Pretty Is As Pretty Does

by Melisa Wells on April 18, 2008

So there’s a new book coming out in the next couple of weeks. I’m not going to mention its name because I don’t really want the millions of people who see it on the news searching for it and ending up here, but I will put the photo of the cover here so you can see what I’m talking about.

A doctor wrote this book to explain to children the changes that their mother was making during cosmetic surgery. The following passage, according to this article, is actually part of the book:

The girl asks: “Why are you going to look different?”
Mom responds: “Not just different, my dear — prettier!”

I had to take a good, long think about this during my walk with Roxie this morning before posting about it. I want to start a little comment conversation here.

First let me say that I DO NOT want to (and won’t) knock the book itself. I am very sensitive to giving negative public opinion on books because since I published one last fall, I know how hard it is when you put your heart and soul into something (Julie: that one’s for you!) and someone announces to the world that they think something is wrong with it–especially when they’ve never even held the book in their own hands. It can be a little hurtful. So I had to approach this a different way.

I think my initial negative reaction to the book is because I’m not crazy about the idea of having cosmetic surgery just to look prettier. I’m probably in the minority here, but time (and comments) will tell if that’s true. I know several people who have had “cosmetic” surgery for medically necessary reasons, and that is an entirely different story to me: not what I’m talking about.

I feel like I’m being judgmental here and I really try not to be a judgmental person. I guess I just feel that, in my own case, although I do not have a perfect body or features (by far!) and although I am not 100% happy with myself, I wouldn’t make the choice to go under the knife to change things. And I wouldn’t hold it against anyone else for doing so, really. It’s none of my business.

However, the thought that came up for me regarding the book was, “Why would somebody do that while they had kids young enough for this book?” Is that wrong of me to think? It seems so selfish to me. I mean, we can’t all be MILFs, can we? And what happened to having “character”? If we all looked the same, it’d be a pretty boring world. (Gosh, I feel like I’m treading on thin ice, here. I’m totally not trying to offend. And worse, I’m rambling.)

What do YOU think?

  • My boys are Army Brats

    Wow what a concept to make a childrens book about their parent having cosmetic surgery. It’s hard enough to build kids self esteem without showing them at such a young age their mothers desire to be prettier and the lengths some go to in order to make that happen.

    I would be interested in reading the book to find out what the authors take is on the subject but I assume it’s to encourage plastic surgery.

  • Mom24

    I totally agree! I guess I’ve heard everything now. Of course, when you combine it with the story of moms having babies at 62, maybe it puts a different spin on things! lol.

  • Melissa

    Who knew there was even a need for this book. Nothing like starting your kids out write.

    If mommy isn’t perfect then lets fix her until she is…now you wonder why we are a consumable community. If you don’t like your face just get a new one.

    Pfttt….

  • Colleen

    I think Melissa touched upon a great point, and maybe why the idea of this book bothers me so much. What are we saying to our kids, ESPECIALLY little girls if we go through medically unnecissary plastic surgery to become the trophy wife? I think it sends a BAD message to kids and society as a whole. Do we really have THAT much disposable income that we can put it into making our boobs bigger? Aren’t there battered women’s shelters that could use that money more wisely? And the fact that the book is aimed toward such young kids says something about the age of the women having the surgeries. Can’t they wait for something to sag first?

    OK, I’m stepping down off my soapbox before I take up too much comment real estate. Obviously, this bothers me very much.

  • House of Jules

    What disturbs me more about the book itself is the fact that it seems to be aimed solely at LITTLE GIRLS (that’s what the illustrations dictate) and that it’s “moral” lies only in how “pretty” mommy looks afterward instead of how she FEELS (and why is mommy wearing a half-shirt? This is not 1989).

    I could have a 20-hour conversation about this so I will spare you the uber-long comment you know I’m capable of, but I will say this: the book smacks as more of an advertisement/media coverage for the doctor who authored the book (I read an AP story on it the other day where he said that he felt the need to write the book b/c so many moms brought their kids to their consultation appts with them! WTF?) than a bedtime story, and is a sad commentary on people being so disconnected with their children that they can’t broach a topic like this (IF their child is age-appropriate, which I don’t think by the looks of this book they would be).

    I am in full support of anyone having anything done to themselves if it helps them feel better. I’ve done it myself (a breast reduction if any of you are curious), and though it was covered by my insurance it wasn’t like I couldn’t function without having it done. The benefits of that particular surgery for ME were more about self-esteem issues vs. physical discomfort (though, there was a lot of that) and as for your question on why somebody would have cosmetic surgery when they have young kids, I gotta wonder why anyone would want to wait for years if they’re miserable with something. That makes no sense to me at all (no offense, just my opinion on the matter).

