Jewish Journal


August 26, 2010

Ah! Mom, Don’t Get Plastic Surgery!



You never know what she'll look like when she comes out!

Dearest Yenta,

I was at my parent’s house looking for a book and came upon a surgical plan for facial plastic surgery for my mother. I’m not sure if she ever went through with it — they did a damn good job because I can’t tell. But I feel sad for her (I think she is beautiful naturally), angry (this is something that she should have at least run by her kids), and ashamed (I think cosmetic surgery is superficial). Should I just suck it up and not say anything? Or do I ask her about it?



Dear A,

What we think we know of our parents is generally the tip of an iceberg. This is a scary/nauseating realization: that we may not even know our own guardians. In this situation, the plastic surgery is first and foremost, your mother’s business. It is her face, her youth complex, her body afterall. I don’t know that she has any obligation to run the prospect of realigning her face by her children.

Ideally, yes, it would be nice to be informed if someone we love takes a knife to their affect. I used to cry hysterically when my father just shaved his beard: the shift in a face I knew terrified me. Your sadness is totally understandable. But remember, plastic surgery can mean a million things. It can indicate self-hatred, yes, but it can also be done for complex health reasons. Example: I know a woman whose eyes were drooping with age. Eventually her own eyelids were blocking her vision, so she had her eyes done. Click here for more on reasons for plastic surgery.

A pamphlet, is also, just a pamphlet. If you feel so close to your mother that you think she should share this information with you, why not approach her about it? “Mom, I found this. Is it yours?” But approach, if possible, without judgment or desire to change your mother. Ask her about her motives, try to understand where she is coming from before attempting to change or shun her decision. Some of her adult issues are hers and cannot be changed and altered.

The best you can do is say “I love you! I think you are gorgeous just as you are!” Maybe she will hear you, maybe not. Ultimately, your blanket view of plastic surgery as superficial will prevent you from hearing, seeing, or understanding your mom’s motives. Even though you like her the way she is, she might not like her, which can be an intense thing to learn about your parent. Work to just listen to her.

Just like you want to be seen as an autonomous adult without a judgmental eye, so do your parents. You never know what kind of skeletons people have in their closets, so be gentle as you approach her not as a baby, but as a mommy with a real history.

Maybe ask how she would feel if you wanted to do the same, it might, at the very least, push her to probe her moral assessment of the surgery. Show the video of Heidi Montag’s mother’s reaction to her daughter’s facial rearrangement for fodder.

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