Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Barbie takes another victim

A writer should never begin a story to try to drive home a message. It doesn't work.

What's really frightening, though, is when something you wrote begins to feel prescient.

One of my characters in my book, Trudy, says something to the protagonist, Katya, which sums up today's (painful) post. "When did my choice to get pretty become a crime?"

In the context of the story, Trudy was right. Pretty is not a crime. Nor is the desire to become "all that we can be". The real crime is committed when attractive young women are encouraged by the people who love them in their quests toward an artificial standard of beauty.

I can't get my husband's best friend Pete* off my mind today--Pete, and his youngest daughter, Anna*.

Pete is a great Dad. Often, when I think of him, I begin to hum the song "Daddy's little girl". He's one of the dying breed of father who has erected his world around his love for his family. There is no boundary that Pete won't overcome to provide for his daughter's happiness.

So before you read further, understand, Pete wears his love for his daughter openly and without reservation. That loves defines him. He loves Anna as she came to him, and as far as I know, Pete has never encouraged her to become more than she is.

Like most young girls of her generation, Anna still yearned for *more*. Her Korean-American genes did not equip her with the DNA for large breasts. Pete's little girl found her flat chest ugly. She wanted to feel sexier. Prettier.

Anna already was. Pretty. Stunning, in fact.

Pete did not hesitate to help his little girl meet her dreams by funding her breast augmentation. He wanted to help his child to feel secure, happy, beautiful.

Yesterday, at the age of 19, Anna's dream of fuller breasts came to fruition...

This morning, Pete's little girl--the apple of his eye--lies in an ICU in a coma, while the tubes that keep her tied to this world protrude from every available orifice. Meanwhile her organ systems are systematically shutting down due to an adverse reaction to anesthesia. Anna's frail, beautiful body is in a race against time. Against death.

In spite of coming into this world looking like the proverbial china doll, petite and golden skinned with gleaming masses of black hair, Anna still felt she didn't measure up to the artificial standard which America uses to define beauty.

Anna was not a Barbie.

If you have a daughter, a wife, a friend, a woman who is considering plastic surgery, love her enough to drag her to stand in front of you right now. Tell her how beautiful she is. Then force her to look you in the eyes as you tell her that in this media saturated age of Photo-shopped images and surgically enhanced bodies, she may never hear about the already beautiful girls who have died in their yearning to measure up to that artificial ideal that their genetics never intended for them to be.

Tell her about Anna.

Remind her that Barbie is made of plastic and cosmetic surgery can kill.

Having experienced cosmetic surgery myself, during a time in my life when I was in no emotional state to make such life altering decisions, I can say for certain that nobody ever sat me down and asked my *why* I was taking such a risk with my life.

I was already pretty.

Nobody cared enough to ask me if I was alright inside of my head.

I wasn't.

Nobody ever considered telling me to get my papers in order and my ducks in a row, because this procedure could kill me. Sure, deep down, somewhere, I must have known that there was a risk--but at that point in my life, I'd have done anything to become one of *them*. And that yearning to look better--more perfect, more polished---more lovable---consumed my better judgement. I just wanted my straying husband to love me again.

I know how Pete's little girl felt when she asked her father for the funds to augment her breasts. She wanted the pain of not being one of *them* to go away...forever.

Its impossible to know whether the knowledge that Anna could die in her quest to become one of *them* would have chanted her fate. But if the worst should happen, and Anna should die, at least her father would have the peace of knowing that Anna not only knew the risks, and understoond them, but that she was prepared to accept them as her fate.

Pray for Anna. And then pray for Pete.

I don't know what will become of him without his princess.

*names have been changed for the protection of Pete and Anna's privacy

May love always rule in your life.