There are people in the world who are naturally hairless. And there is nothing I envy more. Except maybe natural mathematical ability. And a purpose in life. And people who know how to drive manual. Ok, so maybe there is a lot I want but can’t have. But nothing is more jarring to me than the fact that I am not one of those naturally hairless elites. Of course, nothing says I need to stay dissatisfied with my body. There is a lot I can do to change this about my appearance. I can shave, wax, or even permanently laser this off my body. The first two are temporary and the third one is slightly more permanent. I didn’t know laser body hair removal was a thing till I was about 21. I’m generally a pretty spaced-out person, so this isn’t surprising. I was on a trip with my cousin and her friends. At some point on the trip, there was a possibility of extending the trip for a couple of days and I was all for it. But we couldn’t do it, because one of the girls had to (HAD TO) be back home by a certain date. She said it was because she had already undergone laser hair removal on the left side of her body (I think) and needed to get it done on the other side. Now, it is entirely possible that this is scientifically incorrect and/or I misremember the incident. Maybe she had done the lower half of her body and needed to get the upper half done. All I remember though is how the procedure was only half done. Apparently, her mother was making her do it because she comes from a long line of women who are ‘very hairy. Plus, there was a possibility that her long-term boyfriend might propose, so naturally, all the hair had to go (?!). I was amazed. I remember being very excited at the prospect of sharing this newfound knowledge with my mother and getting it done myself. Not to be folks. The idea was, rightfully so, shot down immediately. And I’m glad.
Is that even necessary?
Now, I’ve spoken about plastic surgery and my mild obsession with getting a brow lift (among other things) done before. But it turns out my idea of what ‘plastic surgery’ is, was entirely skewered. There are a lot of things that I never thought of as being plastic / cosmetic surgery which do fall into that category – including laser hair removal. If you have seen the episode on ‘Plastic Surgery’ on Netflix explained, you know that our conception of what it means to look attractive, and what you can do to attain it (both in terms of things that are seen as ‘necessary’ and ‘optional’) is constantly evolving. If you haven’t seen that episode, I highly recommend it. For example, till a few decades ago, having body hair was considered entirely natural. But somewhere along the line, celebrities started showing up to events completely waxed and plucked – and then hairless became the new natural. So, what was an ‘optional’ thing you could do to improve your appearance (i.e., getting hair removed) now became a necessity (it isn’t considered a beautification method anymore, it is considered weird if you don’t do it). I remember watching Titanic as a kid and thinking Rose was pretty unhygienic for stripping down naked when she hadn’t even taken the time out to do the basics like shave her armpit hair. Which is ridiculous because who was going around worrying about their armpit hair in the early twentieth century. No one. And peer pressure, as it turns out, has a lot to do with this.
I’ll do it if you do it
I saw a video on how people feel the need to get this surgery done because everyone around them is getting something done. South Korea is famous for plastic surgery, often even referred to as the plastic surgery capital of the world. In Korea in fact, plastic surgery makes for a very common graduation present for children who have just completed high school. They have the highest per capital plastic surgeries in the world, as it turns out. Coming in at a close second, is Brazil. A woman in Brazil, in the video, talks about how she felt ‘left out’ when she found out everyone else had altered their appearance and she hadn’t had anything done yet. When people talk about getting breast augmentation done because everyone around them is doing it, it seems a little outlandish. There is no way you’d be willing to go under the knife to change something about yourself that you might be ok with just because everyone else around you is doing it. Right? Well, no. It is hard to reconcile just how much we are willing to do under peer pressure when we talk about extremes like surgical procedures. But consider the trend of wearing bright tights under skirts. I never once in my life thought this was a good look. I hated the contrasting colours and the silhouette it gave me. But I know that I, along with most other girls who attended school with me, went along with it. To my mind, that was a terrible year for fashion all round. Having said that, everyone did it because, well, everyone else did it. Ok, maybe this example is too mild. Wearing badly coloured tights is not the same as injecting chemicals into your body or cutting it up to reshape it. But what about something like Keratin treatment then? Almost everyone I know has gotten this done in the last couple of years. It is advertised as something that smoothens and straightens out your hair by injecting keratin into it. It is supposedly less toxic than re-bonding your hair. But it doesn’t just inject keratin (which is a naturally occurring protein). It also uses chemicals like formaldehyde. This is a known carcinogen. Meaning, we all know it causes cancer or can cause cancer to grow. We still went ahead and did it though. I did it too. I hated what it did to my hair. For the first two days I was told not to wash it, and I went around with poker straight hair smelling of animal fat. Disgusting. Anyway, the point I am trying to make, is that even though we think we are impervious to the things around us, there are a lot of chances that we will end up doing things we are uncomfortable with under peer pressure. Including plastic surgery.
That is one part of it yes. But plastic surgery has been around for a while now. Why this sudden interest in it? Because I see it around me all the time. This used to be something I knew about but never really bothered much with – better left to the reality stars in outlandish TV shows who do it for the camera. Recently though, it has taken over my social media feed. There is a rise in the number of plastic surgeon influencers all over. These people advertise themselves, talk about the procedures you can get done to become an influencer, or just to generally fix things you don’t like about your appearance. And they are all over the place. It is like two sides of the same coin. On the one hand you have a bunch of influencers who all look the same (not surprising since most of them buy their faces – and it is always the same kind of face, the ‘Instagram face’ with the foxy eyes, plump lips and narrow noses), and on the other hand you have professionals who are promising to turn your face into the faces you see online.
I’m addicted to…
And apparently, there is a possibility, that once people get started with cosmetic surgeries it might turn into an addiction. First, you will have to keep repeating procedures (in all probability) to maintain the face / body you’re after. And the more you do it, the more reliant you become on it. Kind of like the filters we use. I simply cannot post a picture without using filters or editing my pictures. To the extent that I hate looking at pictures of myself that other people have clicked. This is a very real thing. Before we had social media, we just had body dysmorphia disorder. Now, we have many, many variations of it. We have filter dysmorphia, snapchat dysmorphia, Instagram dysmorphia – you name it. In an interview I saw online, a plastic surgeon talks about how earlier people would come in with pictures of famous people or celebrities they wanted to look like post plastic surgery. Now, people just come in with edited images of themselves. And why not? Once you get used to looking at unblemished, contoured versions of yourself, it becomes increasingly difficult to like your actual face.
I know I have been going on about cosmetic surgery for a few posts now. But I can’t help it. I’m probably going to do a deep dive into this in a couple of more posts too. It is just so fascinating to me. I can’t stop obsessing over it. On the one hand, we are taught to dislike and attempt to change things about ourselves. On the other hand, we are also taught to promote and hype ourselves up constantly whenever we do make an appearance online. The split is maddening. No wonder I hear and read about so many people practicing the art of ‘shifting their realities’. Which is also something I’m excited to write about, but that is going to be a whole different thing.