Kate Torgovnick, the fantastic mastermind behind Kate-Book.com (yes, there’s a site for people with my name, because we rule the world), sent me this piece yesterday. It’s about Kates and plastic surgery. Some of the more prominent Kates in our ranks—Kate Winslet, Kate Walsh, and Cate Blanchett (I guess she counts)—are speaking out against it. Kate T joined them, writing:
“I almost see it as if women, as a group, are on strike, trying to push back against the unreasonable beauty ideals that are driving us all freaking insane. Which kind of makes the woman who gets plastic surgery the scab who crosses the picket line. I understand why she does it. But ouch.”
And she sent the piece to me because I write about body image, so I’m probably against plastic surgery, too.
Except it’s a little bit more complicated, because of the two nose jobs.
When people talk about cosmetic surgery, they are often talking about two things: surgery to erase/disguise aging, and boob jobs. The actresses who speak out against it often defend their right to age, or defend the size of their breasts. They are often speaking against the incredibly rigid beauty standards in their industry, where cosmetic surgery is practically the norm. I’ve noticed that non-movie stars, though, often seem offended by the idea of cosmetic surgery. It’s not the norm for us at all. It sometimes seems a little freakish. And it’s easy for me to nod along when someone makes a sad, knowing comment about the “work that woman got done.” It never sounds like they’re talking about me. No one would think I’ve gotten “work” done at all. I nod along with Kate T when she writes about pushing back against unreasonable beauty ideals.
I agree. I mean, that’s my whole thing. You should love yourself the way you are.
But love is a tricky thing. Self-love maybe especially. I’m great at loving Bear, for example. And my parents, and my brothers. I’m a champ. I am not as good with myself. Sometimes my tone crosses a line. I get a little abusive.
“What the hell is WRONG with you?” I might snap at myself, when I only made a simple mistake.
I never buy myself flowers after.
Honestly, though, I’m not that bad. Not these days. For the most part, I’m pretty civil. Sometimes when I catch myself feeling bad, I’m like, “Hey, what’s going on? You’re doing fine! Chin up! You’re pretty great!” And I adopt this perky voice, and I offer myself a glass of water. Or a milkshake. Which usually works a lot better than a glass of water.
I can’t disapprove of plastic surgery, because I don’t regret getting it. When I made the decision to change my face, I felt strong and certain. I felt like I was taking charge of my life. I wonder if that’s how women feel when they’re dieting too much. When they’ve stopped eating enough. Maybe. But I can’t erase it. I can’t misremember that feeling. And looking back, my surgeries fit into a story about my relationship with my appearance that’s being told every day of my life. There I am, sitting in the chair, telling the doctor what I want.
“Just a slight change,” I’m saying.
I have painted my face so many times. I know what it needs.
And later, the cast is being removed, the stitches yanked out, and I am not so different after all. But I feel different, because I went through it. I am not as angry at my almost-exactly-the-same face. I chose this one. Even when it turns out my nose is now crooked. And I can’t breathe as well. Even after the second surgery the doctor insists on doing, for free this time, with me awake. Even when it’s clear that it went wrong and when I tell people I got a nose job, I can see their eyes measuring, trying to figure it out, adjusting. How big was it before?
I want all of us to look in the mirror and like what we see. I want to wink at my reflection.
These days, I do sometimes. I am better at it all the time. But my cosmetic surgery is mixed up in it. It’s a part of me. I’m not sure how to disentangle it.
So I guess I have to be a Kate who is sitting on the fence. I can’t pick a side. I’m not sure we need them. But even if we do, I can’t. Maybe I’m already a deserter, by default. Maybe, like everyone in one way or another, I just have scar tissue.
* * *
Since I’m posing another perspective, maybe this whole thing should be called “Kates debate!”?
Plastic surgery thoughts, anyone? Or, have you ever done something for your appearance that you knew people would disapprove of?
Unroast: Today I love the way I look with different colors on my fingernails and toenails.