06 September 2009

100 Issues for 100 Days: #21

#21: Flossy, Flossy

This morning I woke up and the first thing I saw when I turned on the television was a documentary called Youth Knows No Pain. It's a documentary made by the daughter of a plastic surgeon as she ponders the multi-billion dollar anti-aging industry which includes, injectables, creams and full-on surgery.

Although I found the documentary pretty well-rounded and it featured lots of different points of view, one thing was definitely visually apparent, even though it was unspoken: this is a White person's problem. In the entire time I watched only three of the people I saw were of color, one Black woman, one Asian male and one Latina. Now this doesn't mean I believe only White people worry about aging but there's clearly some color and class hierarchy driving this industry.

Now I could go to that old stand-by "Black don't crack" but I think essentially, cosmetics are expensive. Cosmetic surgery, even the injectables, is pretty cost prohibitive. The average price for Botox is $350-$500 per area. Even with "recession specials", cosmetic surgery is hard for the average American to afford without foregoing some other aspect of their lives. In a 2008 survey by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, they found that wile White Americans comprise 67% of the population, they account for 78% of plastic surgeries. Blacks are 13% of the population and 6% of plastic surgery patients. And the industry projected figures to drop due to the recession.

One important aspect the documentary did bring up was the fact that because health insurance is linked to our jobs, people feel the need to keep themselves looking young and vital in order to preserve their jobs and by-proxy, their health insurance. I wonder if some people of color don't worry about Botox since they are more likely to not have health insurance?

Essentially, that's what the film seemed to come down to for me. Cosmetic surgery is something you do if you have the time to worry about what you look like. And you would have the time to do that if you didn't have to worry about school loans, job security or where your next meal was coming from.

Ironically, the woman who made the documentary was the daughter of a famoous plastic surgeon who always told her she was beautiful. And although she never tried anything other than creams until she made this film, she was pretty obsessed with aging. I wonder if as a culture we've come to a point where we need something, anything to focus on and when the things around us fall into place we turn that obsessive need inward. Will my life fall into place one day and suddenly I'll find myself searching for Botox injection?

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