Dr. 90210 – Unnecessary surgery is cool!

SBG’s article on Dr. 90210 has got me checking out the show occasionally to see just how bad it gets. The answer is: really bad.

Last week, a doctor was performing liposuction on a woman… who was a size zero. As he rammed the lipsuction hose under her skin repeatedly, like a very angry jack hammer (which I could barely stand to watch), he chatted cheerfully about how hard it was going to be to find any fat in this woman. Then, pray tell, WTF ARE YOU DOING GIVING HER LIPOSUCTION? And that’s not even touching on the general controversy over liposuction as a method of weight loss.

Right now I’m (not) watching a breast implant operation. If seeing them shove bags of snot-alike brutally up under skin that’s stretched inches out of shape with their instruments doesn’t make you think twice about implants, I don’t know what will. Maybe the footage of another woman, whose implant has ruptured, getting all the silicone dug out of her breast meat, looking like carcass hanging on a butcher’s hook. I can’t figure out what the point of this graphic footage is. Are they trying to let real life women know what they’re in for if they pursue major cosmetic surgery? Or are they helping women reduce their self-image to a lump of meat, so women can more easily contemplate dropping thousands of dollars on unnecessary surgery designed to make them conform to a societal ideal?

Additionally, the doctor had a lot of concerns about his ability to get this breast implantation right, given that the woman is very petite. Did he try to talk her out of it on that basis? Nah. Did he ask her what she’d done to try to get comfortable and confident with the flat chest she she has? Nah. He makes a comment that some women are quite secure about their small breasts, but those who aren’t should feel free to get implants. Afterwords, he was so proud of his work and how beautiful he’d made this woman. It was all he could talk about.

I’ve got to say… cosmetic surgery is not evil, and I’m not judging those who want it. I do empathize with the urge to “correct” a feature that’s particularly large or small or doesn’t look like it did twenty years ago. But at some point, you have to consider this is a multi-billion dollar business fueled by a lot of really negative messages about how we have to be beautiful not only to find mates (which is belied by all the not-so-gorgeous happy couples I know, even here in L.A.), but to be successful. Even men are starting to see a correlation between looking young and vibrant and becoming Vice Presidents in their companies. Excuse me, but since when did we expect CEO’s to be hotties? What the hell does beauty have to do with your ability to take charge of your department and make the right judgment calls? Like I said, I’m not even convinced the majority of men consider hotness a prerequisite for marriage: most men seem to be very intimidated by spectacularly gorgeous women. But if we don’t keep up the myth of necessary beauty, this billion-dollar industry of unnecessary surgery might fall apart.

And the bottom line is: cosmetic surgery for fashion is a double-edged sword. Smaller breasts were in vogue in the 70’s and 80’s – if that fashion comes back (and it will, sooner or later, as all fashions do), will the women getting implants now rush to get them out?


  1. sbg says

    It’s disturbing, isn’t it? We seem to be the only nation in the world so obsessed with youth and appearance. I’m sure there are people concerned with that all over the world, but it’s SO heavily focused on in the US that I find it alarming.

    Sure, I freak out with every grey hair I find, or with every new wrinkle. But that’s what happens. That’s life. Unless my eyelids droop so significantly I can’t see anything, they’re staying as they are.

    Any plastic surgeon who doesn’t have a psychologist on staff or who simply ignores the fact his/her patient doesn’t actually require any nip/tucking is borderline unethical, in my opinion. Just because someone desperately wants something doesn’t mean they should get it – that’s something every parent of a two year old knows. And it’s something adult patients should realize, yet lots of people just…don’t.

    I’ll get off my soapbox now.

  2. sbg says

    PS, size zero getting liposuction makes me physically ill. Size zero as a size makes me physically ill, too, but that’s another story. Why a woman would strive to be nothing is beyond me. 😉

  3. scarlett says

    Well, one of the good things about Nip/Tuck is that they HAVE a resident physcologist and readily identify women with body dysmorphic disorder, suregry junkies, etc. They do a remarkable job of overlooking people, but they’ve at least made a stab at only accepting people who have realistic expectations and no underlying issues.

