Tag Archives: aging

Why do we feel bad about the way we look?

Laurie Essig’s new book, American Plastic: Boob Jobs, Credit Cards, and the Quest for Perfection, includes a chapter on how we learn to want cosmetic surgery. She quotes Joan Rivers, from her book Men Are Stupid . . . And They Like Big Boobs: A Woman’s Guide to Beauty Through Plastic Surgery:

My abiding life philosophy is plain: In our appearance-centric society, beauty is a huge factor in everyone’s professional and emotional success—for good or ill, it’s the way things are; accept it or go live under a rock.

Heidi Montag cultural texts promoting cosmetic surgery

Essig comments:

But Rivers is a TV star. TV and movie stars have always utilized the miracles of cosmetic surgery to look good in the two-dimensional spaces they inhabit. How did the rest of us learn to desire a perfectly plastic body? How did ordinary women and men with ordinary lives and ordinary bodies learn that they need plastic? The answer: the plastic ideological complex, a set of cultural texts that are both highly contested and yet tightly on message. It is itself so ubiquitous that it might even be described as hegemonic. In other words, the “need” for cosmetic procedures is impossible to avoid. Through advertising and TV shows, movies and magazines, we learn to want cosmetic intervention in our aging faces and imperfect bodies. This need is now so firmly implanted in our cultural psyche that it has become “common sense” to embrace cosmetic procedures. Why wouldn’t we want to look more beautiful, younger, thinner, more feminine, better? The question is no longer will you have plastic surgery, but when.

Accept plastic beauty or go live under a rock. Rivers isn’t just joking; she’s also doing the serious work of enacting the ideology of plastic, an ideology that we can no longer avoid. Even if we did live under a rock, whenever we crawled out from underneath it, we would be assaulted by images of perfectly plastic beauty on billboards and the sides of buses and on TV and in movies and even the nightly news. And then there are those damn magazine racks, an unavoidable gauntlet of Dos! and Don’ts! that must be passed through each and every time we buy our food.

A conspiracy of capital to make us feel bad

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Links of interest 4/26

Chocolate lovers ‘are more depressive’, say experts (BBC News)

Absence of racial, but not gender, stereotyping in Williams syndrome children (Current Biology)

Raising a child with Williams Syndrome (NPR)

Andrew O’Hagan on Self-Helponauts: You have only one chance to be happy (London Review of Books)

Harnessing older people as a resource in the coming population crash (Salon – Be prepared to close obnoxious loud audio ad on loading)

Daily Kos interviews Maryn McKenna, author of Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA (Daily Kos)

Hospital patients most likely to carry MRSA: Long-term elder care, HIV-infected, kidney dialysis (HealthDay)

Putting bacterial antibiotic resistance into reverse (Physorg)

Dying man sells ad space on his urn (myFOXla)

Image Source: BBC News


Evidence of successful aging

Smiling older womanA personals ad from a recent New York Review of Books:

WOMAN, 79 (LOOKS 78), Upper West Side pseudo-intellectual, Europe 4 years, wants man’s company occasionally for chamber concerts, lectures, meals. Platonic.

I’d love to meet this woman. I imagine her life as a Henry James novel written by Oscar Wilde.

Related posts:
Advertising for love in Victorian times


Health Culture Daily Dose #18

Baby ducks

Source: Wunderground

When did we start calling the whole day before Christmas “Christmas Eve?” I thought Christmas Eve was the evening before Christmas. But no. Senators voted on health care reform at 1:00 AM on Thursday December 24th. To me, that’s still Wednesday night, but it was widely reported as happening on Christmas Eve. Perhaps publishers want to save ink. Or we live in such fast times that it takes too long to say “The day before Christmas.”
Anyway, here’s a flock of interesting stories I’ve come across recently.

Aging, end-of-life, and death

The Breadth of Hope, Selling Hope, and More on Quelling Thanatophobia, (Pallimed: A Hospice & Palliative Medicine Blog)
One unspoken message behind the “sell hope for a cure” ads is “we will not only cure your cancer so that you can avoid death, but we’ll also make it so it’s a non-issue in your life so that you can return to the way things were before. It’ll kind of be like getting your car’s air conditioner recharged.”

