Appearance Culture: Quiet Tyranny
I once had something in common with Parisian playwright Cyrano de Bergerac and comedian Jimmy Durante: a prominent nose. But that changed on Feb. 1, 2007 following elective surgery to correct a deviated septum, which was accompanied by a reconstructive procedure euphemistically called rhinoplasty.
How fitting that a culture obsessed with appearance could conjure up a term so deeply pejorative and offensive that it’s nearly impossible to utter the word without blushing or breaking into uncontrollable laughter. The implication, of course, is that one’s
nose is so large that it must be compared to a rhinoceros, “derived from the Greek words rhino, meaning nose, and ceros, meaning horn; hence “horn-nosed,” according to a description on Wikipedia.
Please allow me to make another appropriate animal analogy: sporting a bump on the bridge and extra cartilage at the tip of my God-given schnozolla was the unacknowledged elephant in the room for me (enormous trucks serving as the undeniable common denominator). My fragile male ego long suffered in silence.
Just about everyone is born with a facial feature or body part they’d like to fix. It’s human nature. Nowadays, an over-emphasis on appearance has unleashed such a sinister force that scores of young women have developed eating disorders in hopes of living up to airbrushed images of fashion models and Hollywoodcelebrities, while plastic surgeons prey upon people’s insecurities.
Although my primary motivation for undergoing the knife was to breathe easier and, hopefully, sleep better, it would be disingenuous for me to suggest that vanity didn’t play a role. Upon announcing the news to a few close confidants, I remember joking about having lived in L.A.a bit too long. But there’s a kernel of truth in that observation, and after two years immersed in
one of the world’s most intimidating singles scenes, it’s easy to see how people can get so caught up in the external at the expense of the internal.
Despite gaining confidence about my new presentation, I’m still sickened by a culture so obsessed with appearance that it drives some perfectly rational people to act rashly or risk a life of quiet desperation.
This modern-day phenomenon clouds inner beauty. Society should place more value on the virtues of humor, charm, compassion and intelligence. But it’s impossible to un-ring the bell, as they say, and it’s anyone’s guess what we can expect during a time when medical science continues to gradually reveal the kind of significant breakthroughs that offer us all a taste from the fountain of youth. Let’s just hope most of us still have the sense not to nose around with the formula for physical perfection and risk losing sight of what’s truly important in life.