As a nation we are in such denial it amazes me. We have invented a way to make the things we fear more palatable – we just give them cute names. Friendly fire. Theater of War., Downsizing, Free Elections (two parties and the one with the most money wins) and now we have those all familiar Tummy Tucks, Breast Jobs, Penile Enhancements …all sound like so much fun don’t they? Oh those folks know exactly what they are doing because the brain interprets these words and sounds and responses are evoked that are either positive or negative. Well darlings, the response to cosmetic surgery is a fantastic 8.5 billion a year or to the sweet tune of more than $9.4 billion dollars. From 1997 this is a mere 304% increase in what is often major surgery. 87% or 7.2 million of these surgeries are on women and 13% or 1.1 million are on men, a number that is rapidly rising.

OK, I admit it. I have thought about de-enhancing my double chin. It is a bit worrisome that I look 10 or 15 years older than I feel inside. I understand this is disparity in how we look, compared to how we feel, is a common phenomenon. So I thought about it, then realized if I did the chin, I would probably want to do the eyelids and those bothersome wrinkles around my mouth, so a full face lift would be in order. After that, it hit me. If I was in a relationship, clearly at some point I would take off my clothes so then I’d need the lyposuction, the breast implants, the buttock lift, the whole lower body life, the upper arm lift … oh dear the only thing I wouldn’t need is rhinoplasty. In ten years, when all my little parts looked old again would I start all over? Even if I got all of that done, damn, I’d still have my mothers hands and they look my age. So with a resigned sigh, I decided to forgo the surgery all together. My true beloved will have to love me as I am. Too bad we can’t love ourselves in the same way.

Over the last thirty or forty years, women and men in America have become more and more obsessed with how their body is seen. This need to have the “perfect body” comes from a number of messages that society sends both directly and indirectly in many different ways, but specifically by advertising in the media. Manhattan socialite Olivia Goldsmith, who wrote the novel “The First Wives Club” and once mocked those who would go to such lengths to look young, died in January from anesthesia complications at one of New York’s most respected cosmetic surgery clinics.

We are so driven to look young, feel young, appear fit, and we have become willing to do virtually anything and risk virtually anything to achieve that end. As a result, some doctors are switching their practices to focus on the lucrative specialty–even if they have little or no education in it. Because most state laws do not apply to the private offices where plastic surgeries increasingly are being performed, and because there are no federal regulations governing which doctors can perform plastic surgery, oral surgeons are doing face-lifts, dermatologists are doing tummy tucks and allergists are giving clients nose jobs. Essentially, a doctor is a doctor under federal law. “In America, you can call yourself a plastic surgeon, hang a shingle outside your door and do these surgeries in your private office operating room with no regulation at all,” said Dr. Rod Rohrich, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and chairman of the department of plastic surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. “Most patients don’t know the difference between someone who is certified and someone who’s not.” The reason no one knows the extent of the problem is that no one is keeping a national tally of the deaths stemming from plastic surgery. A few states–among them Florida and California–have begun to, but there are few other states with which to compare the results.

Ahh heck, what’s a girl and guy to do. Spend time getting to know each others’ spirit. Unlock and talk about the dreams you left behind that you might want to re-ignite. Tell each other how precious every gesture, every thoughtful act and every hair on your partners head is. Stop the comparisons. Stop the fight against time. Stop the break-neck race for perfection and realize there is no such thing. In every community we have abandoned our appreciation of age, for wisdom, for sage-ness. We are desperately holding on to the past and missing the present moment. In every moment, every era and every age there is an opportunity for rich awareness and an abundance of experience that is new to us. Nothing is permanent. Everything changes. Embracing change with grace bring with it such immeasurable joy. Take a breath. Honor your years and every experience that brought you to this place. You deserve the celebration. A life well lived may be the only badge of honor we need.

© Dr. Dina Bachelor Evan 2013

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