    For example, they turned down a woman who wanted as nose job because it reminded her of teh father who molested her, and a woman who was clinically depressed and wanted liposuction to impress one particular man, but they took on a woman who’d lost a lot of weight and wanted to get rid of her ‘skin bags’, and a woman who knew she was otherwise a perfect ten, but her blindness had given her eyes a creepy, ghostlike quality. It varied from patient to patient, but overall there was a sense of ‘is this surgery going to improve their self-esteem immesurably, do they have realistic expectations, or are we just pandering to an underlying issue?’.

    I really hope shows like this show women how surgeons like that pander to low self-esteem, not to mention the side-effects of such surgeries.

  4. Jennifer Kesler says

    Unfortunately, Nip/Tuck is fiction, and this show is “reality TV”. I can’t believe real plastic surgeons wouldn’t have counselors see patients first, just to cover themselves in the event the patient later has “buyer’s remorse” and decides to sue the doctor for encouraging unnecessary surgery.

    And, of course, I don’t trust “reality TV” to really represent reality. I certainly hope this show doesn’t, because the message I got from it was “Cosmetic surgery can really make you beautiful, and therefore enhance your life.”

  5. scarlett says

    Actually, I just did a reading for uni about plastic surgery, and one of the things they touched on was patients who just go mental when what they got wasn’t anywhere near what they were promised – and that didn’t even go into the cases were patients were deluded about what they were getting, which emphasises the need for some kind of on-site councelling. I mean, if you had someone who you told ‘this will not make you look like JLo’ but was actually thinking about how surgery was going to give then JLo’s life, well, that’s just begging for trouble when they wake up and realise, nothing’s changed.

    In terms of lawsuits, buyer’s remorse and patients going on the rampage (one incident this reading went into was a male patient who didn’t like his new look, so killed the suregon and the surgeon’s nursing staff) NOT being upfront about every possible risk and side effect and having on-site councelling seems so beyond stupid that I can’t think of a word for it.

  6. Jennifer Kesler says

    I’m guessing those doctors are incompetent. Why? Because a GOOD cosmetic surgeon can make an ungodly amount of money even when she turns away every patient whose expectations for the surgery are at all unrealistic. The wealth potential is so staggering even WITH all ethics in place, I can’t imagine anyone but an incompetent with a poor success rate resorting to taking any and all patients without discretion.

  7. Revena says

    This is gonna veer slightly off-topic, but I feel the need to mention that I actually know not just one, but two women who are naturally size zero, and very insecure about it. One of them is constantly trying to gain weight, through diet and exercise to build muscle, but never manages to bulk up enough to need to change sizes.

    So while I think it’s very unhealthy and screwed up that our culture pressures women who are naturally size twelve to feel that they should somehow be striving to attain a zero, there are some people for whom it’s a natural size.

  8. scarlett says

    I think it’s more that, even though there’s such a huge market, because it’s so lucrative, there are so many people getting in on it that there’s really not enough work to go around. Plus, I’d imagine that there are plenty of people out there willing to spend whataver it takes to get a surgeon to operate (another thing Nip/Tucl touches on from time to time) – if someone was offering me two or three times the going rate, I might be tempted to subverse my ethics, too :(

  9. Jennifer Kesler says

    There shouldn’t be any single “ideal size” for women (or men). We have ideals about height, weight, frame, where hair is appropriate for your gender… and it’s ridiculous because everything is attractive to someone. A quick perusal (if you can stomach it) of online porn fetish sites proves that.

  10. scarlett says

    OK, in terms of celebrity, who would be considered a size-zero? I always thought US sizes corresponded to one below the Aus equivilant, which would make the smallest you could possibly be without being a skeleton an Aus6/US4 (and Aus6 would be someone like Kate Moss or Kylie Minogue, who are both very slim and quite short – to be slim but have some kind of height without looking like a skelton, like Gwyneth Paltorw, you would be an Aus8-10). This has caused some confusion among my friends and I after Eva Longaria’s character on Desperate Housewives said she was a size zero; she looks like an Aus6-8, which we thought was a US4-6.

