Plastic Surgery, Yay or Nay?

by Marnie Macauley October 24, 2016


advice-novAs vanity is a concern among Jewish scholars, the issue of plastic surgery has undergone much “examination.” Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach’s (1920-1995) opinion sums up the consensus of most legal experts: surgery to allow someone to appear normal, and more importantly to view themselves as appearing normal is permitted. Even surgery for an appearance that makes one feel embarrassed is not an issue of vanity. The powerful message is the importance of relieving human suffering, physically and psychologically. But in a world where the norm is youth and beauty, are all of these renovations really kosher?


Dear Marnie:  I’m a 35-year-old female with a career I love in film production. I’ve always been fairly content with my looks, but lately I’ve noticed some sagging. I admit, I’ve thought of “doing some work.” When I told my mother, she threw a fit and basically called me “crazy!” Is she right? 

-Confused in California

MARNIE SAYS: Aw you sweet thing you. When do we cross the line between loving ourselves as G-d made us, and buying into the trendy idiocrasy of “love me, love my implants” you ask? I’ll make it simple: Ask yourself the following to find out if it’s the healthy voice that’s nudging you on, or dark demons that can’t be exorcised with a little lop.

Are these “hanging things” hurting your chances to move forward in life? Be honest, are you saying you want to look your personal best, or someone else’s?

Whether your “ideal” comes from mags with air-brushed size 2 cover nymphets or you see Cruella de Ville in the mirror (body dysmorphic disorder), you could change every strand of your physical DNA and you’ll still “see” Cruella.  Ask yourself, is the issue real or demon-driven? It could be that your esteem was the Original soul-sucker. Before you start fooling with knives, know what’s stabbing through your precious self-esteem. And the demon is deeper than a frown line.

Like most things in life, the difference between affirmative “makeovers” and make-over madness is balance, harmony and heavy-duty reality.   


DEAR MARNIE: I just want your opinion, even though I know there’s nothing I can do. My niece was born with a severe facial disfigurement. It causes other kids and strangers to stare. She’s 13 years old now. My sister (her mother) is very testy about it. Only once did I open up the subject. When I mentioned surgery, she said, very strongly, “I want ‘Donna’ to know that appearance doesn’t matter. She should be loved for who she is, not what she looks like!” My sister has always been a “free spirit.” Now that “Donna” is getting older, I’m sure this must be causing her pain.  Am I being superficial about this?

– Seeking Second Opinion 

MARNIE SAYS: No. Now, before all my readers get on me for being shallower than an omelet pan, of course children should be loved whether they’re sporting tiaras (OY) or resemble Cyrano. But, I’m ticked. Since you asked, I’ll let it fly. Buckle up. Or maybe I should.

The whole “we love her for what’s inside” to build values is commendable – unless the impairment is so severe the costs are:

– soul scars from feeling unwanted, shunned, bullied, teased, or tormented by others in the universe.

– way fewer life ops. Yet another value is giving our child a fair shot at options – in careers, relationships, and in life.

– missing other medical issues that may accompany her odd appearance.

If “normal” (in dress, hair, and the like) were the goal, I’d be so bored I’d hot-wire my curls. I now adore my “quirk.” The Big Question here is “Does ‘Donna?’” This isn’t about a Mama who wore love beads and tie-died the word “Peace” on her bell-bottoms. It’s about a child who is being stared at, and perhaps bullied or shunned. How does “Donna” feel and deal with her difference?

Assuming she cares, mommy should get off her flower pot and get with the experts so her daughter doesn’t include “monstrous” in her self-description. If I sound ticked, I am! I’m deaf. While the pro deaf advocates have a right to sign their message, I would walk from Nevada to Newark to hear Prokofiev once again, to say something other than “Wha …? Wha …? at a party, and to notice an intruder just walked away with my precious Pez collection.

My friend, we’re not talking about a 16-year-old who wants to take a half inch off of her thighs. Yes, it’s a long process. Yes, it’s painful. Yes, there’s some risk. These need to be weighed against the risks of a lifetime of torment. When a child’s hurting as a result of a severe, but possibly correctable problem, I say evaluate and do all you can to FIX IT. EARLY.

While living with disfigurement may foster strength, in this daunting journey called life, aren’t there enough challenges without adding the potential for instant fear and long-term loneliness? 


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