No Sugar Added: It's still a Barbie world

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A couple of weeks ago, my lovely mother, Louise, arrived for a visit. She brought with her a newspaper, with the front page of Section D boasting a Technicolor photograph of a middle-aged woman with a jaw-length hairdo, wire-frame glasses, and a disturbingly startled look upon her face.

Apparently, a jury had recently awarded the very surprised-looking New Jersey resident $115,000 in a medical malpractice suit against a plastic surgeon who performed cosmetic surgery that left her unable to shut her eyes. Or blink.

Dr. Frankenstein screwed something up, and now the poor thing will forever look as if she has just walked in on the local Presbyterian minister doing a line of cocaine with Mary Poppins.

Let me jump in right here and say that the whole idea of plastic surgery frightens me. I am normally a rather brave woman. I don’t fear God. I do, however, fear waking up looking like Michael Jackson.

Of course I’d like to have perfect eyelids. Of course I’d like to have the perky breasts of my adolescence. But I just cannot imagine taking the risk. I also can’t imagine what it’s like to go to a School Board meeting on a Thursday as a size 34B and show up a month later as a 34DD. Most people are sharp enough to realize such blossoming is not a natural occurrence.

Does our self-esteem really need to be directly related to our cup size, or the tautness of our eyelids?

A while back, I heard about a book written by a plastic surgeon, marketed to young daughters of women who have had various plastic surgery procedures. It’s meant to explain why mommy suddenly looks, well, not quite like mommy anymore, but rather like a new and improved version of mommy.

I was mortified that such a book even exists.

I try to imagine all of the little girls, growing up gazing at mommy’s perfectly firm and symmetrical 36D breasts, and then at about age 16, after years of patiently waiting, realizing they’ve been duped. We grow up assuming we will be in some sort of genetic alignment with our ancestors. What a surprise it must be to find out that mommy’s nose came from a catalog. Or that her ample bosom is built upon a foundation of saline solution and Zip-Loc baggies.

Talk about disappointment and disillusionment.

If you have reproduced, you are familiar with the multi-million dollar scam innocently advertised as “school photo day.” School photos used to be simple. You attempted to get your child to wear a shirt that didn’t have his or her breakfast spilled down the front, you tossed a comb in their backpack, and you hoped your efforts would yield something that could be mailed off to select relatives in that year’s holiday card.

Those of us who are paying attention have noticed that the order forms for school photographs now include options to “touch up” a variety of pesky little imperfections. Like pimples. Or perhaps a nose that isn’t quite as button-like as certain perfect parents had hoped.

Twenty-five percent of elementary school parents request retouching on their children’s school photos.

This number jumps to 50 percent when kids are in high school. This means that half of all American parents would like their teenagers to appear more perfect. In a shallow, superficial way, of course.

No adult with half a brain should be shocked at the fact that this can have a negative impact on the fruit of their loins. I mean, I imagine if my mom had checked the box that said, “get rid of that zit and while you’re at it, why don’t you chop a bit off the end of her nose so she looks more like Malibu Barbie,” my self-esteem may have been negatively impacted.

Perhaps if we could be comfortable with the beauty of our so called “imperfections” and the aging process, we could also set an example for our children to accept themselves for the wondrous creatures they are.

The fountain of youth would be a marvelous thing to discover, but I’d rather try to just go out gracefully.

With eyelids that blink.

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No Sugar Added is Cape Elizabeth resident Sandi Amorello’s biweekly take on life, love, death, dating and single parenting. Get more of Sandi at or contact her at