If you’re a zealously perky, giggly brunette Barbie doll with humungous hair, embarking on rhinoplasty, breast implants, and a tummy tuck, but just can’t for the life of your silly self figure out how to explain all those pesky bandages to your young daughter, don’t fret any longer! Thanks to Michael Salzhauer, a Florida plastic surgeon, there’s now a children’s book called My Beautiful Mommy to spark just that conversation with your child…well, at least with your daughter, as this book is largely void of male characters, save for the Schwarzenneger-sized, hyper-macho doctor (named Dr. Mike, of course, a mere coincidence and not a nod to the author’s own ego, I’m sure).
On the book’s website, the author astutely points out: “Children are very perceptive. It is nearly impossible to hide a plastic surgery transformation from your children.” Yes, I sort of suspect the kids will sniff out a change when Mommy suddenly has a new nose, bigger breasts, and a swaddling of bandages. It’s a bit insulting to kids to feel the need to point out that hey, they may actually catch on that something is going on!
The author claims that following his advice will “help your family sail easily through the plastic surgery experience”. He cleverly dubbed the surgery combo (breast implants and tummy tuck) a “mommy makeover”, as if Mommy is going to hop onto the stool at the Clinique counter and leave with a shopping bag full of lipstick and blush instead of bruises, bandages, and seeping wounds.
Certainly my take on this book is heavily colored by my opposition to plastic surgery. I can’t stomach the concept of surgically altering my body in any way simply to please a moronic society that wants all women to be the mindlessly same, identical flavor. Kiss my non-surgically-altered ass. Take me as I am or just go.
However, I recognize that women are going to opt for plastic surgery, and that many of these women have children. Certainly a tool to help guide the discussion with the kids is a good idea. Trying to hide surgery of any kind, or not having a frank conversation with kids about it, is only going to make them worry and be scared about what is happening. Doctors, bandages, and blood don’t exactly conjure up warm, fuzzy feelings for anyone.
But this book is woefully incomplete. It glosses over and glamourizes plastic surgery, as if it carries no risks or possible side effects whatsoever. In the book, Mommy explains her upcoming tummy tuck to her daughter by saying, “You see, as I got older, my body stretched and I couldn’t fit into my clothes anymore. Dr. Michael is going to help fix that and make me feel better.”
Ah! So the body’s aging process, or the body’s changes after having a baby, are things that need to be “fixed”, and any lengths, including surgery, are encouraged in order to achieve a certain externally defined ideal.
Where is the conversation about self-esteem? Self-respect? Accepting yourself? Peer pressure, media pressure, society’s pressure for women to be thin, smooth, and eternal pre-teens?
The bottom line with this book is the message that being beautiful is what it’s all about; that even if it takes surgery to achieve that, then that is what you must do; and hey, it’s no big deal, because look at everyone smiling and laughing carefreely all the way through this book!
I look at Sunflower and Dove, and I wonder how I can teach them they are worth far more than the sum of their body parts, if I am skipping off to have flesh removed and silicone packets shoved into my chest, all in the name of pleasing society. I wonder how the message of the importance of their actions, thoughts, how they treat others, can sink in to the kids if my words are uttered through bandages from my newly crafted nose.
Though women are overwhelmingly the recipients of plastic surgery, I wondered where the book for men seeking physical alteration is. How about “My Big ‘n Buff Daddy“, keeping in line with the power-lifter doctor in this book? With whimisical quotes like “You see, son, Dr. Michael is going to hook me up with some ‘roids so my muscles can be all big just like his!”, it would be just as likely to ever sit on my bookshelf as this one.
Interestingly, the author doesn’t even touch the subject of Mommy’s breast implants in this book, saying, “I tried to skirt that issue in the text itself.” Why? As he said, the kids are going to notice, so why are we supposed to not talk about it? Why are the tummy tuck and nose job acceptable kiddie conversation, but not the breast implants?
A better alternative may be this list of children’s books about self-esteem; in fact, maybe Beautiful Mommy should read one or two of these herself.