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Vanity Thy Name Is
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Does there ever come a time when you make peace with all the little flaws that make you an individual? If the plastics of Hollywood are any indication, the answer is a resounding no. Statistics taken from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery state that people aged 35-50 had the most procedures — over 4.5 million — and while women were at the top, men are in there, too, with 8 percent of the total. The top cosmetic surgery for women was (take a wild guess) breast augmentation; and for men, liposuction. So, actually, it’s more than Hollywood supporting the idea that perfection is the ideal rather than happy individualism. We’re all buying into it at some level.

And I’m just as guilty — perhaps more so — as the next person.

You see, I don’t have a problem with the idea of plastic surgery to soften the passage of time on our face or body. I don’t flinch at the thought of a tummy tuck, breast augmentation, or Botox. If it makes you feel good about yourself and you’re not doing it to fulfill someone else’s idea of beauty then I say go for it. But as I thought about it, I realized we’re falling prey to someone else’s ideal when we can’t accept ourselves for who we are. Therein lies my personal quandary on where I truly stand.

I don’t like doing anything simply because someone tells me to. I prefer to be motivated rather than manipulated into action and that’s where I’m not sure where I stand with this current body image situation infecting the nation.

Warning: personal opinion about to follow. You don’t have to agree. You don’t have to care. Just sharing my thoughts on the subject…

Disclaimer out of the way, anyone who thinks Lindsey Lohan looks hot needs their head examined. I don’t find bones sticking out everywhere sexy on a man or a woman. Women are meant to be curvy and soft; men are meant to be solid and strong. Conversely, men who get regular pedicures and facials are not my thing either. I like a man’s hands to be calloused and rough, evidence that the guy knows how to be useful around the house. I don’t want to be the one wearing the toolbelt.

But women are no longer supposed to be curvy. They’re supposed to be scrawny and fragile-looking, like a stiff wind might blow them down the street. It would seem heroin-chic is back and the collective female self-esteem just took a hit because women are simply not meant to look like that unless they’re unwell, on drugs, or genetically graced with the metabolism of a hummingbird.

I think you can guess I’m none of the above. I’ve had three children and my body bears the evidence of this. I haven’t managed to lose all my “baby” weight and as I get older it becomes even more difficult to imagine carving more time from my already exhausting schedule to punish myself at the gym.

Yet, I feel compelled to do something. Anything. Because being soft and womanly is just not okay anymore. I’m supposed to be able to bench press my 16-year-old in addition to model the latest in Victoria’s Secret in order to be deemed attractive in this day and age. And every woman, no matter her age, wants to feel pretty.

So, I’ve considered plastic surgery. A little nip here, a little suck and tuck here, oh and of course, a little augmentation, too.

But if I do this, what message am I sending to my daughter? Even as my vanity screams at me to go for it, a voice that sounds a lot like my daughter, asks, “Why mama?”

We tell our girls to love themselves, that what’s inside is what matters, yet that’s not entirely true.

The statistics don’t lie. What’s on the outside matters — for all the wrong reasons perhaps — but we’re lying to ourselves if we say it doesn’t.

And that won’t change until there’s a huge societal shift. Healthy — not health-obsessed — should be the ideal, whether you’re a size 16 or a size 2.

Marilyn Monroe, an American sex symbol, was a size 14. By modern standards she’d be considered plus-sized. She was curvaceous, soft, feminine and real. She had breasts and hips, a generous behind, rounded cheeks and smiling eyes. Yet, she stopped men in their tracks, attracting the attention of the President of the United States with her beauty.

Today, she’d be ridiculed for her weight, lambasted for her size, and humiliated by the paparazzi.

Amazing how things change isn’t it?

Sixteenth century Rubenesque art depicts plump, fleshy women as desirable because back then, healthy, filled-out bodies meant you had enough money to eat. Plump women were wealthy women.

If most of Hollywood were to go back in time, they’d be the ones shunned and ridiculed for being walking skeletons.

Too bad we couldn’t find a happy medium somewhere between those two extremes. I suspect we’d all be happier and more content with ourselves, our partners, and life in general.

Until then...


Kim Van Meter is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.