Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Plastic surgery continued. An interview with a plastic surgeon. As I mentioned in my last post, I teach English to a man called Tony who is one of Natal's top plastic surgeons. Over the course of our 40 hours together we've talked a lot about his profession. I confess to having a lot of unresolved questions about Tony's choice of career and I've tried to put that to him off and on over the weeks and months. Rapport with Tony hasn`t been easy but after 3 hours a week together over several months we have become something like friends. Here are excerpts.

D - Tony, how do become a plastic surgeon?
T - You go to medical school, work in general practice and then train to be a plastic surgeon.

D - Have you operated on anyone famous?
T - A Brazilian actor (my friend) and the president of Portugal.

D - If you were married, would you let your wife have plastic surgery?
T - Of course, why not?

D - Do you agree with Ivo Pitanguy that your job is to restore well-being to people by giving them the appearance they want?
T - Yes.

D - Don`t you think that the solution to a problem like that, though, is pyschological and not physical? Shouldn`t we all be content with the body God has given us?
T - If I meet a person who wants plastic surgery for unhealthy reasons or has expectations way beyond what I can do then I won`t operate.

D - Do you find your job stressful?
T - Yes, very stressful.

D - Why?
T - Because my clients have the highest, impossible standards. And my standards are even higher.

D - Is there an optimum age for plastic surgery?
T - No, we operate on people of all ages although its easier with younger skin.

D - Would you undertake cosmetic surgery on children?
T - Yes.

D - Would you undertake cosmetic surgery on teenage women who maybe aren`t at ease with their bodies yet and perhaps don`t know what`s really best for them?
T - (shrugs shoulders). Yes.

D - Don`t you think that with all of Brazil`s problems with poverty and the inefficiency of your national healthcare system that producing so many plastic surgeons who operate on aesthetics is a waste of talent and a distraction from the real medical problems of your country?
T - No. I think there are many people who suffer from low self-esteem. We need more plastic surgeons.

D - What is beauty, anyway?
T - Beauty is created by our capitalist society. It is different across all societies and is changed every day so that people buy more cosmetic products.

D - Er, are you not saying that...
T - Yes, it`s a contradiction. I admit that my job only exists because of capitalism even though I am against this form of social organisation.

D - So, in a perfect world where everyone was content with their bodies and their appearance we wouldn`t need cosmetic surgery?
T - That`s right.

Post-script. As a Christian I cannot endorse all of Tony's conclusions or contradictions. Equally, I cannot judge him. For, although spending my money on plastic surgery for my wife is an idea that disgusts me (and fortunately it disgusts my wife) I can hardly say I am free from reinforcing unhealthy social norms concerning image. I am also a victim of capitalism's construction of beauty and often feel insecure about my appearance although never to the extent that I would want to change it under a surgeon`s scalpal. This is a complex area, but even so, I have to go to God with my one request - teach us the secret of contentment in all circumstances.

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