    As far as small women goes – I don’t mind them being public figures, but i do mind the pressure to be both petite and and a B- or C-cup. I’d like to see more women with Kate Moss’s figure and non-existant breasts, or big-breasted women who looked more like Mamryn Manhein then Pamela Anderson. In other words, small is beautiful, but you’re small all over, and big is beautiful, but you’re big all over – none of this culture which drives women under the knife so they can have a small body and big breasts. I am yet to meet someone who had that kind of figure naturally.

  11. Jennifer Kesler says

    Unfortunately, it’s hard to answer because the more expensive the clothing brand, the smaller the sizes run, in an attempt to flatter clients who spend more on clothes.

    I think there is a true size chart somewhere, but I don’t know what to tell you. I’m a rather petite woman – short, fine bones, small frame – but curvy, so when I’m slim I’m about a size 6 (which is to say, depending on brands, I’ll have pieces ranging from size 4 to 8).

  12. scarlett says

    Well that makes sense according to what I’ve been told, that US sizes are roughly one size smaller. It sounds like you’ve got a similar build to my sister, who’s a 6-8 (mostly 8) – think Kate Moss proportions, only a little taller :p And I’m a bit taller and heavier, I’m 8-10 which I was told would roughly convert to a US6-8.

    What confused me is Longaria/Gabrielle’s comment about being a size 0. Longaria looks like she’d be an Aus6-8, similar to my sister, which ought to be a US4. By the above formula, a US0 is an Aus2, which doesn’t exist – grown women do not get that small.

  13. Mecha says

    True size chart. Ha ha. Ahem. Sorry, that’s just funny since I have to do all my clothing size research from the standard of no information. It’s a pain. ^^; Just look at http://www.howcool.com/catalog/sizecharts.php!

    Anyway. http://www.ianardo.com/sizechart.html sorta shows that Australian sizes sorta close in on US sizes at size ’24’ and then the differences go up from there. That site (along with some crossreffing) would put US size 0 at _26-18-28_ (inches.)

    If it were an even scale, which could be informative and useful. Oh, one could only hope. Check out http://stores.ebay.com/DHfashions/WOMENS-CLOTHING-SIZE-CHART.html , which puts it at 31-23-33 ish.

    So to me, it seems like Size ‘0’ was made up (after the scaling of sizes so that ‘everyone’ could have a single digit size.) Note how the e-bay numbers aren’t even in the slightest in their progression (1 inch progressions in the low end, up to 2 in the high end, which is where it goes consistent.) A constructed/compacted system, geared for higher grades of smallness. The only reason one makes a tighter system like that is to make it easier to compare things in that range (says the scientist in me.) Say, for the purpose of competition or degredation.

    (That said? Sizes below 4-6 are hard to find information on in general. Gee. I wonder if there aren’t many women below 4-6? Just maybe? *cough*)


  14. Jennifer Kesler says

    I’m nothing like Kate Moss, though. I’m naturally small-boned and everything, but very definitely curvy, and none of my bones show through my skin. I’m voluptuous (by supermodel standards) even at my slimmest.

    I think a Kate Moss type would be smaller than a US 6, I’m just not sure how much smaller.

  15. sbg says

    It’s not women who are naturally size zero that really bug me. It’s that a size zero exists. It doesn’t make sense to me, even though I know in mathematics zero is very important and yadda. I just…why not start with one? 😉

  16. sbg says

    Incidentally, this unnecessary surgery subject got me remembering a visit to my dentist about a year ago, during which the hygienist told me I had a very narrow mouth and that that could get “fixed” if I ever wanted to do that. I asked her if that would ever be a medically necessary procedure (for me). She said no, it was just cosmetic.

    Why on Earth she even brought it up is beyond me. Like I’m going to voluntarily have major surgery on my jaw/mouth/whatever just because it might give me a little more space.

  17. scarlett says

    She’d probably had dozens of women complaining that their narrow mouths didn’t look like Jennifer/Angelina/Cameron’s ad what they could do about it…

  18. says

    *Nod* I figured that’s what you meant, I just wanted to make sure.

