Once upon a time, Man respected that there were some forces of nature that should not be tampered with, some things that were best left to the hand of God alone. But then credit companies relaxed their criteria and tampering with the forces of nature became so much more affordable.
The problem with crimes against nature is that even if they're cheap (in 12 easy payments), most of them aren't very convenient. Nuclear reactors take up so much space in the back yard, and neighborhood Homeowners Associations get so uptight about what color you paint them. Cloning seems like a good idea until school lets out and the kids are home all day. Genetic tampering isn't bad, but it's so overdone as to be passe -- we've turned the wolf into the Chihuahua, the Pekinese and the Jack Russell Terrier. The only small, annoying and vaguely unnatural form that we haven't morphed wolves into is Liza Minelli. What's left?
The art of changing one's natural appearance is an old one, and has been both sneered at and practiced avidly for thousands of years. The idle rich have long set trends of altering their looks, from the Gold Lotus bound feet of the Chinese to the Mayan practice of tying boards to the heads of infants to encourage a shapely, sloped skull. Nowadays we have Botox, liposuction and rhinoplasty, but the pattern is still the same: people with more money than brains stop at nothing to look "perfect," warping the ideals of physical attractiveness way out of context. The rest of us watch in horror, saying, "Oh, that's terrible!" all the while saving up for a boob job or a tummy tuck before swimsuit season.
I talk about changing your natural appearance as being a crime, but I've got a few misdemeanors on my record myself. I used to have a normal job that required me to look credible. When I made the transition to full-time writer, my husband said, "You know, you'd look great with red hair."
"Gillian Anderson red?"
"Nope," he said, eyeing a passing fire truck with love in his eye.
Since that day, I have experimented with a spectrum of hair colors, none of which are found in nature. Sometimes the results are spectacular, but I can testify that crimes against nature do not pay. The day I walked past a McDonald's with a life-sized statue of Ronald out front cemented that fact in my mind. My daughter took one look at Ronald's flaming hair and big red lips and shouted, "Mommy!"
Incidentally, that wasn't the first time that my hair caused me to be mistaken for a celebrity. My husband almost had to move into a cardboard box across the street from his beloved fire engines for a comment he made one morning.
"I love you," he had said as he kissed me goodbye for the day.
"Really?" I had asked, insecure due to a particularly bad case of pillow head. "Even with my hair like this?"
"Absolutely," he smiled. "It's like being married to Eric Estrada."
Comments like that make me understand why some people turn to a life of crimes against nature and opt to go under the knife for cosmetic surgery. Either they can no longer bear to hear comments like that, or they need to have their face rebuilt after making them. But when it comes to altering the body, some people go beyond a few petty misdemeanors and become full-fledged thugs.
Hanging out with some female friends yielded a bizarre conversation wherein an acquaintance's breast implants were brought up. Suddenly, half a dozen lovely women were all announcing the cosmetic procedures they intended to get: lifts, tucks, enlargements, reductions, whitening, peeling. I had always thought that plastic surgery was a tool which could allow accident victims who walk away from a wreck with their nose sticking out their left ear to wear corrective lenses again, but I guess I was wrong. That's what contact lenses are for. Apparently plastic surgery is for upgrading your wife so she matches the upholstery in your new car. My friends at the cafe all seemed worried that if surgery couldn't make them as firm and shiny as the leather interior, they'd be traded in on a new model.
I was also astonished at the kind of money people seem to be willing to spend to improve substandard body parts. Breast implants can run anywhere from three to ten thousand dollars! If I were to spend that kind of money on my chest, I'd want to end up with the Bionic Bustline: AC, CD player, GPS and power steering. Maybe that On-Star service in case I ever have trouble getting the fastener to my brassiere undone.
Listening further to the conversation, I decided I would save some money and just buy some t-shirts: "Body by Lucasfilm Industrial Light+Magic" for the group, "Don't laugh, it's paid for" for me. I don't know how the conversation ended; I was ordered to go away when I observed that back in the old days, a man named Lon Chaney managed to do a lot of the same cosmetic procedures without the need for general anesthetic.
Speaking of the Lon Chaney school of cosmetic surgery, I looked into the topic a little more and came across www.awfulplasticsurgery.com, a site that gleefully showcases the worst of celebrity cosmetic mistakes. Browse through their archives for a few minutes and you'll start to think that maybe a nice nuclear reactor by the rose arbor isn't such a bad idea after all. Plus you'll be that much closer to nuclear armament in case the city tries to make your subdivision pay Mello Roos.
Ethical? Bah. Who's worried about ethics? If God had really been that concerned about natural order, He wouldn't have invented nuclear weapons or Barbie(r) dolls. Or instant credit.
Order my new body and charge it to my Visa! Oh, and make it candy apple red. My husband likes bright colors.
Comments and "before and after" pics to email@example.com.
This article first appeared in the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin, May 8, 2004.