Monday, September 26, 2005

Changing faces

You’ve heard me complain about my body. I’m thirty-six and my friend Beth tells me that this is the magic age for the transition from the 30s body to the 40s body. After baby number six, none of the fat has rearranged into its traditional spots. Now I have love handles, rolls above my waist, and that ultimate sign of middle age, fat on my upper arms. Sigh.

Which brings me to my topic this evening: plastic surgery.

For the first time in my life I have sympathy for women who have it done. Hey, I see all the same magazines in the checkout line. I go to movies (well, at least a couple times a year). I watch TV. (We don’t have cable, but I have friends and relatives who do.)

But I am not going to do it. My opposition to plastic surgery is not coming from my own body, but my understanding of what the body is supposed to be in the divine plan.

Tonight, the short form of the Theology of the Body. (I knew those degrees would pay off sometime--look out Christ West!).

With John Paul II, we turn to that critical moment in Genesis where the woman, newly created, is presented to the man as the one creature that fulfills his longing, a "helper fit for him." In this moment Adam sees Eve and joyfully exclaims, “Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” He is affirming that she is a gift to him. The gift of her whole person is present in the vision of her naked body. Because Adam is without sin, he can experience her as a gift, and he can glimpse the supreme love that is at the source of her creation--for our God created us from nothing and called us good. In this moment, therefore, he can see that he himself, who is bone of bone and flesh of flesh with the woman, is a gift. Because he is without sin, he experiences his own body in the same way—as a gift, a manifestation of his person which is not to be separated from it (contra Descartes).

When Jesus, in the back-and-forth with the Pharisees about the issue of divorce, directed them back to "the beginning” he directed us to this very moment as the heart of marital communion. In point of fact, however, this moment is not only important for our understanding of marriage, but for our general understanding of the body itself. It reveals the real meaning of bodily life—hence John Paul II’s “nuptial meaning of the body.”

Now, as regards plastic surgery (here I mean cosmetic plastic surgery), there are two reasons a married woman (like myself) might choose to have plastic surgery: because she is looking at other women, TV, etc., and feels unhappy with how she looks to herself, or because she wants to please her husband.

Lets take the first reason first. If it is the case that the body is a gift then a woman really has to see her physical imperfections as part of the gift. The body is redeemed in Jesus Christ, but it is not simply returned to the original state. Jesus suffers in the body, and, even in his redeemed state, his body retains the signs of the suffering—“Probe the nail marks, put your finger in my side…” We could say that, in light of the suffering and death of Jesus, it is precisely the physical frailty of the body that reveals its giftedness. We can suffer for others, we do suffer for others. A woman who has had children has suffered for others. And this suffering is evident in her body. Her body is a witness to a life lived for others. The medieval artists had it right: Mary offering her breast parallels Christ offering the blood from his side. (Granted, it is not a sagging breast!).

And so, the woman can rejoice, with Paul, that Christ’s suffering is being manifested in her own body.

Second reason, hubbie wants it. Lets talk about this man. The husband is called to love his wife’s body as he loves his own body (Ephesians). This is what Adam didn’t do when he sinned, he didn’t look out for Eve (I believe I got this from Scott Hahn). Paul articulates a return to that first moment when the woman is bone of his bone. The woman’s body is a gift that reveals and communicates the giftedness of her person. When we really love a person, we see in their body, their face, their presence, the authentic gift of their personhood. So, it is hard to see why a husband would want his wife to undergo plastic surgery unless he really is only seeing her body as an object for his own desires, not as the manifestation of her person.

And in this day and age, this would be the result of his having seen way too many other women who are presented as objects. In other words, pornography. As my husband has said, the ultimate male fantasy is that the woman will do anything, absolutely anything for the man. He wants to abolish her given reality (remember that it is God who gives the woman to the man) and have her remaide into his own creation (think about how many men are turned on by women having sex with women—hey, she will do absolutely anything!!!!). And so, to have his wife remade, in the image of his own idea, that is a problem. No woman should make herself into an object.

Nope, not gonna do it. No matter what hubbie says.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A gift is a gift from the Giver. Except the Love.

9:41 PM  
Blogger Ellyn said...

beautifully said...

I'd undergo surgery for my husband...if he needed a kidney or something. But so far the most difficult thing he's asked of me is to not make deregatory comments about the Chicago Bears. (not as easy as it sounds...I don't like football at all.)

4:55 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Me neither, and I even went to Notre Dame!

6:52 PM  
Blogger Matthew Lickona said...

I know it was only a typo, but I couldn't help but chuckle at "Christ West."

7:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excuse me, your husband said what? "...the ultimate male fantasy is that the woman will do anything, absolutely anything for a man". You need to talk with more men about this! My husband, brothers, father, etc. Heck, every man I know will say "this Man has got a Problem". Sorry honey, don't want you to bad about this, sounds like you are Head of your household anyway!!!

...a great woman to another...

9:09 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Actually, my husband said that it is the ultimate SINFUL male fantasy. But he told me to take it out, because he wanted to play the ogre for this particular entry. You can check out my husband's ramblings on his brother's blog, Godsbody, this week (see Matthew above). He is actually the smartest man I know.

Matthew, just shows you how much more I type the name "Christ" than the name "Chris"!

4:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As one great woman to you I would only comment that your real life is far more interesting then adding some fiction to it. Keep it real, I like that about you!

7:48 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home