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Plastic Matters: Remodeling Ourselves & Our Lives

April 21, 2017 Barbara Ballinger & Margaret Crane

We live with the underlying threat of personal and global tragedy, the shock waves caused by the election, terrorism, poverty, unemployment, superbugs that don’t react to current antibiotics, global warming, and the high cost of everything. Even the simplest acts in life are now potentially dangerous--drinking tap water, eating fresh greens, going on an airplane, riding a train, opening the mail, heading to work, or our kids and grandkids going off to school. 

And personally, we worry about everything, from the children to aging parents, personal finance, health, and more

With all these concerns filling the daily fabric of our lives, how important is it in the scheme of things to worry about whether to have plastic surgery and who has done what Botox or varicose vein treatment, and why. We’re alluding to the op-ed article in the Style Section of the New York Times newspaper, “Aging and My Beauty Dilemma” by Barnard College President Debora L. Spar (Sept. 24, 2016). One Barnard alumna wrote on the Facebook page for our most recent book: “Shouldn't we be talking about other more pressing matters at this time?” While we think it’s important how we look, let us put this issue into perspective especially when you're past 50 and even more past 60 and 70, and single in our collective case.

 We each lost a spouse, one to divorce and the other to death. Divorce can cause self-esteem to plummet; losing a spouse from death or divorce can cause complete inertia, at least initially. But is plastic surgery the answer to improving our lives after loss and as we age? Oh, don’t get us wrong, we have dipped our toes in the vanity pool and no, we’re not the kind of women who see only our own reflections in it. Truth be told, after our losses, we talked incessantly about remodeling ourselves, but simply, easily and non-invasively.

We did it to feel better and make ourselves more appealing to the opposite sex as we each started dating again but also for ourselves. So, we went to work: Tighter jeans, shorter skirts, flattering tops in brighter colors--not all that New York somber black, moisturizers and pro-retinal products, better make-up, new hair coloring, highlights, and longer hair styles, Pilates and yoga to tone our core and butts and for health reasons, more sensible diets, therapy, and, trying to find something to lift our sagging necks. No luck so far on that one. 

We had always told each other we would never do invasive plastic surgery. How superficial, unimportant. and potentially dangerous, we thought. And then we spotted plastic work everywhere and felt perhaps it’s okay to be a bit superficial. When a friend of Barbara’s from California showed off her new neck lift that looked fabulous, we agreed to keep it in mind when we had the funds and had built up our collective courage. Most likely, we’ll never take the plunge. 

In reality, all the procedures and more will not change our lives but maybe the only control we have in this topsy-turvy world is how we look. That’s one reason we keep our options open. However, if you look closely at us you don’t just see wrinkles, frown lines, turkey necks, or crows feet. Rather, you’ll see smiles on our faces for showing the determination, resilience, and foresight to jumpstart our lives after our deep losses. 

Personal remodelings can be more than external. We believe our response to aging has been a productive, healthy one. We're doing  what we teach our children to do…take responsibility for actions, speak out against injustice, become educated about local and global issues, and get involved in something that has a positive effect on the world beyond. Our efforts to be good people displaying good behavior is the best legacy we can leave behind, and far more important than outside packaging. Rip it open and find out what's really inside?

PS: Since we wrote this feature Barbara fell, broke her arm and had surgery. The recovery has been tough, long and painful, and she now knows she would not opt for voluntary cosmetic surgery of any kind. 

 




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