Upon returning from up north for an engagement party, etc, I came home to my host sisters telling me a story about the sub-school director’s daughter. When I first came to site I had the opportunity to meet her before she left for Phnom Penh to study at a university there. I hadn’t seen her in over a year and so it was interesting that my sisters would want to talk about someone who, for the most part, was no longer around. What I remember of her was that she was a very pretty, smart, and confident young woman of 18. The story went like this: she went to a ‘beautician’ who said she could make her skin white. This young woman, like most women in Cambodia, let the ‘beautician’ put harsh chemicals all over her body. Apparently she felt the burning almost immediately. She is now in the hospital because her skin is literally falling off of her.
I recently read a NYT story about the increase of cosmetic surgery in China. And recently, Time magazine also wrote about the wave of popularity plastic surgery is seeing throughout Asia and highlights how the government of Thailand is even taking it upon themselves to “hawk” these medical procedures as tours. Not that this isn’t popular in America, just that in the US and Europe we have the benefit of certain controls that make these procedures a bit more safe than they would be otherwise.
“Elsewhere in Asia, this explosion of personal re-engineering is harder to document, because for every skilled and legitimate surgeon there seethes a swarm of shady pretenders”. - TIME Magazine: Changing Faces
It frightens me when I hear stories like that of my sub-school director’s daughter, or others, who choose to get a procedure done here because they feel “they need it” or in a foreigner’s case, because it is less expensive than at home.
In my ignorance, I really thought plastic surgery was something that people only with disposable incomes would even consider. One of my good friends at site, Nary, returned last month from Vietnam with a facemask on. I at first thought it was strange as she doesn’t usually wear one and so I asked her if she was sick. “No,” she replied,” I got dimples.”
Although Nary and her family are business owners they are not rich. So when she proceeded to tell me that she spent $1000 ($500 a dimple… a fortune here), I got a little angry. I got even angrier when she said that I should go get some for myself. For this I replied that I “liked my face already” to which her mother replied “Ooooh she thinks she is already beautiful.”
So I’ve now taken some time away from Nary and her family. It is not that I do not enjoy spending time with them it’s just that when I see what she has done to herself, and think about how much she spent, I get upset. As for the sub-school director’s daughter, she is still healing at the hospital. Her family says she may be able to leave in a week or so.
TIME Magazine: Changing Faces www.time.com/time/asia/covers/1101020805/story4.
Chinese Turn to Plastic Surgery in Growing Numbers