Thursday, February 05, 2009

The American Way of Looking (Appearance, that is)

Jessica Mitford’s 1963 The American Way of Death was a startling expose of the funeral industry in America. Like Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, it led to Congressional investigations and, ultimately, more regulation over an industry whose members—from funeral home directors to real estate developers—habitually squeezed the last bit of profit out of a transaction that was rooted in the grief of bereaved family members.

I’m sure the Ms. Mitford would roll over in her grave—actually, she can’t because she chose cremation at the cost of less than $500—if she knew the latest trend of ridiculousness and insanity that had permeated the funeral business: plastic surgery on the dead. However, this trend (we can only hope it is only a fad) owes its promulgation not to the somber men in dark suits who knowingly pronounce that “Momma would love this engraved, pearl-coat upscale model” casket, but to the vanity of the living.

I guess it just had to be this way...after all, vanity plastic surgery has increased faster than the rate at which Obama nominees begin paying “overlooked back taxes”. To be sure, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports that right at 350,000 women had breast augmentation in 2007. This is up 60% from 2000. What? We’ve got 60% more women in only seven years?

Imagine the entire population of the city of St. Louis, MO going out of their homes and standing on the curb. Now, imagine each of those persons to be a woman with a newly-enhanced bust line. That’s 350,000. Instead of having a single silver arch as the Gateway to the West, there would be a double arch side by side, showing where America cleaved.

For a less-invasive procedure, botox was done over 4.6 million times in 2007, half of which were by Patrick Swayze. (Oh, wait, that was an overstretched face job he had.)

Statistics are still being gathered on post-mortem plastic surgery as to quantity and cost, but I would rather imagine that plastic surgery medical classes would give a BIG discount, since there’s no worry of a student screwing up and killing the patient.

It is obvious that we care what we look like, even if “we” are no longer “we”. And, since we all can’t have Beowulf’s funeral pyre and a mound set upon a headland as a guide for sailors, we can at least anticipate people saying, “Oh, but doesn’t she look so good.”

Mike Sledge

A beside:
If one does elect for post-mortem perky boobs and also plans for a cremation, then the procedure would have to be done in reverse: gels leave a mess on the floor of the crematorium!

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