    Part of the reason I didn’t have MY surgery until my early 20’s was because our mom (though well-meaning!) kept telling me from the age of 14 when I started talking about it was that I was too young to understand that decision and how it would affect my adulthood negatively and that I’d probably change my mind.

    Of course I never did and spent a lot of years depressed and angry about it, until I got on my own insurance and went through with it FINALLY, which was one of the happiest days of my life.

    I know what you’re saying about the book looking ridiculous and I agree– but your last paragraph isn’t about the book, right? I didn’t comment sooner b/c I was hoping lots of people would jump on here and give their opinions… I hope more people continue to do so, I love topics like this.)
    Yo’ sis,
    Jules
    House of Jules

  • Michelle

    *sigh* I just posted a nice long insightful post that errored out when I tried to post it.

    Anyway, my biggest concern is the focus on “pretty” as if being pretty makes people automatically happier or is the be-all-end-all. There are definitely things that make a huge difference (e.g., harelips) that I wouldn’t place into this category. And there are definitely people who have plastic surgery because of the issues they have with things the way they are but not just to be prettier. That, I get.

    Plus, there was an interesting article in the paper recently about people undoing plastic surgery they’d had done. Too many people wanted X’s nose, and the doctors did it regardless of whether it fit the face. Too many doctors do the same job, again regardless of whether it fits the person or not. And most scary to me, the people who were undoing the plastic surgery they’d had done because of serious medical problems the surgery had caused.

    But then again… I don’t even dye my hair, so who am I to say anything?

  • Sue

    OK, I just went and did a little research on this book. UGH.
    It is so hard raising girls these days with all the media out there focusing on how thin or fat a star is. I make a point if I tell my daughters how beautiful they are to also tell them how smart they are or how great a soccer game they played or how proud I am of them. As far as I can tell, this book’s importance is based on how pretty the mom wants to look. I can understand plastic surgery for medical reasons and even for cosmetic reasons sometimes. However, if for cosmetic reasons, does your kid need to know about it or could you wait until your kid was older? Could you put a spin on it so the surgery is not just to make “mommy look prettier”?
    I don’t think this will be making the NY best seller list anytime soon. Although it is scheduled to be released for Mother’s Day. Now there is a gift that comes from the heart. NOT!

  • Melisa

    Yay! Great comments, everybody! Now THAT is what I am talking about!

    More thoughts headed towards you regarding your comments; talk amongst yourSELF and then post another comment, pleeeease!

    Army Brats: I’m not sure if the doctor wrote the book intending to promote plastic surgery; it seems to me like he may just be trying to assuage moms’ guilty feelings (the ones who have any).

    Stacey: Ahh yes, with more modern times comes the “need” for modern accessories. Good point. Women are having babies much later than they used to. Although I personally think 62 is too old to have a child, again it’s not my situation so I couldn’t really speak to that. What if the woman was having fertility problems her whole life and FINALLY got pregnant at, say, 58? Should she be condemmed for “waiting too long”, or should we as a society just stay out of her business? I think it’s one of those things that makes me glad we live in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

    Melissa: You’re exactly right about our society today. (most of it, anyway) That’s why it can be so hard to raise kids in today’s crazy world!

    Colleen: First of all, let me thank you for saying I touched upon a great point. I love compliments (ha ha). I think that America’s obsession with celebrities has really taken its toll. That, combined with our “need it now” society, is causing women to lose their minds. And some men, I might add. Working in the fitness industry, I have heard stories about many health club members where I work whose husbands call them fat or give them a hard time about what they are eating and, you guessed it, these are the skinniest women. And they pay attention to their husbands. ugh.

    Julie (too serious a discussion to fool with the Aunt Doody/Joozie/Aunt Nudie names: LOL): Naturally, you were able to put into words a couple of the things that I was trying to express but couldn’t. And BTW, nice catch on the Mommy’s half shirt. She’s a regular (brunette) Pam Anderson. I think you best summed up what I was thinking when you said that you don’t know why someone would wait for years if they were that unhappy with something (and then have procedures done while they have kids). I really don’t begrudge anyone their tummy tuck, their boob job, nose job, whatever. But my feeling as a mom is that if I was going to do something major like that, it would be prudent and responsible and all that jazz to do it either BEFORE children or AFTER children, when they are out of the house and in college. I think if you’re going to have kids, you don’t have to stop taking care of yourself but you do have a responsibility to put your kids ahead of your own major surgical procedures, barring any health issues.

