Clear as glass. Raising my recently rinsed wine glass to the light, I can see all the way through, and the clarity invites me to marvel.
That’s how I remember Miranda’s declaration, fourteen years ago. Clear as light-trimmed glass.
“My husband and I have agreed that when I’m done having babies, I can at least get a lift, if not a full blown boob job,” Miranda announced casually in the middle of our breastfeeding conversation.
If I didn’t have photos to remind me of Luke’s first chubby-faced giggle, I might not even remember it. It the same for his pulling away from the couch to take his first wobbly steps, which looked like dangerous tightrope walking as he lunged forward, one pink, fleshy foot in front of the other. Photographs call to mind all of the important firsts that I know that I saw. But the memory, without any pictures, is a tricky thing — sometimes hazy and unreliable.
But I remember, very clearly, Miranda’s admittance at our toddler playgroup that morning. I didn’t snap a photo of her saying it or journal my surprised response, but I can still hear her voice the words. At any moment, I can press Play on the button that resides in the recesses of my amygdala, where the processing of emotions begins its journey.
Luke was barely three months old, just sleeping more than six hours. I was suffering from a lack of sleep and a lack of purpose. I had recently left my teaching job, decided against pursuing further graduate study, and had found myself enslaved to the never-ending nap and nursing schedule of a newborn.
What in the heck are we doing?
My child is perfect, so why am I feeling torn about motherhood?
That morning, in an attempt to not lose my everlovin’ mind*, I packed my diaper bag for the next world war and drove to a new mom’s neighborhood playgroup.Hauling the forty pound bag onto my left shoulder and balancing the forty pound infant car-carrier on my right forearm, I long-stepped my way to the front door. A few loud knocks later, a smiling woman greeted me. I couldn’t believe my good fortune.
A whole group of women bustled in the hostess’ living room. Some bounced babies left and right, and most of the moms sat criss-cross-applesauce on the floor in a large circle. Babies rested on their backs cooing, and a few whined disappointment for the few minutes of tummy time they were forced to tolerate.
At some point, we all ended up together. I’m thinking there were eight of us — all first time moms, all of us toting little ones, aging six months or younger.
I don’t remember what we munched on in between stories or how many of us suffered from spit-up launchings. But I remember the women in the room laughing. Female laughter was a healing balm that morning, comforting all of us as we shared stories. First time motherhood has a way of opening up wounds from our past that only community can soothe.
And I remember Miranda’s comment about plastic surgery.
At the time, I didn’t know what to think. But I remember how I felt. FEAR. My body responded in that moment, stiffened by fear.
Was I offended that she was making commentary on the rest of us, our bodies having recently endured the breast transformation that nine months of pregnancy assures and breastfeeding demands?
Was I suddenly terrified that my husband could have been thinking the same way about my top shelf, now that motherhood had made its mark on one of his favorite parts of my body?
Was I angry that she was setting the tone for how women should look after having babies? I mean, does it help my man and the rest of the husbands out there to look around the room and see women all surgically improved and wonder, “What doesn’t my wife look like that?”
Was my future daughter (didn’t know then I would be mothering #cincochicos) going to ask me about why I chose not to fix my mommy body if I elected to avoid the knife?
Was I ashamed of my body changing?
Recently, I conducted a Facebook poll with this question as the header: Do we shame women who have had plastic surgery? The results are in, and they are shocking!
Do we shame women who have had plastic surgery?
43% Yes, 57% No
Yes, it seems on the surface that the responses reflect a very middle-of-the-road response. Bleh. How shocking is it when a little less than half of the respondents say we shame women who have chosen to have part of their body altered? And more than half really have no problem with it.
These results are shocking because they reflect how we, in the 21st century, relate to people.
Granted, this is not a poll that reflects accurate statistics that represent the entire American population. I am fully aware that my Facebook poll only reveals a sliver of our population’s perception of how we view, and sometimes shame, women who have chosen plastic surgery.
Nevertheless, this sliver does speak truth about how we value a woman’s physical appearance, surgically enhanced or not.
Countless reasons explain why women undergo plastic surgery in 21st century Western and Eastern culture. We weigh so many relationships in this conversation.
Plastic surgery includes Breast Augmentation, Liposcution, Facial Implants, Hair Transplants. The list is long. Why do people choose these procedures? That list is just as long, but there is a thread that runs through most of the justifications. And it makes sense.
Flesh and blood people are doing the very best they know how to do to pursue relationships that endure. Relationships with others. Relationship with one’s self. Relationship with Our Maker.
Most people who choose plastic surgery believe it will improve their relationships. Botox and raised eyebrows convey youth, which can impress in client interactions. The Mommy Makeover similarly conveys youth, which promises improved self-perception. Results from plastic surgery have the power to affect how we see each other, how we relate to each other. Whether or not we choose to undergo plastic surgery, it is fair to say that we live in a society that challenges us to look a certain way.
Regardless of the motivation, plastic surgery largely worries Deborah Sullivan, an associate professor of sociology at Arizona State University and author of Cosmetic Surgery: The Cutting Edge of Commercial Medicine in America. In her Forbes interview with Rebecca Ruiz, she shared, “I’m really concerned that we are creating these plastic bodies,” Sullivan says. “The standard of beauty that we’re putting out there is not achievable without intervention. We are changing the norms about what a body should look like.”
No, this conversation is not about women who have undergone breast augmentation after breast cancer. Or about anything that can even slip under a category that fits in the stratosphere of medically necessary surgeries.
Whatever we think about plastic surgery is what we choose to own. How we choose to participate in relationships, well it looks different for all of us.
But what cannot look different for all of us is shaming women for the choices they are making about plastic surgery. The shaming of women is not something we should toss aside as something we have the right to settle on.
We must acknowledge that skinny shame, fat shame, and skin-color shame are sources of tender wounds that throb with pain in the #sisterhood, and shaming women for the decisions they make about their bodies alienates mothers, cousins, co-workers, and hesitant churchgoers from showing up to be vulnerable in our communities.
Women, we need each other in spite of all of our different opinions. We need relationships with women with whom we don’t agree. And we don’t agree on this plastic surgery question.
Do we shame? Why do we shame? Does our believing someone’s choice is wrong affect our willingness to love them? So many different voices stifle one another, demanding the majority’s agreement.
What if our agreeing was never supposed to be the source of forging relationships?
I’m thinking it wasn’t. It isn’t. It won’t ever be. Our agreeing with women about whether or not plastic surgery honors God’s creation of the bodies He crafted cannot be a relationship deal breaker. But I hope both sides will come together and compassionately have the conversations.
When it comes to plastic surgery decisions, who is affected?
Only our own bodies that have undergone surgery?
Which surgeries enhance and help, and which surgeries threaten and claim false hope?
Are our daughters assessing our decisions as they calculate the price of beauty?
Although there is no room for shame, there is room for truth-searching that loves women, created in God’s image.
What does Plastic Surgery Mean for Women?
It means that we have a whole lot of dicey decisions to make as we pursue relationships that make us whole and make us holy. Choosing plastic surgery is like any life-changing choice that a woman makes. It is complicated. Individually assessed. And full of grace.
All in the presence of a compassionate God who does not shame us, but loves us as we are.