A couple of weeks ago, I told you about going to the doctor to get treatment for acne. Just to recap, he gave me a lot of medication, some oral, some topical, and told me to update him after 3 weeks. Nothing’s changed, but he gave me a new prescription anyway, this time with more topical meds – a sunscreen lotion and a facewash. When my mother sardonically asked, “Are they medicines or cosmetics?”, I replied, “At least, our kidneys aren’t on display. Else, you’d have kidney beautification products too.”
Which got me thinking, what if we, humans, didn’t have skin? Would all this brouhaha about cosmetics, plastic surgery and the culture of physical beauty simply vanish? Never having to bother about cleansing, toning, exfoliating, moisturizing, sunscreening, facemasking, makeupping…and a zillion other things ever again. Hair stylists, colourists, trichologists, manicurists and pedicurists would become obsolete, all fussing with some dead tissue all this time. Never having to worry about acne, eczema, dermatitis, and the production of melanin – a pigment that has been the source of war and xenophobia for centuries, where human beings, though unable to control the melanin production of their own bodies, nevertheless take it upon themselves to provide sociological connotations for it. Imagine…never having to deal with any of that.
But, men will be men, women will be women, and before this sentence gets anymore prejudiced, humans will be humans. Imagine you were just your bones, muscles, blood and internal organs, which are all on display. You’d have cosmetic products for them! Fluoride shots for cleaning all your bones! Colgate infusions to make them visibly whiter! An extract of tomato rivalling with an extract of apple skin to make your heart look redder (and healthier) while there is a high-end serum for heart-reddening (for there has to be an expensive as well as an affordable option for everything) made from red roses and hibiscus. You’d have metal plates, or cheap, plastic moulds to make your kidneys curvier. You’d get lung augmentation at any oxygen store near you. The width of your intestines will determine whether you’d be let into a fashionable restaurant. And, they’d seriously need to come up with a permanent solution for gas, flatulence, diarhhoea, constipation and the like, because your dining partner, and people around you, will totally know it was you. Maybe, you could replace your digestive system with a high-quality synthetic fibre one, and never worry again.
Beauty competitions won’t go away. Colour of heart, diameter of food pipe and bones, curvature of the hip bones, ovary size, all these and more will be checked. Even your faces, where the circumference of your hollow cheekbones will be displayed on the LED screen above you on the stage (the bigger the better, of course. Both cheekhollows and screens.). It will be worse for intelligence exams, like those for scholarships or jobs, because all they have to do is MRI your head and look at your brain. They can do it with skin and hair, but this will be a preliminary scan. Those selected will be anaesthetized, their cranial top removed, the brain taken out, measured and studied, put back again, and while the patient, uh, student is conscious, s/he is put through a battery of tests, all the while under a second MRI scanner. Eighteen hours of that, and you will know if you can go to Oxford or Harvard, or if you’re just not what they are looking for, but good luck anyway.
The skin is actually the largest organ in the body. Even though the pigmentation is slightly uneven throughout the body for most people, it was, thousands of years ago, stripey in the nature of zebras and tigers. If cartoons are anything to go by, we probably would have assessed our stripey beauty too, and found something pleasant or not-so-pleasant from zebra to zebra. I mean, human to human.
As for what we have now, an opaque, unique, living, breathing thing covering us from head to toe, I feel there are enough horror stories out there of celebrities, by far the wealthiest of our species, who go under the knife to be the most eternally stunning tiger or tigress around, but end up looking permanently stunned themselves. Some people laugh at them, but if they did not have to listen to those remarks, along with having careers based on their looks and the money to make it better, they may not have gone ahead with it anyway. You wake up with your face for 25, 50, 75…years and even though it keeps changing once in a while, you still tell yourself in the mirror, “You again. I’m so bored of looking at you.” It doesn’t matter if anything is actually wrong. You can always find something wrong.
People still keep telling me about my acne, even if I’m telling them Really Important Stuff. I don’t care, because I comfort myself with the thought of my blood-red heart, kept so with a diet of apples and tomatoes.* After all, inner beauty is real beauty, isn’t it?
*This is not legitimate advice for maintaining a healthy heart. I’m not a physician. Ask a real one. I hear it’s good to lay off on the cholesterol.**
**Again, not legitimate advice.
Is physical beauty important to you?