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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"My Beautiful Mommy"'s not what you think

David Pescovitz over at Boing Boing has posted a....well, it's not really a link, and it's not really a story. And I don't think it's an ad. It's just something he thought noteworthy. Boing Boing isn't a parents' blog, so I thought I would pull this story over here into the mom-and-dad blogosphere.


This is, apparently, a new book for young children (under 7) to acquaint them with the plastic surgery procedures that their moms (why not dads, dude?) might elect to have.

A quote from a Newsweek article about it that David uses reads:

"My Beautiful Mommy" is aimed at kids ages four to seven and features a plastic surgeon named Dr. Michael (a musclebound superhero type) and a girl whose mother gets a tummy tuck, a nose job and breast implants. Before her surgery the mom explains that she is getting a smaller tummy: "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." Mom comes home looking like a slightly bruised Barbie doll with demure bandages on her nose and around her waist.
The text doesn't mention the breast augmentation, but the illustrations intentionally show Mom's breasts to be fuller and higher. "I tried to skirt that issue in the text itself," says Salzhauer. "The tummy lends itself to an easy explanation to the children: extra skin and can't fit into your clothes. The breasts might be a stretch for a six-year-old."

Ok. So I think there are a lot of people who are going to be very upset about this book. I mean, come on. Right? Right? Come on! Should we really be putting the "ok for childhood consumption" stamp on elective surgeries?

I also think that there will be a lot of people who are just fine with this. Cosmetic surgery is a fact of life, and not everyone who gets a tummy tuck or their nose cut off or a rabbit ear grafted onto their head is doing it out of vanity. When we condemn plastic surgery we are condemning vanity, but if the two can be pulled apart in any way (like previously webbed toes) then we need to be very sure that we aren't condemning plastic surgery just because it is associated with some pretty vain people.

And I also think that there will be a lot of people who are excited about this because it will help normalize their own actions. For the vain, this will be like the alcoholic who convinces everyone to go drinking so that he can get hammered without drinking alone. But for the sensible elective surgery patients who have a skin tag or third nipple removed this might help them feel less like a weirdo for having the unusual feature in the first place, which is really the obstacle they have to overcome when admitting that they've undergone an elective procedure.

And I also think I don't know what the hell I think. I thought I could put off having any kind of conversation like this with my daughter for, oh, a couple of decades, until she comes home with the Pantera tattoo and says she wants to get another one that says "I Heart Kip Winger", because she'll be 20, and will have access to irony, as Greg Behrendt would say (check out "Uncool" if you haven't already, folks), and I have to explain at that point why elective cosmetic Tattoo Removal surgery is just awesome. But if this book is out there I might have to have the conversation when she's, oh, five and wants to know why I haven't turned my face into rubberized cement. Or wants to know why I have.

So, although I don't know what I think about this book, I do know that I hate the author. Because I want to procrastinate on conversations like this, and he's just not helping. To that guy, I say: "I haet u so hrd."


MereCat said...

This whole thing scares me too. I'm scared to pieces that my daughter is going to want cosmetic surgery herself from the normalization of vanity surgeries. She has two different ears which might make her self conscious. And if I can't spin it into "that's just a very special thing about you," then I will let her get them fixed, but if she's looking for a boob job or something, I'm going to be upset.

Anonymous said...

Great post! Thanks for bringing this one to my attention before she comes home from the library with it. (It does have a very pink cover, after all.) I can't help but thinking that this book was written in such a manner as to incite the controversy so the cosmetic surgeon author could get more patients. (I'm just cynical that way.) I think if the author had taken the "sensible elective surgery patients" angle, a publisher wouldn't have touched it. Just not sexy enough. And isn't it sad that "sexy" is descriptive of a children's book. But, yeah, I hate the guy, too. Along with the inventor of Bratz dolls.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating. I guess I have more of a problem with the stimulus for the book (as you say, the normalization of vanity surgery) than the book itself. I guess it would make sense to have materials to help a child whose parent comes home one day with a different face.

I can't help but think that the 5 year old at whom the book is aimed isn't likely to have a mom older than 45 or so...and that still seems young to me for such drastic measures. But what do I know, I wasn't allowed to get my ears pierced till I was 21.

Oh, btw I linked here from Amalah - your comment about little hotel bottles being toiletries "for kittens" made me laugh.

minivan soapbox said...

I think I would rather my daughter, and myself included, take the harder approach before going under the knife. Obviously, as stated, a third nipple, web toes, that sort of thing I can totally understand. I guess what I'm saying is that although I REALLY need to lose weight - won't I feel better about myself ... b/c I DID it myself? Isn't that the lesson we should be teaching. If the book could have leaned a little further from the tummy tuck and nose job...Maybe I wouldn't have such strong feelings about it? I'm not sure.

Danielle said...

(Without having read the book) I am really bothered by the title "My Beautiful Mommy" - as if mommy is beautiful once she has surgery? and not before??


I want to teach my boys to appreciate other kinds of beauty besides the bandaged up, deliberately crafted kind...

Anonymous said...

As a woman with two preteen kids and several tattoos and body piercings, I've had to do some fancy talking about why they can't modify their bodies while they are teenagers.

Mostly, I just say I waited till I was thirty so you have to too.

(Very effective, I know.)

But plastic surgery and a book geared to children about it makes my blood boil. Unless of course the parent was in a horrid, disfiguring accident or suffered some illness requiring plastic surgery, I really don't think kids should even be subjected to that type of knowledge.