    Honestly, what I want to know is why we don’t do women’s sizes in the US the same way we do men’s? If our pants were made and labelled with waist and inseam numbers in inches (and maybe hip, too, since women often have a large difference between hip and waist) instead of to some nebulously-defined “size”, I might actually be able to buy clothes that fit. 😛

  19. Jennifer Kesler says

    I’ve asked that question and gotten an answer before:

    “Oh, that’d be too expensive to make all those different tailored cuts.”

    That was before a number of brands started making jeans in long, short and medium, with different cuts for different body types. And those jeans didn’t really go up in price.

    I think the real answer is the fashion industry thinks women have put up with shit all these years: why work to gain a customer you already have? They’re oblivious to the fact that a lot of women, like me, spend very, very little on clothes because the alterations necessary to fit my short, curvy frame are more expensive than the clothes. Build the alterations in, and I’ll consider dropping $60 on a pair of jeans when they fit.

  20. SunlessNick says

    Why a woman would strive to be nothing is beyond me.

    I suspect the smiley is because you already know the answer to that. Women are constantly battered with messages that that’s exactly what they are.

  21. Jennifer Kesler says

    That’s bizarre. I’ve had dentists comment that I have a small mouth and it makes it harder to do the dental work, but I’ve never had them suggest that’s something I should seek to fix.

    I’m wondering if she was making referrals to plastic surgeons and getting kickbacks. I talked to someone once whose dentist casually asked if she wanted to get her chin or nose or something fixed, because he knew somebody. She’d never thought there was anything wrong with her face, and the comment made her feel insecure. I think it was meant to.

  22. Jennifer Kesler says

    VERY good points. These subtle messages are what TV, film and advertising specialize in, because more obvious messages get deflected by people’s natural rebelliousness.

  23. MaggieCat says

    She’d never thought there was anything wrong with her face, and the comment made her feel insecure. I think it was meant to.

    This doesn’t directly apply to plastic surgery specifically, more human nature, but it probably was, at least subconsciously. In The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker one of the strategies discussed is typecasting- offering a vague insult, usually one that’s easy to refute (“there’s such a thing as being too proud” et cetera) to elicite a specific response from a potential target without appearing to do so. In that case the intent was much more malicious but the idea is the same, and it happens more often to women than men because women are trained by society to be pleasant and compliant. And it happens all of the time, from your grandmother commenting “Oh, you’re wearing that?” to a criminal who psychs out a victim into lowering the gun. It can be used just as easily to damage someone’s self esteem.

  24. MaggieCat says

    Yikes at the redundancy in that first sentence… this is what happens when you rephrase in mid thought. Well, at least it’s very clear. 😉

  25. sbg says

    Y’know, I don’t think I’d like to give up that much of my hips just to be a “0.” Much as they make me give up after about an hour of frustratedly trying on clothes, I like my curves.

    And the differences in sizing charts go a long way in explaining why shopping is such a pain in the arse. I never know if I’m going to be an 8, 12, 10 or 9.5. 😉

  26. Jennifer Kesler says

    I’ve never cared what SIZE I am. I just care that I feel and look good. Curves are beautiful. Excess flab, not so much. Bones poking through the skin, not so much either.

  27. SunlessNick says

    That paragraph reminds me of one of the sentences I most despise in all the world, “Methinks the lady doth protest too much.” Not really the same thing except in sense of, “You’re meant to be compliant, so I’m going to assume you really are, whatever you say.” But, you know, it deserves any and all scorn we can find a chance to pour on it.

  28. SunlessNick says

    That last part, where I put the “you know” in. That was meant to be an interjection, the way I sometimes use it conversation. But seeing it written down, it looks so patronising, like I’m informing you of something. How easily the privilege can slip in.

  29. Jennifer Kesler says

    I took it the way you meant it. :)

    And yes, the “protest too much” phrase is a passive aggressive way of saying that yes means yes, but no means yes, too. Basically telling a woman whatever she says will be interpreted to mean what the man wants it to mean.

