NOW I’ve heard everything.
I thought we’d already figured out how to “perfect” our physical selves down to
the very last inch, but Columbia News Service (CNS) reports that finally, we
can sign up for eyebrow transplants.
Yes, any gal who has accidentally tweezed her bushy Brooke Shields’ into scant Greta Garbo’s can now pull a full about-face. She can even venture as far as Andy Rooney’s if, for example, she’s moving from West Van to Nunavut and has an urgent need for facial warmth.
Invented for the benefit of burn victims and others who had lost their eyebrows due to injury or illness, the procedure has naturally attracted the interest of the image-obsessed. All they require to effect the transformation is local anesthetic and the sort of physician who should have been an aesthetician. The doctor “harvests” a clump of hair from some other ungodly spot on the head -- preferably at the hairline -- and beefs up the existing eyebrows, inserting the strands one by one. The result: Elle Macpherson’s al dente spaghettini becomes Groucho Marx’s fully loaded manicotti. Can Frida Kahlo’s unibrow be far behind?
Of course, it could be worse. CNS interviewed one retired New York City police detective who chose this three-hour procedure over another grisly option -- getting eyebrows tattooed onto her face. The transplant was apparently the better of two evils, well worth the $3,000-$5,000 USD.
The International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery told CNS that in 2006, eyebrow transplants made up only 3 percent of an apparently brisk trade in hair rearrangements on the human body. Demand for them, however, has grown by 35 percent over the past two years.
I can think of just one explanation for the keen interest in hairy switcheroos. On a continent where rich people’s facial expressions have been virtually paralyzed by Botox, these human Barbies must have recognized that it’s nice to have something to flex to indicate a drastic mood change.
Lest you male readers chortle that only women are vain enough to order up this surgery, prepare to be enlightened. According to Dr. William Rassman, a hair transplant surgeon who was quoted in the CNS story, men go for this boost, too. “‘They like bushy eyebrows -- not Albert Einstein bushy -- but more in that direction,’” he says. “‘It’s very manly.’”
What’s even manlier is that when hair is pulled from the man’s head to be repurposed, it grows half an inch per month, much more rapidly than regular eyebrow fuzz. “‘After the surgery, the typical person has to trim every two weeks or they’ll end up with eyebrows they can braid,’” says Dr. Rassman. Never mind that they’ve paid more than $3,000 to insert hair that they will soon be forced to tweeze out.
But maybe even those pluckings can be loved again. Last weekend’s Globe and Mail reported that for $60, one Yaletown salon offers artificial eyelash implants to those in search of Liza Minnelli-style dazzlers. Surely some genius will figure out how to use real human brow litter to amplify the eyelid.
I guess all this activity on the facial hair front means that in the future we indolent North Americans will spend 50 percent of our time shuffling our hair around -- this week to our brows, next week to our lashes, after that to our moustaches. Those of us with straight hair will trade it with our curlier friends’ for variety’s sake. Less hairy Asian men will swap eyebrows and ’stashes with their more hirsute Middle Eastern pals. We’ll be the personification of that kids’ toy, the small, flat box with the see-through lid where you tilt the minuscule iron filings inside and they stick to the outline of a face. “I want to look like a crazed bank robber today,” we’ll announce to our facial stylist, and she’ll instantly launch into her follicular sleight-of-hand.
Maybe the afore-mentioned facial tweaks are no more ludicrous than other self-renovation options, like “dimple fabrication.” Such nitpicking “repairs” are verging on commonplace. Media reports suggest that some bridezillas are even asking their bridesmaids to enhance themselves with Botox and liposuction so they’ll look better in the wedding pictures. One only hopes the marriages in question will last at least as long as the numbing effect of the neurotoxin.
It’s odd to me that no high profile medical authority ever seems to say, “Wait a minute. What? Why on earth would you do these things to yourself, unless you are repairing a terrible injury, deformity or the ravages of disease? Is this really the best use of your money and your health?”
I keep waiting for Dr. Drew Ordon, the plastic surgeon on the daytime TV advice show The Doctors, to advise a female guest against a frivolous physical boost, whether it’s a “trout pout” or the revitalization of the ageing skin above her cleavage. Just because it can be done, does that mean it should be done? That question never comes up on The Doctors. In the U.S. in particular, perfection means conformity, usually to an aesthetic established by Playboy magazine.
At least narcissists only affect themselves when they shell out for these supposed improvements. Others actually tart up their pets, via cosmetic surgery, tattoos and installations of jewelry. What to say about the animal groomer cited by CNS who used piercings to turn dogs and cats into “Goths,” just to make a buck on e-Bay? Well, the police had something to say, at least -- she’s been charged with animal cruelty.
So I suppose we should not look away in embarrassment from our artificially enhanced friends and relatives, but applaud when they show up for Easter dinner wiggling emphatic new brows and flashing phony dimples. After all, they must be doing it to impress us. We should probably pretend, however insincerely, to appreciate the effort.