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A plastic surgeon replies: Aging and My Beauty Dilemma

A plastic surgeon replies:

As a plastic surgeon with a 32 year practice of cosmetic surgery, I appreciate the honesty and vulnerability of Debora Spar’s September 25th article, Aging and the Beauty Dilemma.

I hold this to be true: Cosmetic Surgery? It should fall off the face of the earth! That is if we lived in an ideal world, a world where one’s appearance simply didn’t matter. But we don’t. In our world looks matter, youth matters.

We live within a competitive and disconnected worldview of You OR Me. This juvenile worldview includes racism and the patriarchy. It also includes beautyism and, perhaps most damaging of all ? ageism.

Ageism is something we all face, either now or later. To our detriment, both personally and to our world’s detriment, we live in an era that scorns and derides our older people. We have lost our natural third stage ? Elder. In particular we have lost the wisdom and contribution of our finest segment, the crone. This is a once-revered term for the wisest and most compassionate, and potentially the most contributory segment of our population, the wise older woman. Now ‘crone’ is spoken as a pejorative.

Cosmetic surgery is one answer, sometimes the best of bad answers. It doesn’t alter either widespread beautyism or ageism but it can ease individual suffering. Cosmetic surgery works.

Even the writer, a president of a prestigious college, is embedded in our culture’s sexism, beautyism and ageism. I am so sorry. In a You AND Me world, it would not be that way.

So, to her, incipient Elder, powerful crone, I say, Go for it!  Do what works for you. Stand tall, choose, and tell the nitpickers to… well, you know.

Harvey W. Austin, MD,

The writer is a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon and Founder of The Austin-Weston Center for Cosmetic Surgery, McLean, Virginia. He is the author of Elders Rock!  Don’t Just Get Older: Become an Elder


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