    An example closer to my own heart (okay, it’s my exact situation) is that I would love to weigh about 40 pounds less. However, I know my body and I know what I have to do to lose that weight is really, really watch EVERYTHING I eat and I would need to amp up my workouts to 90 minutes each time because my body is used to what I am doing. Because I am so freakin busy running these kids around right now and having to eat meals that are more on the quick side and less on the healthy side a lot of the time, I have decided to just do what I can with what I have. When the boys leave the house later on, I will be able to make those lifestyle changes a little easier.

    Michelle: ACK! I HATE when I type in something long and then it erases! I’d better “copy” this before I try to post it…You brought up a good point about people having stuff reversed. As if the first time wasn’t bad enough! Sidenote: I just read yesterday (okay, I think on Perez Hilton but nonetheless…) that a study came out saying that they are finding that Botox can seep into the BRAIN.

    Sue: That’s great that you make sure to compliment your girls on things other than their appearance too! Good Mom! The Mother’s Day release of this book reinforces my opinion that it was written to make moms feel less guilty…

    Keep going, girls! This is fun!

    You’re all Beautiful, too! :)

  • Huckdoll

    You probably saw my response to this on the Ant Hills, so I won’t repeat it, but damn I could go for a tummy tuck. That said, if I actually had the money and the nanny which is required to have it done and recover from it, I would probably end up getting scared and chickening out. I despise surgery. My c-section with my girls was horrendous before, during and after.

  • Michelle

    Good point on the compliments for children not just being about their looks. I do ask Little Miss who the prettiest girl in the world is, but I also ask her who the smartest one is, the funniest one, the fastest one, etc. (And of course she answers “ME!” to all of them.) My other learning is to make sure to compliment them on the effort, not just on a job well done.

    My mom tended to only compliment the perfect things and (not that I probably didn’t tend towards it anyway), I’m a total perfectionist — to the point of procrastinating and sabotaging myself if I don’t think I can do it right.

    I know, off topic on the plastic surgery, but … sorry!

  • Melisa

    Huckdoll: Yeah, I’m not a big fan of surgery either. I’m more the “I wish I could just snap my fingers and my stomach would be gone” type!

    Michelle: That wasn’t totally off-topic, don’t worry about it! You’re such a perfectionist! LOL
    (It takes one to know one though; I’m in the same boat with you!)

  • Sogeshirtsguy

    I agree with you I don’t understand the need for everyone to look like a barbie doll. First of all plastic surgery is not completely safe and secondly just by changing your outside looks is no guarantee that someone is going to have a higher self esteem. What if it doesn’t work and the confidence level remains the same and you spent 10,000 dollars or whatever for the surgery. That is going to damage someone’s self esteem even further and their wallet.

  • me & them

    This has been bugging me since I first read your post, yet I’m not quite sure what I think. My initial reaction was to jump on my high horse and think how selfish the parent must be, and the bad messages of needing to be certain stereotype it would send to a child. Having said that, I guess it would be a nice thing for a child to know that if something makes you so unhappy there is ways of making it work for the better. I just don’t know! It must honestly be different for every single person, and their unique situation. I have nothing against it, although I do tend to be quite judgemental and wonder the reasons behind it – I’ve always joked I’d get my boobs done if I had a chance (i.e money, and that’s not related to size, just my general impression of them), but I know I never could. I don’t think I could personally justify spending that money on my own bizarre judgement of myself, and if I had a child that money would obviously be better spent on their education (or a wonderful holiday exploring the world). If I got sprogged up in the first place, someone obviously thought I wasn’t doing too badly and that’s always nice to know :)

  • me & them

    This has been bugging me since I first read your post, yet I’m not quite sure what I think. My initial reaction was to jump on my high horse and think how selfish the parent must be, and the bad messages of needing to be certain stereotype it would send to a child. Having said that, I guess it would be a nice thing for a child to know that if something makes you so unhappy there is ways of making it work for the better. I just don’t know! It must honestly be different for every single person, and their unique situation. I have nothing against it, although I do tend to be quite judgemental and wonder the reasons behind it – I’ve always joked I’d get my boobs done if I had a chance (i.e money, and that’s not related to size, just my general impression of them), but I know I never could. I don’t think I could personally justify spending that money on my own bizarre judgement of myself, and if I had a child that money would obviously be better spent on their education (or a wonderful holiday exploring the world). If I got sprogged up in the first place, someone obviously thought I wasn’t doing too badly and that’s always nice to know :)

