To my mother, on Botox:
A few days ago you told me that you wanted to get cosmetic surgery. I was immediately struck with the sudden urge to cry.
There are a lot of things I wish I had said to you when you told me of the plastic surgery you envision as “self-improvement” and the litany of physical changes I imagine you think would probably do me a lot of good. You said that you don’t have any qualms with plastic surgery and would probably support me if I said I wanted to get a nose job, and at first, I didn’t really understand why I was so upset. Plastic surgery has become as much a media fixture as Photoshop, the plight of Disney stars and who’s ruining whose marriage. With every passing day, Botox and a whole host of other forms of injectable beauty become more and more prevalent. Honestly, I didn’t understand really why I was so emotional about something so seemingly trivial.
It began to make a little more sense today.
Today is one of those days when my body feels too large for its frame. When my skin feels a little too blemished; when my smile seems too shaky and jagged to warrant being kissed; when my limbs feel like a collection of spare parts tossed together a little too carelessly. Right now I feel like my nose is misshapen, and my eyes look too small, even to themselves. Today is one of those days when my brain does not have the energy to convince my body to feel good about its waistline or breast size or complexion. Mom, I’ve spent a lot of time recently trying to convince myself of the notion that I deserve to be happy in my own skin, regardless of society’s ever-changing beauty ideals, but today, I do not feel beautiful.
I do not have Barbie’s 32-16-29 measurements. My stomach stopped being flat when I hit puberty and my shoulders are not toned and honestly, I gave up on ‘shimmer highlighter’ when I couldn’t find the cheekbones I was supposed to apply them to. But I feel like if you can accept — and not only accept, but embrace — all the things about yourself you don’t find beautiful, then I can be okay with the things about myself I sometimes would love to change, too.
I am not going to ask you to not do something that you think will make you happy just because it feeds into my somewhat irrational, longstanding insecurities. But I want you to know that today, when I looked in the mirror, I saw cheeks that could use a little more collagen and a nose that could use a little more height and a chin that could probably be shaved down a little. I saw a 17-year-old girl who is still trying to believe that there is something beautiful about the way she breathes, regardless of what magazines or men or movies tell her about beauty.
What she would like more than anything is for her mother to be okay with everything about herself, because that means that she can be happy with everything about herself, too, no matter how imperfect. What she would like to ask you is to look at yourself and not believe that your wrinkles need smoothing, or that your stomach needs fixing, or that your eyes have ever been too small to see clearly, because that means she can throw out the Vogue that is telling her that if she only loses ten pounds, she will be beautiful; that if she invests in a good enough foundation, she will finally be worth loving.
There is a six-year-old girl inside of your daughter who would kill if only her mother would look at her like no boy is worth the shine in her eyes and no magazine is worth the spark in her brain and then tell her that “self-improvement” does not mean changing the things about yourself society tells you aren’t pretty, or fuckable, or sufficiently feminine. I know you would tell me to believe that I am beautiful, Mom, and on some days, I do. But it would be a lot easier if you looked at yourself in the same way I want to look at myself.