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Were "death panels" a teachable moment for palliative care?

This past summer, thanks in large part to Sarah Palin, we were inundated with sound bites about death panels, pulling the plug on grandma, and saving the government money by dying a little sooner.
Palin’s emotionally manipulative Facebook post appeared on August 7. “The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.”
A great deal of misinformation was bandied about, and unnecessary fears were purposely inflamed to gain political advantage. There may be a silver lining to this cloud, however.

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Health Culture Daily Dose #16

Here are some things I’ve come across recently. Categories include: Aging/End of Life/Death, Doctors, Influenza, Genetics, and Health Care Reform.


End-of-Life Care: Where Ethics Meet Economics (The New York Times – Uwe Reinhardt)
Health spending in the United States has doubled every 10 years during the last four decades. Americans sooner or later will have to confront the hard questions about access to expensive treatments, perhaps after a rational national conversation, if such can still be had in America.
Health Care’s Generation Gap (The New York Times – Richard Dooling)
Money spent on exorbitant intensive-care medicine for dying, elderly people should be redirected to preventive care for children and mothers.

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Collateral circulation and the cat concerto

collateral-circulationLike the appendix , collateral circulation is another part of our anatomy that was more useful to our ancestors. Collateral circulation refers to systems of veins and arteries that allow blood to continue flowing when the main pathway is blocked or damaged.

These extra vessels sometimes develop in response to a circulation blockage. But certain parts of the body – the elbows, knees, shoulders – are equipped with these redundant vessels right from the start.

We’re not born with collateral circulation in those really important places like the brain and the heart. Why would we have these surplus vessels in the elbows, but not in the places that keep us alive?
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Still useful after all these years: The gall bladder

gallbaldderThe gall bladder is another useful but expendable organ (see recent posts on the appendix and the spleen). Unlike losing your spleen, living without a gall bladder is not detrimental to your health, though it may be inconvenient at times.

The gall bladder is located under the liver, on the right side of the body. It’s a small sac, about three inches long and 1 ½ inches wide when it’s full. It can hold a little under two ounces of bile (less than a quarter of a cup).

Bile is produced in the liver and stored in the gall bladder until it’s needed to digest fats. Fats need to be broken down (emulsified) before they can used by the body. When they’re not broken down, they pass right through the digestive track. That’s what can be inconvenient about not having a gall bladder. If you eat foods rich in fats, you may need to stay close to a restroom.
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Get thee glass eyes

Telescope in the eyeMy mother was decidedly vain her whole life. She’d been exceptionally good looking in her youth, which made it especially difficult to accept the slow physical decay of aging.

Surely it must be easier in our culture to accept the wrinkles, sags and bulges that come with advancing age if one has never thought of oneself as particularly attractive. Or if one has cared little about appearances. Admittedly, this is an increasingly rare point of view in contemporary Western societies.

My mother slept in her wig. She didn’t want anyone to see her bald spot, in case she died in her sleep. The bald spot was caused by the wig, which she wore because her hair had turned gray.

Scientists have not yet discovered that vanity is transmitted through the genes. Macular degeneration, on the other hand, is genetically transmitted. When my mother died of a heart attack at age 91, the doctor told her children she was about to be declared legally blind. She had macular degeneration and had never mentioned it to anyone.
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Health Culture Daily Dose #14

In today’s Dose:

Health care reform
(Kennedy-Dodd committee proposal released)

Health news
(Is Tylenol (acetaminophen) safe to take every day?)

(Doctors lack training in care of the elderly)

Pop culture
(Michael Jackson and Diprivan (propofol), Jackson’s weight, Jackson’s doctor)

Health care reform

  • The Senate health committee proposal on health care has been released. Turns out all that fuss over the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report was for nothing, as could have been predicted. The CBO’s report was based on a very incomplete proposal. This roller coaster reporting on health care reform will continue throughout July. Congress would like to wrap things up before their August recess.

There are lots of stories today on the Kennedy-Dodd plan just released. This one from Bloomberg has lots of details. The cost is now $600 billion, not over a trillion. 20 million or 3 percent of Americans would not be covered by health insurance. The previous estimate had been over 30 percent. On the issue of the insurance industry raising premiums for those who become ill:

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