Last night, I dreamed that in one 48- hour period, I had acquired enough new creases in my face to add ten years to my appearance. Fortunately, when I awoke and ran to the mirror, I could only spot the old wrinkles; no new ones had appeared. Still, there are 24 hours remaining before I can be sure my dream was only a nightmare.
I know where the dream originated. It’s my fault. I have been obsessing over wrinkles lately. I do this because I still feel young, which makes it hard not to pay attention to visible signs that I might not be.
It turns out that much younger women — and men — share my obsession with their faces even though it will be years before a wrinkle ever appears on them. According to a New Yorker article, “About Face,” (March 23, 2015) many Korean women are beautiful, and nature is only partly responsible; plastic surgery does the rest. Says writer Patricia Marx, in the “Beverly Hills of Seoul,” you can find “four and five hundred clinics within a square mile.” She quotes one college student who says, ‘When you’re nineteen, all the girls get plastic surgery, so if you don’t do it, after a few years, your friends will all look better…’
Apparently, this isn’t an attempt to be different, be the first among your peers to do something wildly extravagant, or to stand out, as we might think of it in this country; instead, it is a way to fit into the group. Ugh. It doesn’t matter which culture you’re in, there have to be other ways besides cosmetic surgery to manifest attractiveness. As one friend said, “There’s nothing like a warm, genuine smile to light up a person’s face and make her beautiful.”
Why are so many Korean women intent on this? When the women come in for a consultation, their surgeons ask the same question. Possible boxes to check on new-patient surveys include preparing for a job interview or wedding, feeling better about oneself, or bowing to the urgings of others. Respondents have the option of filling in the blank, “Which entertainer do you most want to resemble?”
This morning, my husband and I were talking about Bruce Jenner aka Caitlyn Jenner. I know nothing about sex changes, so perhaps all those new female hormones cursing through his body will make him much happier and comfortable with himself, but will Caitlyn’s new body and face erase all of Bruce’s former hangups and insecurities? I doubt it. Isn’t it still true that “Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.”* We all suffer from “the grass is greener on your side of the fence than it is on my side” syndrome, known in Buddhism as dukkha, or dissatisfaction. If only I… [you fill in the desired change here], my life would be better.
So if I had fewer wrinkles would I be younger? Would my day-to-day life change in any real way? Nope. So there’s no point in obsessing. Unless, at the end of the next 24 hours my dream comes true. Then I might have to consider Korea.
*a quote attributed to writer Neal Gaiman.