, faster than thought, when some skanky man looked at my body in the supermarket because I was wearing tight pants. A flash of still being “in the game.” But … pulling the other way is a stiff-necked pride in refusing to be just like everybody else, and a protest against (the view that all the science I’m immersed in relentlessly promotes) just being an animal, with no values other than those related to power and reproduction. But as the article points out, when everyone is doing it, it becomes the new normal, and to be a holdout is freakish and lonely. People who have never seen an unimproved 69-year-old probably think I’m in my 80s, which is why they so kindly rush to offer me their subway seats when I could probably kick their butt. That’s hard to take. I’m fit from the neck down, so maybe I should be like the 1930s Peter Arno New Yorker cartoon where a painter, looking haggardly at the hatchet-faced nude he’s about to paint, displaces the fig leaf from her pubes to her face.
And it’s mostly white women, because our aging skin sucks and with sun damage, forget it — but sadder still, more and more minority women are getting plastic surgery — to look more white. (Noses for blacks, eyes for Asians . . . ) It’s all so depressing. We are headed towards being a society of surgically and even genetically enhanced super(rich) beings (and gnarled and deformed poor people) who will all look alike, the upper tier of whom are entirely externally focused, with a stunted, undifferentiated inner life, emotionally, kinesthetically, and in all the senses but vision — people so busy objectifying themselves in competition with each other to look like a screen-propagated ideal that they’ve forgotten the pleasures of subjectivity.