  30. MaggieCat says

    I took it the way you intended as well. :-)

    That paragraph reminds me of one of the sentences I most despise in all the world, “Methinks the lady doth protest too much.” Not really the same thing except in sense of, “You’re meant to be compliant, so I’m going to assume you really are, whatever you say.”

    That’s an interesting observation. I’ve never had anything against that phrase, and I’ve used it myself occasionally (both in reference to men and women) – but I’ve always seen it from a completely different angle. To me it’s always fallen into the topic of lying, not compliance/refusal. “Too many details” is one of the easiest ways to tell that someone is lying, because when people do it they’re not necessarily trying to convince you, but themselves. Whatever they’re saying sounds false to them because they know it’s not true so they just keep talking, hoping to stumble on something that sounds convincing even to them.

  31. heidi says

    Hey girls I am 40 and yes a size zero. IT SUCKS!! haed to find the right fit ever. every size has there problems

  32. Jennifer Kesler says

    every size has there problems

    Very true. The first time I became close friends with a woman who was quite tall and slim, I thought, “Wow, she must just walk into stores and be able to fit into anything.” Whereas I often need to hem petite pants, which throws off the line, etc.

    She found it no easier than I did.

    Not only does every size have its problems – every size can also be beautiful if people would just open their minds.

  33. MaggieCat says

    I think most of the problems with sizing are actually problems in the way the fashion industry is run. Ever since ready-to-wear clothing began to dominate the market, they’ve tried very hard to straddle the middle of the road and appeal to the “average” woman. The problem is that a very very tiny number of women will actually fit into a median size like that, so the vast majority of women end up unhappy. There are far too many individual differences for that to work- with things like table heights you can make most people happy with average (with the exception of the very petite or very tall) but there are just so many measurements involved with clothing that it will never work.

    So if everyone is unhappy, a lot of women turn to the advertising to figure out which body type they should idealize so those clothes will make them look like the model. The joke, of course, is that even the model doesn’t look like that in the clothes straight off the rack- they’ve been pinned and altered before they were allowed anywhere near a photographer.

    (This is why smaller lines that have decided to mark out a distinct territory (there are a few lines that claim to be specifically designed for either curvy or very slender women) end up with such devoted customers. Rather than making everyone go “Meh” they decided to market to a smaller group and make that group happy. A few manufacturers are actually moving towards this with digitally measured custom-fitted jeans. The number of stores that have the booths to do the measuring is still very limited, but they’re going in the right direction.)

  34. Patrick says

    Reading all this talk about women’s sizes reminds me how very fortunate I am to just need my measurements to know exactly what size clothing I need. I really can’t understand why the clothing industry persists in using vague sizes for women’s clothing.

  35. Jennifer Kesler says

    I love hearing fashion history and costuming theory from you, Maggie. Seriously – really puts stuff into perspective. :)

  36. MaggieCat says

    I really can’t understand why the clothing industry persists in using vague sizes for women’s clothing.

    Have you ever heard the saying “If you can’t be kind, be vague.” ? Women have been so conditioned to take it as some statement about their personal worth if they have to go up a dress size, that manufacturers realized they could sell more dresses marked with an ‘8’ than with a ’36’. Over time what a size “is” even shifts to keep people in the same bracket as they age and/or gain weight. Today’s 14 isn’t the same as a 14 from the ’70s.

    It wasn’t always like this- several years ago my grandmother was cleaning out some vintage clothes from when she was around my age/size and I snagged a few of them, and a lot of the blouses were sized via the extremely sane method of bust measurement rather than S/M/L or a randomly assigned number.

  37. sbg says

    Over time what a size “is” even shifts to keep people in the same bracket as they age and/or gain weight. Today’s 14 isn’t the same as a 14 from the ’70s.

    And then there are those times you go into a store where you’ve ALWAYS purchased your jeans and you go to the same cut, style and size that you are physically wearing into said store, go to the dressing room, and discover you’ve apparently grown out of your size. Even though you’re actually wearing your size.

    Makes the brain melt a little.

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