Thursday, December 31, 2009

Skin Deep

This morning I'm headed to the temple to assist as the Young Women do baptisms for the dead.

I always think it's interesting how in the temple, we remove all of our jewelry, labels, colors of dress, quality of dress, to wear simple white. Everyone wears the simple, modest white. In the temple it isn't about how we appear, how society dictates what is acceptable or not. In the temple we focus on what is inside our hearts, minds, souls. Maybe that's why it's a place I find the most peace, other than in my own home.

Recently, on yet another post, on the same blog in the blogosphere about Mormon women and plastic surgery, specifically, elective surgery I made yet another comment. It is actually a comment I'd been planning on posting on my blog as it's own, stand alone post... so here it is, with a few edits:

My take on plastic surgery is in a general sense. As in every situation there are exceptions (health reasons, etc...). I understand that. It’s personal – I get that. At the same time, I do believe there are ideals to be preserved. I believe that elective surgery should be used as an exception, not the rule, not a graduation gift, not a community effort, and certainly not promoted as the norm. That's where I worry... that it is becoming more a norm...than an outlier. I think if we were honest, we'd agree that going under the knife is never the ideal... I think if we could achieve the same results in another manner, we'd wish there was another way.

My views on plastic surgery comes also from the issues I had to deal with as an a lone Asian girl in Bountiful, UT. Let’s face it…in nearly all my Church congregations, still to this day… I’m often the lone Asian girl that sticks out.

As a kid I HATED. I absolutely HATED how different I was. I hated my yellow skin, my slanted eyes, my coarse, thick hair. I had massive self-esteem issues. I was surrounded by beautiful blond, brunette girls with blue eyes, white skin and …they didn’t wear boy hand-me-downs. They all fit in.

When I was in 10th grade I gave a speech touting an imaginary soap that would make you any ethnicity you wanted. Want that blond, white body… bam… shower and you got it. Want a tan, exotic look… just hop in the shower and voila!

Luckily, for me, no such drastic surgery was available. Michael Jackson might disagree with that statement… but for me… it wasn’t. I learned a lot over the years coming to terms with how I looked on the outside…and how I felt on the inside. Those trials, working with who I was, made me strong, and helped me appreciate, and relish who I am.

In fact, in college I could have easily done what so many other Asians did. They purposely segregated themselves by going to the Asian wards. I didn't want to blend in with the crowd. I wanted to be where I was unique. I loved the foreign language ward. I discovered that intelligent, ambitious people from different backgrounds, walks of life and cultures inspired me. I reveled in their unique qualities, as I reveled in my own. I had learned that being unique was something I rather liked at that stage of the game, and still do. I am grateful for the trials, the internal soul-searching that allowed me to finally arrive at a stage of self-acceptance.

I think about my ancestors in China. The breaking, wrapping and confinement of foot binding for all young girls at the ages of 3-6… for a standard of societal, economic beauty is quickly denounced, derided and abhorred by each of us. In those days, in that culture, a girl would either rise economically out of poverty with perfectly tiny, deformed feet, or suffer in squalid poverty for not conforming to society's standards of beauty.

Luckily, in our western society that kind of drastic lifestyle doesn't exist. So … what is the difference between the binding of feet that we instantly, disdainfully, judge (rightly so, in my opinion) as completely, utterly, wrong…and our western sensibilities in regards to slicing, nipping, cauterizing, and stitching? What makes one easily judged wrong, and another judged as anything goes? What of agency? In China, there was agency, to an extent. It was very clear from the get-go what the consequences to that agency was. In today's world, what are those consequences? Are people willing to accept those consequences to their agency, or simply rail against any stigma that may arise from our choices?

I understand there are many issues involved. Not every woman who pursues elective enhancement is insecure (and I am not addressing those)… but the vast majority are. And… I wonder how long that band aid really, truly heals what hurts inside. What of the lessons that need to be learned, the work needed to be done to accept oneself, as opposed to a "quick fix"? If we never learn how to accept, and love that scared little girl inside, how will we truly be happy?

