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Home / Articles / Opinion / Backwards & in High Heels /  Life imitating art
. . . .
Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008

Life imitating art

Indoctrinating the next generation

By Aaryn Belfer

“This is why terrorists want to kill us.”

That was the stellar comment left on a post at boingboing.net regarding a new picture book for children, and it’s pretty much the exact reaction I had when I saw the illustrated cover of My Beautiful Mommy. The tongue-in-cheek assessment is not without merit: If this book is a mirror held up to American culture, then the reflection is pathetic and I can’t really blame the evildoers for hating us. We’re hate-able. Just look at us. I hate us, too, when I look too closely. And I hate hate, so that’s saying something.

This quaint storybook is the brainchild of a Florida-based plastic surgeon who, from the looks of him, has spent time as a plastic-surgery patient, as well. Following consults with patients who brought their children to appointments (who are these people, and why are they allowed to breed?), Dr. Michael Salzhauer had a realization that there was a void in the educational children’s-book genre. Thankfully, Salzhauer filled that void by writing a book geared toward the 4- to 7-year-old spawn of this nation’s well-to-do. Finally, mommies everywhere have a guidebook to help propel a discussion about why the staples in her tummy require the young ’uns to serve her breakfast in bed for two weeks.

And, too, American kids—particularly girls—can begin their battle with self-loathing earlier than any generation before them. It’s a race to the bottom, and we’re topped out on the speedometer. God bless America.

Sure, people have augmented their appearance since the beginning of time. Or, at least since the advent of the merkin. But the modern ideal of beauty has ventured so far down the beaten Botox path that we might just as well accept the frozen face, chiseled nose, faux cleft-chin, triple-D-sewn-in message, that the extreme makeover is perfectly normal! And helping to make this message palatable is Salzhauer’s altruistic goal.

Newsweek says his book “features a perky mother explaining to her child why she’s having cosmetic surgery (a nose job and tummy tuck). Naturally, it has a happy ending.” An ending foreshadowed by the pre-surgery, Barbie Doll-figured mommy, with a crooked nose and midriff bearing shirt, who assures her perplexed daughter that she will look not “just different, my dear—prettier!” The dialogue is very realistic.

I didn’t read the book, but I saw excerpts. The mommy sure is perky. And curvaceous. She’s got giant, wide-set blue eyes and angled cheekbones and long, swirling hair, and she’s just like the label-whore ladies I see at the Fashion Valley Mall, teetering in 4-inch wedges, wearing oversized Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses and Seven jeans, the mandatory Louis Vuitton or Coach or Tod’s purse dangling from bejeweled wrists.

But back to the book. With a dainty Steri-strip across the bridge of her ski-jump nose, and with her stomach flat below the hem of her half-shirt, the post-surgery Stepford Mama of our story has noticeably larger breasts (how strange), which are never mentioned. “The tummy lends itself to an easy explanation to the children: extra skin and can’t fit into your clothes,” the author told Newsweek about the new and improved Bratz Dollish mommy. “The breasts might be a stretch for a six-year-old” was his explanation for why he left out an explanation of the cartoon mommy’s larger chestula.

Maybe the omission is some sort of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy on the part of the author, which is sorta contradictory to his reason for writing the book in the first place. But no matter. What’s important is for kids to recognize that mommy is only trying to make herself feel better and the seven vodka tonics at the end of her day ain’t cuttin’ it. To be fair, what mother doesn’t want to get rid of the extra flesh around the middle, skin stretched and scarred and made lumpy because a baby grew under it? With Salzhauer’s learning tool, surely said baby won’t feel responsible for Mommy’s poor body image.

I think Dr. S is really onto something with his book. Perhaps the talented doctor will follow it with a sequel. He could bring back the steroid-pumped superhero “Dr. Michael”—whose likeness is eerily similar to the author—and, given that more and more men are going under the knife, a Ken Doll version of the story might fill yet another niche market.“Look,” a deflated and gray-skinned daddy might say in the opening pages. “My hair fell out because of your refusal to sleep through the night for three years running, and I felt bad about that. All I wanted was to feel better. So I got hair plugs, and they go great with my fast new car and midlife crisis. Sure, the constellation on my scalp might look a little scary at first, but I’m not just different—I’m handsomer!”

The post-op pop would have a head of tiny pinprick dots from which would sprout thick and wavy, blond hair. He’d be built like an upside-down triangle now, bulging in all the same places as Dr. Michael the Superhero. Calf implants would come with the follicular enhancement, of course, as would the penile enlarger. But that bulge would remain unaddressed; it’s a concept waaay beyond the grasp of a 6-year-old.

This book is awesome because it’s so frightening. Its characters look like people I’ve met before, who look like other people I think I may have met before, who sort of look like the many celebrities who all look the same. We’re becoming caricatures of caricatures at a frenetic pace, which is so super meta that even Escher himself would have been hard-pressed to draw it.

We carve off any connection to our genealogy, dismissing lineage with the words “deviated” and “septum”; we put synthetic material filled with silicone into our bodies because it looks better in a swimsuit; we shoot Botulinim Toxin and Restylane and Newfill and even fat grafts into our faces because expressions—along with that dirty trickster called time—cause wrinkles and sagging and it’s a futile effort to achieve an unattainable and skewed beauty and to deny our own mortality and we Just. Can’t. Deal.

I hate it. I don’t believe in it, and I hate it.

But the fact that—as I see myself aging—I find myself buying into it?

That makes me hate it even more.    

Write to aaryn@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com.




 
 
 
 
 
 
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