The longer I live, the more convinced I am that life, if you look at it not in parts but in its entirety, is indeed fair; that every consequence, if you look open-eyed enough, proceeds from some cause or some sense of justice.
My friend Monina has a theory that tends to inform, if not necessarily support, a theory of my own, for instance, about the distribution of beauty. Hers is a theory with a rather cruel twist of divine humor—cruel, by our own merely mortal standards. She phoned to tell me she had realized first-hand that those beautiful in their youth grow old, ugly and hardly recognizable: “Tayo, pumapangit!”
How I was suddenly picked as fitting company in her self-created misery, I’ll never know. Time—that universal, impersonal, and mere clocker of aging—was itself not spared: She accused it as the very implementer of nature’s vengeance on the once beautiful.
But, if I know Monina, it’s really all deadpan, self-deprecating humor, as revealed in her comment implying that she and I were undeserving victims, “Paano naman tayo nasali sa tragedia nila? It’s the not-so-pretty ones who are supposed to hardly change with age, who stay recognizable.”
She proceeded to cite some indefensible cases, and wished she and I shared their more acceptable fate in old age, “Sana man lang nasali na tayo sa kanila!”
This is not exactly the line of my own theory about the even-handedness of life, but it’s the sort of line Monina likes to take—it’s light, it’s funny, and we surely can use some lifting at our age and with our looks.
Lately, indeed, I have been seeing too many women whose outstanding beauty has left them, not necessarily owing to the natural workings of time, but owing, rather, to unnatural interventions. But, again, we should, I think, try to understand the psychological burden of beauty. And if cosmetic surgery could ease the burden, why not?
The problem is, like any other cosmetic work, “elective plastic surgery,” as it is professionally called, has its downsides—progressive downsides: One repair leads to another and another, until the surgeon himself or herself decides to put his final retouch.
Two plastic surgeons I know have admitted that, contrary to common presumptions, their patients are not the non-lookers, but the beauties themselves. Many of them come for more, they say, and, once denied, end up in the hands of second-raters likely to botch the job and ruin them for good.
The final ruin announces itself when all of them begin to look frighteningly alike. There is, after all, only so much cutting and pulling and nipping and tucking that a surgeon can do before the ears meet behind the head, and before the eyes lose their ability to shut themselves fully.
The procedure affects facial synchronicity, so that a simple movement of the muscles that produces a natural smile in fact produces little more than an upward curving of the lips at the sides, the eyes, the cheeks, and all the muscles around them unable to cooperate to complete the expression.
Invading beauty parlors
For whatever equivalent burden of beauty they bear, men have themselves gone the same way. First they wear perfume, then they use anti-aging creams, then they invade the beauty parlors for the works, which has taken some getting used to for me—in the beginning it felt like sharing washrooms. I still feel some unease sitting beside a turbaned man getting a manicure and pedicure.
Some old-fashioned macho men, to be sure, have stuck to their barbershop. My own husband, not easy to be embarrassed by anything at all, has allowed himself to join me at the beauty parlor for a massage while I have my hair done—it adds to our quality time. He has also traded Leon from the old barbershop for George, my own hairdresser, much younger and clearer-eyed—he likes him for the cut that suits his aversion to combing or brushing.
Some men have also crossed the invisible fence separating sexes in matters to do with staying young- and good-looking. And I’m not talking about movie stars either, whom somehow I could forgive, but men who have themselves fallen for the extreme vanity once exclusively and excusably for women—cosmetic surgery. Among them are politicians and businessmen who now have tiny triangular eyes, whose edges straining under stitches, lower eyelids turned out belat-fashion, revealing pinkish weepy matter.
Whatever for? Why men? Why the precise sex that develops character lines in lieu of wrinkles, stature in lieu of height (it’s said one shrinks with age), success in lieu of everything else?
Alas, unlike us women, men can’t hide surgical scars with makeup. They stand naked repaired. If there’s anything more pathetic than a woman mal retocada, it’s the retocado male.