Serena J. Cavanaugh :: Blog

February 1, 2009

Beauty You Foul Thing

Filed under: Beauty, Cultural Rants — Tags: , , , — serena @ 3:33 pm

Cosmetic Enhancement

Beauty isn’t just everything to me, it’s everything to everyone. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking of beauty (I wrote a novel about it), and besides it being the meanest, least rewarding object of pursuit of our times, it also haunts us the same way Catherine Earnshaw haunted Heathcliff – that is, relentlessly and only because we want it to.

            A friend just had her lips injected with collagen or something to make them fuller, and I was surprised to find that I had issue with the whole idea. What drives us to these extremes? Is it right to do what makes us feel better about ourselves or should we rise above these insecurities? Do we, like the botox ads, deserve it? Deserve what, I ask? Validation, control? Or is it pain, the satisfaction of a lie, the sick feeling that you get when you buy into a system that forces all of us to fret in the mirror, diet, and refuse to grow.

            It took a while for me to sort out exactly what my issues were, but when I did, it came down to three things.

            First Issue:   it’s cheating. Consider the hefty girls that all the guys liked because they had large breasts – the one-uppin’s they had on the skinny bean poles that look great in short shorts. We are messing up Nature’s equitable distribution of beauty. Who cares about my great lips when it only cost 100 bucks to make yours look just like mine? If everyone has the answers to the test, why bother correcting, grading, teaching at all?

My Second Issue is the duality of it. When someone loses weight, you can say, “You look good. Did you lose weight?” If that same someone got implants, it isn’t that simple anymore.  All I could do was stare at my friend’s lips, wondering what to say and how to say it. I could have assumed that someone who spent the time and money to change their appearance would want people to notice. Sure, it would make sense, but plastic surgery, by its nature, doesn’t make sense. It is an oxymoron – a visible secret that we ask the world to ignore, deny. It is the woman who wears low cut shirts, and then complains that men check out her cleavage.

            My Third Issue is that my friend was beautiful, striking even, without full lips. Like most people of our times, she needed more. Our consumerism has morphed our bodies into mere objects, like the nice house and the cool car, objects that prove our worth and define us. This need to be the best — not just our personal best, but the best the next person can be as well – is retarding our development. Forever 21 in your thirties and forties and beyond isn’t something to brag about.

            We want to have rock hard abs and no cellulite and big hair and impossibly perky boobs when what we need to do is develop some other aspect of our person. We need to get closer to that glassy surface, reach beyond our reflections, and realize it isn’t a mirror, but a window.

And there is a whole lot more going on inside.


What I’m Reading Now


Choke by Chuck Palahniuk

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif




  1. I totally agree with you on this one, and also struggle with the idea of plastic surgery and why so many women need it. Can’t we just embrace our age? Have women really sold out and bought into the idea that we need to be the pieces of meat we once hated to be?

    And what do you say to those girls who have been reconstructed … when in my mind all I’m thinking is: “You can have your nose redone and perfected, but it will only show up again in your children!”

    Comment by S.Herbst — February 5, 2009 @ 3:02 pm

  2. As far as children, what do you say to your child who has your nose? Can you tell him that you think his nose is beautiful, or that he is beautiful, when he knows you hate that nose?

    Comment by serena — March 5, 2009 @ 8:10 pm

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