Thursday, April 09, 2009

On unpuckering

One woman’s quest to understand plastic surgery and its practitioners...
In 2007 alone, Americans spent $13 billion on 11.7 million cosmetic procedures (both surgical and nonsurgical). An ongoing controversy over what qualifies as “cosmetic” makes it difficult to determine the number of treatments that were purely restorative, necessitated by third-degree burns, mastectomies, and other medical issues. But what’s clear is that the overall number of men and women undergoing cosmetic procedures in the U.S. has increased by 457 percent since 1997, when relevant statistical data was first collected. As many as one in 20 people today reportedly suffer from Body Dysmorphic Disorder (B.D.D.), a sort of “imagined ugly” syndrome. While difficult to diagnose, plastic-surgery addiction is often linked to B.D.D. Dr. Barry Eppley, who writes a blog titled “Explore Plastic Surgery,” estimates that one-third of plastic-surgery patients will eventually return to have additional work done.

... I’ll show you if you like,” says Maria, the svelte, well-dressed 42-year-old manager of Dr. Elliot Heller’s office, when I ask if she’s had her boobs done.
I nod and, without hesitation, Maria approaches me from behind the dark wooden desk, beige cowl-neck sweater peeled from her torso to reveal two perky, C-cup breasts.
“Can I touch?,” I ask, inspired by acute curiosity.
“Go ahead.”
I stand and place a palm on Maria’s left breast, then poke it the way a child would a large block of jell-o. It feels not like human flesh, but like a compressed sack of the pink ectoplasm from Ghostbusters II resting behind a thin layer of skin. All the while, Maria gazes at me with a prideful expression. I have to admire her. Perhaps it’s more arrogant to deny one’s vanity than to embrace it.
Dominic Crouse, 'Ecce Homo' 2003, Toned silver gelatin print, 24" X 20"

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