Don't they already have enough to deal with while growing up?

Backpacking Dad said...

merecat: Just make her watch "Finding Nemo" over and over and over and over until she internalizes that "lucky fin" stuff.

Mumma Boo: Indeed. And now I'm singing "I'm too sexy for your children's book" in my head.

tasterspoon: I'm still not sure how to feel about it. I know of some people who have had cosmetic surgery, or who are contemplating it, and their surgeries were not the skin tag, webbed toes, kinds of surgeries, and I don't really consider them vain. If they want to erase a little age I think that's probably just fine. But those aren't the surgeries that kids will notice anyway, so they don't need a book to teach them about it. This book is aimed at drastic moves that DO seem to smack of vanity. I don't know. Thanks for coming over!

-k: I think I'm in pretty close agreement with you there. I don't want to judge someone just because they can't diet and go to the gym (because I frequently have problems doing either and I have the guilt to prove it). But the tummy tuck to get the look of someone who does do those things...and then teaching your daughter that that's the way to go? I don't think so.

Danielle: seriously.

Redneck Mommy: Yeah, and that's the key to the issue really, right? Do the 5 year olds need to know about this stuff? Even leaving aside the question of whether or not it teaches them vanity (which is judging people sight unseen, perhaps, and isn't quite on topic, and I'm not even sure how I feel about it) there still might just be something wrong with teaching the 5 year old that this kind of drastic (that is, obvious enough that the 5 year old would ask questions about it) surgery is normal and makes mommy feel better about herself.

If I do go get The Botox one day after I have yoghurt with the girls and get my nails done and go bead shopping I don't think I'm going to tell Erin about it.

Ali said...

i HATE this book already. as an editor who works in children's publishing (for the big company with the red and white logo) i cannot imagine a team of editors who thought this was a GOOD idea. vomit.

Backpacking Dad said...

ali: Don't worry, someone else will clean that up. :} And yeah, I haven't even asked that other question: Did anyone at the publishing house even ask the ethical questions of themselves when they greenlit this? I'd hope that the answer is "yes" and that somehow they just disagree with most of the commenters here. It's possible. But I fear the answer is "no", and they were just thinking "we can sell the hell out of this thing".

SciFi Dad said...

Yes, some instances of plastic surgery are necessary, but this isn't "Timmy's Mommy needs a skin graft after the grease fire at the Waffle House". This is mommy getting a tummy tuck.

But what is even more frightening is the subtle message in the quote, that Mommy's tummy tuck will "make her feel better". Because, you know, being physically imperfect means you can't feel good.

This book serves as proof that our civilization is in decline. The condemnation is both sad and harsh, but inarguably true.

for a different kind of girl said...

Much of what's already been said I agree with. I have boys, and right now, I think they'd think it pretty cool if they had a third eye, but I know they are aware of differences in appearance, but it's no big deal to them. I would like to hope that would hold strong.

One of the first things I'm going to do when I get to work tomorrow is check the stock in the kid's department and see if this is something we have on the shelves, all the while hoping we don't.

I would like to subtitle this "My Beautiful day she'll think that half-shirt look isn't so cute, and shows off her scar."

Don Mills Diva said...

HA! I'm with you - I just don't know what to think - it just seems so bizarre to me...

Mandy said...

Well, hmmm, can I say I'm glad I have boys? Or will they want plastic surgery too at the age of 16?

And this mommy is off to book her rhinoplasty, tummy tuck, boob lift/enhancement, cheek implants and earlobe straightening tomorrow. I'm using the kids' education fund $$.

I can't find my blog said...

This is about 15 kinds of wrong, if you ask me. The knife is one thing to fix something from an accident or the like (like scifi dad said), or to put things back where they belong (fix the tube-socks where breasts used to be) but I take huge issue with the knife when it is for vanity, or what you won't do (exercise). I believe in loving ourselves-wrinkles, flab and all. (I did not say it is always easy, but I think that resorting to the knife is not the answer.) Writing a book about it raises the wrongness to a whole other level.

Sorry about the rant, and the run-on sentence!

Backpacking Dad said...

So, as revealed in my subsequent post, this is a bogus release.

Newsweek wrote a story about a self-published book.

There are a ton of self-published books at vanity presses (the original printing of "Eragon" is one such), but just being self-published kind of means that it isn't news worthy.

Unless the news is: "Crazy man pays money to see his name in print!"

Scary Mommy said...

Oh, God. This makes me want to vomit.
Maybe I will find the book at Borders and do it right there.

Nauntie Lush said...

Okay, what happened to "Excercise to loose that fat stomach lady"?!? When didd it become okay to just be a freaking lazy ass and have it surgically removed? (Oh, sorry America I forgot...Home of The LAZY ASS MOVEMENT.)
That said though, I have had a boob job - because of a birth defect - and it was no picnic. And not something I am going to share with my 4 year old. I have also had Botox - yes, I am weird like that - but I am not going to take him along for that either.
I so hate him HARD. DOUBLE HARD. As hard as I hate the HOA and Door to door salesmen and celebutards.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I wonder if there's a section that explains, "Mommy is so vain and insecure that she's willing to risk leaving you by dying in a elective surgical procedure to make her stomach flatter."

There are good reasons for people to have plastic surgery, but I think far too many women just don't think about what it is they're risking.

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