  • me & them

    This has been bugging me since I first read your post, yet I’m not quite sure what I think. My initial reaction was to jump on my high horse and think how selfish the parent must be, and the bad messages of needing to be certain stereotype it would send to a child. Having said that, I guess it would be a nice thing for a child to know that if something makes you so unhappy there is ways of making it work for the better. I just don’t know! It must honestly be different for every single person, and their unique situation. I have nothing against it, although I do tend to be quite judgemental and wonder the reasons behind it – I’ve always joked I’d get my boobs done if I had a chance (i.e money, and that’s not related to size, just my general impression of them), but I know I never could. I don’t think I could personally justify spending that money on my own bizarre judgement of myself, and if I had a child that money would obviously be better spent on their education (or a wonderful holiday exploring the world). If I got sprogged up in the first place, someone obviously thought I wasn’t doing too badly and that’s always nice to know :)

  • KathyLikesPink

    Wow. This saddens me. I would never buy this book but I am curious as to what he has written. Because the cover illustration implies the goal of a woman’s life is to be turned into a sex object. Midi top and hipster pants? PUH-LEEZ. I’m surprised they didn’t make the mom blond too.

    The life goals I try to instill in my daughter have nothing to do with waistlines or bustlines. I hope I’m succeeding in teaching her to value attributes like honesty, integrity, kindness, compassion, empathy. I believe these are what makes a person beautiful.

    I hope to heck our little library has the good sense NOT to purchase this book.

  • Dea

    I don’t like the idea that the mom is saying the surgery is to be “prettier.” I’ve had a breast reduction. It was one of the best things I ever did, and I was 19. And when I’m at my goal weight, I will be having a re-reduction, as well as a tummy tuck. Because I’m working this hard, and I have skin that stretches out easily, but doesn’t snap back. But I’m not doing it to be “prettier.” I think I’m darned attractive enough. I’m doing it to be comfortable (extra skin gets uncomfortable, especially with sweat, etc, and too-big breasts give me migraines and bad back) and to be able to feel normal.

    I support the decision to have plastic surgery, and I think there are many valid body issue reasons to have it. But to be “prettier” implies there’s something wrong with a person who DOES NOT have surgery.

    My kids think I’m pretty now, and when I get a haircut they say I didn’t need to fix myself, etc. So I cannot imagine reading a book like this to them!

    Also – I honestly can’t figure out how someone wouldn’t be able to explain this type of thing to their kids without the book. First, the kids don’t NEED to be that intimately involved with Mommy’s surgery. Second – I want them comfortable in their own skin. Yes, we all have flaws. But I want them to feel that at the very least, they’re deserving and worthy human beings. The implication of not being pretty enough makes the feeling of inadequacy blossom.

    Kids have enough to fight against for body image. I just heard a mom call into a radio program about her 14 year old getting implants. 14?? I didn’t get “blessed” with my own 36 HHH chest until I was 18 and a half. I was a B cup going into senior year. So a 14 year old is not done growing her OWN breasts. There’s something to be said for waiting until mother nature is done with you before making yourself over to be more comfortable!

    I just so want my kids to feel that they are awesome people, and that looking alike isn’t that awesome, difference being something more interesting and exciting than cookie cutter people.

  • Dea

    Oh, and to speak to timing of the surgery, etc – it is honestly easier to have surgeries younger. You recover faster, you have better results. So I can see that. But you have to pick the right doctor, etc. And with something like a reduction or say a nose job that is from an injury – it’s a big deal physically and emotionally to have something that, while not life threatening or overtly unhealthy, is insidiously unhealthy. My breasts having gotten exponentially bigger from hormones of pregnancy cause me to not be able to run/move like I want to with my kids. They give me migraines again. And this interferes with life. If I wait until they’re out of the house, then they’ve lost out on all those days of migraines, all those running contests we COULD have had. I think there are some people who become so depressed because of esteem issues that surgery in connection with psychological help can improve their lives tremendously. But I do have more sympathy for those who have the reduction or the nose job because of sinus/injury issues than, say, the woman who wants a new rack to snag a new boyfriend….but then that’s my prejudice shining through, no?

  • Melisa

    I’m so glad that this seemed to be a great topic! Thanks to everyone for jumping in!

    Katie: I think you hit (one of the) nails on the head when you said it’s different for everybody. Yes, yes, yes. Of course everybody is going to have their own experiences to draw upon, and decisions would range widely in variety of reasons for whichever direction it would go…no easy answers, I guess!

    Kathy: Me too! I would like to see the book but wouldn’t feel the need to buy it…

    Dea: All good points! :)

  • Dea

    Yup, being a mom means never having an easy decision or answer ever again…..sigh….now just tell me how to explain the birds and bees to a 7 year old, and I’ll be set for another couple months….doh!

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