And who is to say what the "perfect body" in the next life is the societal ideal we've come to believe in? Who is to say it's not an ample lap for children to sit and listen to stories in, or arms that embrace with a soft, all encompassing cuddle? Maybe I'm naive, but I still cling to the belief that God doesn't make any junk... I believe that what we believe in terms of perfection, and ideal physical appearance will be blown out of the water when we finally reach our eternal Home. Why do I think that when we reach that point, all that skin deep stuff we're so preoccupied about on a nearly, daily basis, won't even cross our radar when we're happily reunited with those we love most?

ps. Sure, there are things I'd like to change about my own body, but like I had to learn to love my outer, Asian self (now I love standing out) - I am learning to understand, love and appreciate my physical imperfections. I am hoping that I learn that lesson, in this stage of my life.


glittersmama said...

I love this post.

I hate how long it takes us to learn (and really believe) the simple truth that we are beautiful the way that we were made. That we don't need to look, dress, think, or act like anyone else to feel comfortable. I wish that I would have understood this at eight, at thirteen, at sixteen, or even at twenty-two. Ten years after that, I'm beginning to understand.

Queen Scarlett said...

Love you Glittersmama. I so agree... wish I knew that when I was young...but so grateful I finally learned it.

La Yen said...

The other side of the coin is that we need to do the best we can with what we are given--I don't mean "even a barn looks better when it is painted" but that we need to take care of ourselves and make what improvements we can (in tune with the teachings of the Lord). I am thinking, specifically, of the commenters who maintain that they don't shave or pluck or lose weight or wear flattering clothing because they are just perfect the way that they are. We want to be a "delightsome" people. And much of that comes from our contenances, imbued with the Holy Spirit. But if our outer vessel is stained and weighed down and notably unkempt, then it is difficult for others to see the light within.

I know that this sounds horribly unfeminist and like I am saying that we need to gussy ourselves up, but we do. To some extent. I don't know that we need calf implants and re-hymenization procedures, but there is always something that we can do to make ourselves look better. As long as it is not the complete focus of our lives.

East of Eden said...

You are brilliant.

Let me tell you this. First you are beautiful, from what I've seen in your photos. Beautiful. And from what I've read you are beautiful on the inside as well.

As for feeling akward, I'm sure you would have looked at me -- blonde, blue eyes, tall, long curely hair and thought I had it all. Believe me, I would have bought your soap if it had been avalible in high school. I struggled with my issues as well. I think every woman has feelings simialr to what you described.

Anyway, brilliant, just brilliant. Thank you for sharing it.

Queen Scarlett said...

La Yen - I hear what you're saying. And I am not one to promote either extreme. It's very important to me when I go to Church or the Temple to do all those steps to "be my best" for the Lord. That's why we do wear our Sunday Best - it's a sign of respect and reverence.

I think anytime we lean over any extreme is dangerous. And... currently society's trend is toward an extreme.

Queen Scarlett said...

East of Eden - thank you. She's my blog-double. ;-) hehehe j/k

I would be rolling in the dough if I actually made something like that soap... but how sad would that be. ;-) I bet there are many people who would trade their racial identity for another... and probably become more successful for the changing...

Luckily there is no such thing... so we learn, we work and we overcome.

La Yen said...

Also, the fetus has totally made me bulimic, so I am going to be SUPER skinny in addition to being blond. So I don't even need to worry about plastic surgery or the little girl on the inside, because the little fetus on the inside is totally hooking her mother up with a hot bod. And, as we know, that is what is important.

I mean, I won't even NEED procedures after this. Except for new enamel on my teeth. And, possibly, a new trachea.

Being blessed with a miracle baby is awesome.

La Yen said...

I love you. And this post was great.

Queen Scarlett said...

WAIT... she's a GIRL??? Did you already tell me that and I totally forgot? If not... YIPEE!! Jooj is going to have a blast! I love girls...

La Yen said...

Oh no--I don't know what it is yet, besides a hateful parasite that makes me cry. So, prally a TEENAGE girl. :)